Manic Street Preachers - Resistance is Futile album review

Manic Welsh rockers return to stadium-sized anthemics on their thirteenth album

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Manic Street Preachers - Resistance is Futile

1. People Give In
2. International Blue
3. Distant Colours
4. Vivian
5. Dylan & Caitlin
6. Liverpool Revisited
7. Sequels Of Forgotten Wars
8. Hold Me Like A Heaven
9. In Eternity
10. Broken Algorithms
11. A Song for The Sadness
12. The Left Behind

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Four years after they expanded their horizons with the critically feted synth-heavy Euro-modernism of Futurology, the Manics return to their heartland with Resistance Is Futile. The first album to be recorded at the band’s new rural studio in Wales, it has a pleasingly boomy big-room sound, high in polish and rich in ripsnorting glam-metal guitar. With stalwart producer Dave Eringa back at the controls, this is vintage arena-rocking Manics, grandiose in scale and unusually buoyant in mood. 

The album arrives at full roar with People Give In, which subverts its own wistful message of creeping midlife defeat by erupting into a mighty celebration of stoic survival against adversity. Propelled by orchestral strings, this rousing terrace chant is plainly aiming at A Design For Life heights. Mission accomplished. More anthemic ambitions follow with Distant Colours, James Dean Bradfield’s bittersweet elegy for the lost monochrome certainties of his left-wing youth, and Liverpool Revisited, a sky-punching belter celebrating belated justice for the families of the Hillsborough victims. 

The Manics have immortalised many cultural and political heroes on previous albums, but Resistance Is Futile must set a new record. Artist Yves Klein joins their hall of fame via International Blue, a lithe and melodic rocker, muscular but light on its feet. And David Bowie gets the affectionate pastiche treatment on In Eternity, with Bradfield mimicking his croaky vocal mannerisms over glammed-up synthesisers and lyrical Berlin namechecks. Fine sentiments, vividly expressed. 

But two further tribute songs are a little bloodless. Vivian commemorates the Chicago street photographer Vivian Maier, whose remarkable private treasure trove of work only came to light after her death in 2009. Noble intentions, but let down by a stiff lyric and thin soft-rock arrangement. Likewise Dylan And Caitlin, a love letter to Dylan Thomas and his wife Caitlin Macnamara. Featuring guest vocalist Catherine Anne Davies, this prosaic duet falls far short of firebreathing twin-voiced Manics classics like Your Love Alone Is Not Enough

Marred in its latter stages by two or three blustery Manics-by-numbers tracks, the album concludes with Nicky Wire’s grainy lead vocal on The Left Behind, a charmingly offbeat detour into 1980s indie-rock. More of these eccentric tonal variations would have been welcome on an album that emerges as a solid exercise in arena-sized anthemics, majestic in parts but not a career peak.

Stephen Dalton

Stephen Dalton has been writing about all things rock for more than 30 years, starting in the late Eighties at the New Musical Express (RIP) when it was still an annoyingly pompous analogue weekly paper printed on dead trees and sold in actual physical shops. For the last decade or so he has been a regular contributor to Classic Rock magazine. He has also written about music and film for Uncut, Vox, Prog, The Quietus, Electronic Sound, Rolling Stone, The Times, The London Evening Standard, Wallpaper, The Film Verdict, Sight and Sound, The Hollywood Reporter and others, including some even more disreputable publications.