MANIC STREET PREACHERS Rewind The Film
How did this happen? It hardly seems 22 years ago that the Manics burst into the world with “Generation Terrorists”. Now, now more than twice their age, and me at more than twice my age, they release album eleven on a treadmill of radio shows, live dates, and inevitable television appearances, sliding gracefully into some kind of blissful tedium, the mundanity of the job.
Is this it? The Manics seem to have relived their career again (Think of “Know Your Enemy” as a 'second' debut, and the arc is nearly identical ; making this the nearest companion to “This Is My Truth”, but with a sad sense of defeat). Devoid of any seeming reason to exist – with a desperately bland title and 'nothing' cover art - “Rewind The Film” might be a concept record around the vagueness of reality and how middle-age breaks your dreams to faded memories. Which, if that is this films concept, is so half-heartedly executed you can barely tell. Gone is James Dean Bradfields trademark squealing guitar and hoarse, anthemic holler reaching to the limits of the range. Here, everything is muted, prozacised if you like, a world covered in a blanket of resigned apathy. Wire has fallen out of love with language : that's the only reason I can find for some of the appallingly lazy rhyming and a dull A/A/B/B line structure. You might not even be able to find a lyric as good as “All We Are Is Entertainment”, let alone anything even in the same timezone as “Revol”.
The standard album barely sounds like The Manics, being chockfull of guest vocalists, acoustic guitars, Nicky Wire's gruff clump and an instrumental. I wouldn't call it their worst album, but it is very, very far from their best, and possibly makes “Lifeblood” look like a work of unassailable, god-like genius. Even on “An Anthem For A Lost Cause”, which borrows the acoustic riff of “A Design For Life”, rumbles on apologetically when really – and now, in this day and age more than ever – the band should be grabbing the world by the scruff of the neck begging for truth and reason. Here, the Manics fold and collapse when they might have been once the only thing worth holding onto, fulfilling the potential of Peter Saville's infamous quote : “Music and art are the resistance.” Instead here, the band capitulate in a slow surrender. Only “30 Years Of War” offers anything other than resigned abdication. Perhaps the redeeming element is the deluxe edition demos, which – shorn of endless horn solos and guest vocalists – sounds like The Manics, even if no sheen can cover the fact that this is not their best work, not at all.
The tone of loss and regret that permeates the record is quite, quite beautiful in places. "Rewind the Film" (the song) in particular is stunning, with Richard Hawley's vocals sublime, but with a strong JDB section too. It's the sound of a mature band, but you can't hate this for not being the Manics of 20 years ago, surely?
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