The Manics’ tenth studio LP is both incredibly jolly and jolly good.
Will Dean 2010-09-15
If last year's Journal for Plague Lovers was the Manics' message from the ghost of their past to their present, this is their present's postcard to their mid-career pop peak. It's – and this isn't a phrase often associated with the Manics – an incredibly jolly rock record.
From the waltzing strings on the first track and single, (It's Not War) Just the End of Love, through to the (Google-baiting?) Don't Be Evil, Postcards From a Young Man is packed with screamed-from-the-terraces pop moments bankrolled by James Dean Bradfield's syllable-munching holy yelp and a few kitchen sinks' worth of gospel choirs, choppy riffs, power chords and string sections. At this point in the band's career it shouldn't work, but it's hard to resist a band who – having exorcised the ghosts of Richey on Journal… – sound like they're enjoying themselves so much.
Highlights include Ian McCulloch's backing on the suitably Bunnymen-esque Some Kind of Nothingness and the euphoric Hazelton Avenue, on which The Style Council are channelled through Lenny Kravitz's It Ain't Over ‘til It's Over. There's not a bath of bleach in sight.
In an interview with Tony Benn on music webzine theQuietus.com (link) this week, Nicky Wire expressed dismay at the lack of political willing shown by current musicians, believing (rightly) that they were the last big British band to have the balls to mix politics with pop. Which is fair enough, even if Postcards… is one of their least political LPs yet. If This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours managed to combine songs about the Spanish Civil War and The Silent Twins with some of Bradfield's most pop moments, then Postcards… could be the sliding doors opposite of their next step after that, the deeply politicised The Masses Against the Classes and Know Your Enemy. Both concepts are fine – and for those Manics fans whose bearing on the band is centred by a Britpop firmament, rather than The Holy Bible, this record will prove a joy. It's jolly, but jolly good.
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