Preaching to the converted

Western Mail, Oct 8 2004

The Manic Street Preachers seem to have gone 'soft' in their old age - well, on their seventh studio album Lifeblood at least. And those who have heard it love it. This is what they said:

Simon Price is a music journalist for the Independent On Sunday and wrote the band's definitive biography, Everything (A Book About The Manic Street Preachers)
Every Manics' album can be viewed as a reaction to the one before. They're constantly switching from extroverted to introverted and political to personal. This is an introverted and personal album.

It's a very subdued record by the Manics' standards. I don't think it will reach out to thousands of new fans; help them fill the Millennium Stadium again; win Brit Awards for Best Album; gain platinum discs or be used as background music on TV shows.

But I think that whoever buys it will love it. Even though it's quite a restful record, it's a beautiful piece of work.

It's the first time they've taken big chances musically and stepped outside the melodic rock sound. There's lots of traces of Joy Division and late '70s Bowie in there.

There are lots of synthesisers and piano.

Not every track has the trademark James Dean Bradfield screaming guitar sound.


Darren Broome worked with the band on a documentary
I think this is the poppiest album the Manics have produced since Everything Must Go was released in 1996. It will surprise a lot of fans. There are not many big guitar solos or anthems. Instead there are lots of textured layers of music and keyboards. It's very catchy and there are some very poppy choruses.

But the subject matter remains true to the Manics. They are still talking about politics and wearing their political beliefs. There's a song about Richard Nixon and another about Glasnost.

It's as though someone's said, 'Here are lots of keyboards, now put the guitars down for a while'.

It sounds really fresh and I think it will be a hit. On first listen, it reminded me a bit of Keane and certainly of the electronic bands of the early '80s, such as New Order or Joy Division.

I don't think they will alienate their old fans as there's still a lot of integrity to their songwriting and politics.

With every Manics' album you almost expect them to fail but when I heard this one I was quietly shocked - it doesn't sound like them. But when you listen to the lyrics they're still ranting and raving!

But it's nice to have them singing catchy songs. I would be very disappointed if the album didn't do very well.

I would love to see what the new songs sound like live - the challenge now is for them to take them on the road and see how they fit in with their rockier stuff.


Kevin Hughes is a DJ on BBC Radio Wales
I think it's a really good album. It's the best album they've produced since Everything Must Go.

The Manics have found their core again and you can hear their passion in their music. There are some intriguing lyrics - Cardiff Afterlife talks about Richey (Edwards, the fourth member of the band who went missing).

It seems that the political world and changes in their personal lives have fired them up.

They've worked with new producers and they've found some renewed energy.

There are some very beautiful songs and the greatest thing is that James Dean Bradfield still has the most powerful and amazing voice, and deserves much more recognition for being one of the greatest vocalists around.

This album definitely has the Manics' stamp, but there's a bit more edge, although it's also quite safe in places. It sounds really welcoming and it works.

After hearing this album, it sounds like they have rediscovered their drive and passion and I hope there's more to come.


Iestyn George is a journalist who has worked extensively with the Manics
When I was given a copy of the album, it was the most anticipated recording I'd received for a while - I felt real excitement getting it. I think the Manics' time is as much now as ever before and from the tracks I've heard, it feels like a really strong record. It sounds like a record made with conviction and belief.

The key thing about the Manics is that they now exist in their own creative world.

Their fans are massive fans and they are comfortable with where they are in life and with what they are doing as a band. It also sounds like a band which is progressing and feeling comfortable within themselves.

There are touches of grander elements of production but it's not the Manics trying to be something they are not.


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