A turn towards the radio-friendly on the new Manic Street Preachers record may not be for everyone, but it's hardly new, either, and is a direction which has yielded great music before.
In announcing their latest and tenth album, to be released in late September, Welsh rock veterans Manic Street Preachers described Postcards From a Young Man as “one last shot at mass communication”. Provocative as ever, the band will have meant for this fascinating choice of words to sound ominous, but after the first UK radio play of “(It's Not War) Just the End of Love” last night, responses will be varied.
Anthemic, brief, uplifting and string-laden, the new song will not be received by the faction of the band's fanbase that applaud only the darkest of the group's material, and have always felt that the harrowing 1994 album The Holy Bible was a singular high point from which the group have since uniformly declined. Those fans also didn't like and may well have forgotten some of the band's past explorations with pure pop-rock, including a number of wonderful and accessible songs spread across past albums like Everything Must Go (1996), Know Your Enemy (2001) and especially the tenderly icy Lifeblood (2004). Another faction of fans -- myself included -- lapped up that material, and will be impressed with the radio gleam of the new song.
After all, the Manics have accrued two UK number one singles in the past; they are no strangers to aiming their frequently politicised messages at the largest possible audience, and they have always been good at it. Having recaptured some of the essence of The Holy Bible by successfully assimilating old lyrics written by their disappeared member Richey Edwards on the superb Journal for Plague Lovers (2009), I for one won't be denying them their “one last shot”. In fact, if we can expect them to keep up the quality of “It's Not War”, they can have as many shots as they like.