Postcards From a Young Man

About 18 months ago, it looked like the Manic Street Preachers were down and out. Their last
album, 2007’s ‘Send Away the Tigers’, had received positive reviews but little seemed to follow from it, besides the cover of Rihanna’s Umbrella. And then a new album, ‘Journal for Plague Lovers’, appeared. Marrying some of the remaining lyrics from missing-presumed-dead guitarist Richey Edwards with their heaviest and darkest music since 1994’s ‘The Holy Bible’, it was a return to form that reminded some of their lost fans what it was that made the band stand out in the beginning.

This time round, the Manics have used the momentum built to produce another album a little
over a year later. ‘Postcards from a Young Man’ is to ‘Everything Must Go’ what ‘Journal for Plague Lovers’ was to ‘The Holy Bible’ – an updating of a classic album, with the weight of around fifteen years more experience added to the mix. The ferocity is replaced with the epic sweep of strings and backing vocals, a move described as “one last shot at mass communication” by the band. Lyrically, the album is more accessible too, with the references to married men ‘doing’ Catholics and “transgendered milk” replaced with something a little less provocative. The danger is that the fans won back by the previous album could feel a little cheated here. The Manics have always sounded best when railing against the system and this admitted attempt to claim a larger audience could sit uncomfortably with that.

It starts worryingly. The first single and opening track ‘(It’s Not War) Just the End of Love’ lacks bite, a radio-friendly track that stacks up badly against the intensity of their last outing. However, the next two songs show what the band is trying to achieve here. The title track and ‘Some Kind of Nothingness’ soar: the former with an audience-friendly declaration of “I will not give up and I will not give in”; the latter with backing singers creating a proper hair-on-end moment. Most of the rest of the album is equally effective, with songs like ‘A Billion Balconies Facing the Sun’ and ‘Golden Platitudes’ able to sit comfortably alongside their old classics. There are a few duds, ‘The Future Has Been Here 4 Ever’ is particularly painful, but most of the album satisfies the band’s passion as well as their commercial aspirations. Just as 1996’s ‘Everything Must Go’ spawned some of their most successful works artistically and commercially, this album taps into the epic rock market that has blossomed recently, but with an intellectual (and admittedly pretentious) bent that only the Manics can pull off. There is no compromise here.

Perhaps the most telling song on the album is ‘All We Make is Entertainment’, calling it “a sad
indictment of what we’re good at”. But that’s unfair – this is a band that has refused to renounce its intellectual leanings to appease a larger audience or to surrender its anger with increasing age and, at times, waistlines. The fact that this album is entertaining is a testament to the talents of a band who prove true to their word, and will not give up or give in.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.