Music

Manic Street Preachers: Rewind the Film

The Manic Street Preachers have never sounded less like themselves than on Rewind the Film.


Manic Street Preachers

Rewind the Film

Label: Sony UK
US Release Date: Import
UK Release Date: 2013-09-16
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Artist website
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There's a bad old adage that goes "The Welsh don't die, they just DRAG ON!" (Look up a picture of the Welsh flag, allow yourself a groan, then proceed to read on). The Manic Street Preachers were one Welsh band that went into their career with just one goal in mind: make one album and then vanish. And to their credit, the debut album they made was part White Album and part commercial suicide. Generation Terrorists was 18 tracks pumped full of Slash-esque lead guitars slicing through some heavily disenfranchised political punk rock, certainly not something guaranteed to be a financial slam-dunk in the year of 1992. But the band held such promise, such momentum in their writing that they had to make a second album. Then the groundbreaking third album that brought them a wider audience on both sides of the Atlantic, The Holy Bible. After that, they couldn't stop. Even when founding member Richey Edwards went missing, who is still missing and has been "presumed dead" by the authorities, the Manics just couldn't bring themselves to break apart what they had started. So more than 20 years after their first album, the Manic Street Preachers solider on. And they sure as hell aren't dragging.

You see, Rewind the Film is the kind of album a band can make only after traveling a very bumpy road. It's not easy maintaining a certain amount of respect from music fans after such a promising start. They've been accused on neutering their sound on This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours and Lifeblood by those who bristle at the sound of the word "mature". Critics bitched that Know Your Enemy had too many songs, boxes of their 2005 EP God Save the Manics were stolen, bassist Nicky Wire kept opening his mouth and insulting people and the Edwards family had to legally say goodbye to their son. Considering everything that has happened, this newfound sense of purpose in middle age on Rewind the Film doesn't seem to be such a far-fetched idea. If you transported a Manics fan from 1994 to now, listening to Rewind the Film would be too much of a shock for them to process. But traveling alongside the band during their existence gives you the privilege of perspective. There are those who may still moan about "aging" and "maturing" punk rockers loosing their edge, but that's only one meager way to look at it. I choose to look at it this way: after 20 years in the business, here's a band that still has the ability to surprise you.

The hallmarks of the Manic Street Preachers's sound haven't gone missing, they've just morphed into different forms. James Dead Bradfield still sings with conviction, but this time he's not shouting at the machine. Instead his forceful vocals are a personal peek into the tribulations faced by him, Wire and drummer Sean Moore over the years. And Bradfield still plays the guitar like a bat out of hell, but he left his electric in its case for most of Rewind the Film. The album comes with sobering purpose but Wire's lyrics favor internal struggles. Don't worry, he's still cynical. The album starts like this; "I don't want my children to grow up like me / It's just so destroying, it's a mocking disease / A wasting disease." And "This Sullen Welsh Heart" that he's describing? At the end of each chorus he admits "The hating half of me / Has won the battle easily." It's not a proud moment for our narrator, which is why it's unfortunate that the Manics invited Lucy Rose to sing it as a duet with Bradfield. Her voice is flat, disaffected and renders the words impotent. The demo of "This Sullen Welsh Heart", included on the deluxe release of the album, makes this naked song even purer. The proof is in Bradfield's inconsistent tug on his nylon strings and the first draft of the lyrics referring to "a fucking disease."

But one of the album's many highlights is a track that features another guest vocalist. Former Pulp guitarist and heavily sought-after session musician Richard Hawley sings the title track. In his hands, the three words "Rewind the Film" couldn't sound any more somber and contemplative. Sure, Hawley is only 46 as of this writing, but he takes on the song like a shrunken man looking down the barrel of his golden years, sitting on his porch while watching his grandkids play in the front yard, wondering where the time went but is still fond of every moment that passed. Speaking only for myself, asking to have your life replayed for you is an invitation for a big fat wince. But our man doesn't see it that way. "I'd love to see my joy, my friends" he beckons, unafraid of wanting "the world to see it all." The music resembles nothing from prior Manics albums, like the loungey bass lines and the syrupy '60s strings. The song's dynamics build to the halfway point where James Dean Bradfield lets loose a rapid-fire acoustic 12-string lick rarely heard on rock albums. The entrance of his voice on the bridge brushes away the sweet melancholy established by Hawley. When he sings "Let me hide under the sheets / And celebrate the boredom," it almost sounds like Bradfield was caught building a fort on his hotel bed. And yes, he still places emphasis on the wrong syllables of certain words. Face it linguists, he'll never give that up.

The tranquil sounds of Rewind the Film can probably be attributed in part to producer Alex Silva. There is a pulsing, urban hum that propels the swift but quiet "(I Miss the) Tokyo Skyline" missing from the song's demo. Saw what you will about burbling synths and how non-edgy they are, but it's icing on the cake when you long for the city. I mean, this guy misses so much. Emptiness, silence, non-communication and smog, there's a lot to be said for sniffing out that silver lining; "Feeling like an alien is so much fun." The touches added by Loz Williams and Alex Silva are impressive, but they're even more impressive when you consider that Silva helped engineer the band's explosive third album The Holy Bible. Here's a guy who had to break up with his girlfriend because of the intense sessions with the band, only to work with them again, helping to make them sound beautiful instead 19 years later.

The rest of Rewind the Film is no less surprising and satisfying. They let Cate Le Bon sing the lion's share of "4 Lonely Roads", a sometimes odd, sometimes sighing Britpop pastiche. Too bad there's so much reverb on her voice, I can only make out a few of the words. "Anthem for a Lost Cause", a do-wop waltz, actually has some of that electric guitar that's so scarce on the album. The horns of your parents A&M collection do more than make an appearance, they practically drive a song like "Show Me the Wonder". A lone trumpet announces the closer "30-Year War". "It's the longest running joke / In history / To kill the working classes / In the name of liberty." Hey, there are the old Manics! Pissed off and electric. But what's the electro beat gliding along in the mix? And why do they have a (mostly) instrumental track preceding it? No piss, no vinegar, all mood!

Yes, Rewind the Film is full of things that an ardent fan of Gold Against the Soul would never understand. An album named Futurology is supposed to follow in 2014, a louder, angrier counterpart to this album. But these fans must remember that the bassist adopted his last name from a band that started off as a punk outfit and decided to anger their crowd by going off on unpredictable tangents and doing whatever they felt like doing. When it comes to attitude, you have to admit that there's still something "punk" about that. As Bradfield sings in "Show Me the Wonder", "Is it too much to ask / to disbelieve in everything?" Nope, disbelieve in what you want. Disbelieve in fast and loud. Disbelieve in melancholy. Disbelieve in anything in between. That's what keeps bands chugging for so long, instead of just dragging on.

8

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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