Wow, for all the second coming-styled reviews for this album I thought I might actually get to hear something a little bit wonderful. But Second Coming is perhaps more like it; I’d be underwhelmed if I didn’t already expect a Manic Street Preachers album to be filled with diet-pomp and little of actual circumstance. Reviewers must be getting excited at the references and influences they’re spotting – or more likely inventing.
This is turgid, bloated and then flaccid. Frequently in that order. Let’s Go To War is neither anthem nor satire, it’s pretty much just any song by the feelers rubbed down with one of Bowie’s poor-performers – Black Tie, White Noise say.
And where someone else will tell you that there is a heavy Krautrock influence here – and that it’s all clever and interesting and harks back to the band’s earliest recordings – and that cold, nearly-classic Holy Bible, actually you listen to a song like Walk Me To The Bridge and it just sounds like Duran Duran recording one of their dull “comeback” non-hits with a Kraftwerk album on in the background, the riff is just a dumber version of Pink Floyd’s Run Like Hell – yep, that dumb. And quite what Divine Youth is meant to be, beyond a late entry into this year’s Eurovision or just a little bit early for next year’s, well it’s fucking beyond me. I’ve never made it a habit to stand too close to a Manic Street Preachers fan, they can talk the hind legs off a coffee table – so long as the subject is Manic Street Preachers – but I would have thought even they would find this sort of music-as-muzak inhospitable and possibly insulting.
The bad Devo that is Sex, Power, Love and Money is just another weird joke here. I can only assume that because the Manics have made so much thoroughly wet pop music over the years, as Britfop’s answer to Britpop, the hopeful nostalgia-seekers have decided that here’s where the overachieving under-deliverers are “really stretching out”.
Perhaps Manic Street Preachers albums sound best when they’re not actually being listened to – that must be the case; a new trophy for the poolroom, some weird badge of continued membership to one of the last of the anoraks’ clubhouse.
I couldn’t hear anything here I’d want to listen to once, much less twice. I couldn’t hear anything here that I believed. It’s like pop music as big game hunting, big clubbed over the head riffs, cowardly throat-slitting choruses, weak at the knees and lily-livered pop music. Thin, fey, whey, whack. And then when it’s smacked upside the head and told to dress smart, act smart, think big and aim high – well it just looks and sounds dumber, more ghastly; the transmogrification of Record Collection Pop is here. You can hear whatever you want in this album. Just don’t go looking for music of value. Or substance.