Manic Street Preachers: Futurology

The Manics return with a tribute to the 1980s. The good 80s. not the bad 80s.

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The eleventh album by the Manics, with guest appearances from an awful lot of people (Green Gartside out of Scritti Politti, Cate LeBon, and hundreds of others). It’s composed of songs recorded at the sessions for their last album, Rewind The Film which were left off in an unusual rock/not rock experiment.

The Manics have a tradition of recording albums in pairs: generally if one album sounds bleak and punky, the next is anthemic and stadium-rocky. Is that the case on this occasion?

Not really. Rewind The Film, as its name suggests, was a nostalgic collection at times, acoustic songs about a vanished Welsh world. Futurology, despite its title, is a full on, nuts-out tribute to, of all things, the early 1980s. Not the MTV 80s of A-Ha and Duran Duran, but the experimental Euro post punk of The Skids and Simple Minds that was itself influenced by Bowie’s famous “Berlin” albums. It’s got synths and riffs and guitars and it’s pretty exciting. More Heroes than Low.

So is it massively derivative then? Just a mish mash of old Gary Numan poses and Classix Nouveaux riffs?

It doesn’t sound like anything else at all, really. Yes, there’s the odd quote and sample but nothing really harks back sonically to those olden days tunes. It’s more an attitude – something the Manics know all about.

So what’s with all the duets? Are they just getting too old to sing a song on their own without help?

The Manics have always enjoyed a duet. On their first album they engaged former porn star Traci Lords to sing on Little Baby Nothing (and she was of course their second choice after Kylie Minogue). Over the years they’ve sung with Paul Heaton, Ian McCulloch, Nina Persson, Richard Hawley and many more. They’ve also written songs for Kylie and of course Dame Shirley Bassey.

**Is it worth buying, then? Very few people are any good eleven albums down the line. **

Yes, amazingly. Perhaps the combination of a couple of years off followed by an ambitious plan to put out two completely different-sounding albums has given the band a shot in the arm; or maybe they’re just on a middle-aged roll. Either way, Futurology is the best album the Manic Street Preachers have done this century, and it may be several people’s album of 2014. Well worth buying, then.

David Quantick

David Quantick is an English novelist, comedy writer and critic, who has worked as a journalist and screenwriter. A former staff writer for the music magazine NME, his writing credits have included On the HourBlue JamTV Burp and Veep; for the latter of these he won an Emmy in 2015.