Secret Meeting score: 80
by Phil Scarisbrick
Before the release of their debut album Generation Terrorists, the Manics claimed they would disband as soon as it was released. This 18-track manifesto would see them launch into the world and disappear immediately. Now, some 26 years later, they’re back with a new record. There was no split and in fact, unlike virtually all of their peers, they’ve remained steadfast. No fading away or implosions. No bitterness or money-grabbing reunions. Only continuity and evolution. So here we are, nearly three decades after they claimed they’d split, listening to their thirteenth studio album, Resistance Is Futile.
Moving house is always about new beginnings, and so it has been for the Manics. With the site of their old studio, Faster, set for demolition and redevelopment into flats, they were forced to move. They picked a secluded cottage in the Welsh town of Caerleon, and the new Door To The River Studio has seemingly had a positive effect on the band.
Arriving four years after their celebration of Europe via its art movements, Futurology, the record kicks off with People Give In. Facing up to the slow defeat of midlife years seeping in, there’s a stoic defiance that sets the tone for the entire album. Anchored by lush strings, there is a grand scale to this song. While it doesn’t reach the same lofty trajectory of A Design For Life, it certainly has the same ambition.
International Blue was the record’s first single and sounds wonderfully fresh, but quintessentially Manics. Matching the frenetic, fret-gymnastics of Slash with the considered sonic certainty of Johnny Marr, James Dean Bradfield’s guitar work has always had the ability to be spectacular. Here it drives the song in an utterly joyous manner. Inspired by artist Yves Klein, Nicky Wire’s lyrics evoke the same vivid colour his work does for their most vital lead single since Send Away The Tiger’s Nina Persson duet, Your Love Alone Is Not Enough.
Distant Colours follows the same anthemic thread, this time utilising lyrics by Bradfield. This lament of disenchantment sees them return to their political roots. Speaking about the political aspect, Bradfield said, “It was just a song that came together in an amalgam of confusion and dejection at the General Election and the American Presidential Election. I was just trying to kind of figure out how you could define yourself by knowing what your enemy was, like when you were 16 years old. Which, for me, was 1986, ’85, ’84. All those years. And I just decided that you couldn’t anymore because, obviously, the left has fractured, the centre-left has fractured, the centre ground was unoccupied.”
The Manics have a history for duets. Ranging from porn star Traci Lords to the afore mentioned Nina Persson, they have used female voices to create wonderful pop music. This time working with Catherine Anne Davies aka The Anchoress, Dylan & Caitlin sees the two vocalists take the roles of the eponymous characters. Written as a “conversation between Dylan and Caitlin Thomas at the apex of their alcohol-soaked relationship,” the song sounds like a Welsh Fairytale of New York written by Elton John. This may sound like an odd mix but it perfectly compliments the juxtaposed feel of the music and lyrics.
When the Manics played at Liverpool’s Echo Arena during their Everything Must Go anniversary tour, they offered their guest list slots to families of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster. Despite being three decades ago, the fallout from that day is still being felt in the city. Liverpool Revisited is a tribute to the city and its fierce pride and loyalty to its people. While the tone and message are great, the song doesn’t quite hit the mark. Feeling slightly forced musically, it is one of the more throwaway moments on the record. Also falling into this category is Hold Me Like A Heaven –despite an emotionally-charged lyric, the music and melody feel amiss. With both these tracks though, there is an inherent ambition to make grand sounding anthems.
Closer The Left Behind, ties everything together. A song full of proclamations, the repeated, “The squadron never dies, falls quickly to demise/Some self-sacrifice, some limits to your vice,” typifies the balance between the self-awareness of people closer to the end of their life than the start, and a defiance that stoically shuns any sense of demise. In the end they concede the inevitable by singing “Waiting for the end of time/Waiting to be left behind/Acting like a passer-by/Waiting for the end of time.” A dose of reality to give a sober end to an album filled with a multitude of emotions.
The sister albums of Rewind The Film and Futurology felt like the end of something. The four-year wait for this record may have had some fans worried as to when, or even whether we’d get another record from them. Resistance Is Futile is in many ways a rebirth, but also holds onto the past. Though it is the first to be recorded in the new studio, it was helmed by long-time collaborator Dave Eringa. Though there is a sense of malaise when talking about politics, the fire still burns to strive for change. The Manics have always stood alone among their peers and their longevity is testament to that. Longevity for the sake of it though is pointless unless the work you continue to produce is worth it. And with this record, they’ve proven that they’re still a force to be reckoned with.