Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Manic Street Preachers: Journal for Plague Lovers

Artist: Manic Street Preachers
Album: Journal for Plague Lovers
Date Released: May 12, 2009
Genre: indie rock, Britpop, alternative pop/rock
Rating: 8.1

Those looking for "The Holy Bible – The New Testament" are just going to have to keep looking well after the release of Welsh band Manic Street Preachers' ninth studio output.

Their new album Journal for Plague Lovers finally unleashes the lyrics left behind by ex-lyricist and rhythm guitarist Richey Edwards who mysteriously disappeared in 1995 leaving band-mate Nicky Wire (bass and lyricist) a journal of lyrics that have now laid the foundations of this band's most personal album yet.

The album has been marked by some as the follow up to their critically acclaimed 1994 album The Holy Bible, but in fact, beyond Jenny Saville’s genius cover art, there’s little more in common--just great songs.

Richey Edwards is the life and soul of this album as it starts in typical Manics fashion with audio from a film, in this case The Machinist (where Christian Bale’s unstable character closely resembles Richey before his disappearance). It then kicks into the opening track "Peeled Apples" with its dynamic and edgy guitar and thumping bass-line while James-Dean Bradfield shouts lyrics such as "The Figure 8 inside out is infinity" -- an indication of Edwards's insane obsession that he could never figure out inside his head.

The album continues into serenity with "This Joke Sport Severed" before a break down of noise into an anthemic-like rise and a truly magical rock song; these guys always nail it when using an orchestra in a rock ballad.

Title track "Journal for Plague Lovers" tells us of the times Richey searched for a cure for his inner self when staying at clinics during the Manics's early career success. The album is full of troubled images, some of which can be heard on the tracks "She Bathed Herself in a Bath of Bleach" and "Facing Page: Top Left." These are all Richey's words as he reflected on his troubled times.

Journal for Plague Lovers then takes a more juxtaposed upbeat approach with "Marlon JD" and its disco style beat similar to that of their single "The Love of Richard Nixon" from 2001's Lifeblood. The lyrics are coming from a man who had it all and threw it all away.

The Manics conclude with tracks sounding more like their stadium live act of old with "Pretension/Repulsion" and "Virginia State Epileptic Colony", the later of which has a chorus that I’m sure will be ringing around all our ears at this years' festival outings as the band chant out the word ‘PIGGY’. The album finishes with "Williams Last Words", perhaps suicidal in nature, though the band disagrees, with Nicky Wire making a rare appearance as lead vocalist.

Journal for Plague Lovers is a great tribute to a friend who clearly changed the lives of the remaining three Manics. And with it they have once again captivated their growing fan base with a new angle of music to add to their discography.

Reviewed by Alex Diffley.

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