This record is soaked in nostalgia. This isn't trendy 80s retro though, James Dean...
Lucy O'Doherty 2002
When the Manics made their brash, sloganeering entrance onto the music scene at the beginning of the 90s, Richey Edwards declared in a DIY press release: "We are as far away from anything in the 80s as possible."
It would have been unthinkable then, that nearly 15 years later the band would be looking back on that decade with the wistful nostalgia of Lifeblood. This record is soaked in it: the lyrics, production, instrumentation and sheer gloss all take you back, with the band admitting references to The Cure, New Order and even early U2.
This isn't trendy 80s retro though, James Dean Bradfield's vocals cry out with heartfelt longing for the past. On the opening track "1985" James repeats the mantra "No going back" and despite the song breaking into bizarrely uplifting peals of sound, I'm left with a feeling of real loss.
This sense of loss is felt again on "Song for Departure" and "Live To Fall Asleep", two of the highlights of the album. The former sees the Manics branch into enchanting harmonies, reminiscent of the The Mamas and the Papas, while the latter is delicate and elegant.
Lyrically this album is much more restrained and subtle than on This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours and Know Your Enemy. They manage to fit in all the obligatory political and cultural comment, without sounding forced, although on "Emily" and the irritating first single "The Love of Richard Nixon" they are found guilty of falling into that trap.
Lifeblood may be imbued with a powerful melancholia, but it's not perfect. In recent years The Manic Street Preachers seem incapable of making an album that's not slightly disappointing. It's hard not to expect more from the band that made the magnificent Holy Bible.
The 1994 album is being re-released for its tenth anniversary this December, and a side by side comparison with Lifeblood won't do the new album any favours. The Manics have been trying to move on from their dark roots for some time now. They have finally found a convincing voice, even if it is a million miles from where they started.