Manic Street Preachers - Rewind The Film - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Manic Street Preachers - Rewind The Film

by Steve Taylor Rating:9 Release Date:2013-09-16

It's fitting that Manic Street Preachers named their greatest hits collection National Treasures - The Complete Singles, as it would seem that, with Rewind the Film, the Welsh three-piece are becoming just that, 21 years since the group pierced the UK album chart with Generation Terrorists. The nation in question, of course, is Wales but, regardless of where you're from, Rewind the Film is an astonishing reinforcement of their reputation as one of the finest bands of the past couple of decades. Assured and relevant, Rewind The Film is up there with the best of the Manics' previous 10 studio albums.

Contemplative, mellow at times, but never afraid to belt out a defiant message, this is a group at ease with themselves, content to mix styles and lyrical content. The opening track, 'This Sullen Welsh Heart', sets the tone with its first line: "I don't want my children to grow up like me/ It's too soul destroying/ It's a mocking disease" - a comment on being middle-aged and all that goes with it, whether that's a sense of responsibility, regrets or just a failure to leap around a rock'n'roll stage any more. After such a mellow opening, 'Show Me the Wonder', a catchy number which has already wormed its way into this writer's head with its blaring horns, is more traditional Manics fare, its pure pop melody screaming out 'hit single'!

The title track which follows changes the mood completely once again. Nicky Wire recently told Marc Burrows in an article on thequietus.com website that he had been listening to David Axelrod a lot, and here's the evidence. With a tune heavily influenced by Axelrod's 'A Little Girl Lost' (as acknowledged on the sleeve notes), vocal duties are handed to Richard Hawley, who delivers a message of lost youth and the mortality of "waiting for the night to come". Hawley is not the only guest vocalist on the album, with Lucy Rose adding a note of tenderness to 'This Sullen Welsh Heart' and Welsh singer-songwriter Cate Le Bon providing the lead on '4 Lonely Roads'.

As a former long-term resident of the world's largest conurbation and having seen how popular the Manics are in Japan, this reviewer was not surprised to see the metropolis celebrated in words and music on '(I Miss the) Tokyo Skyline', and when James Dean Bradfield sings the line, "This place somehow feels like a second home", anyone who has ever spent more than a couple of weeks in Tokyo will know exactly what Nicky Wire was thinking when he wrote the song. The opening couple of songs on side two, 'Anthem for a Lost Cause' and 'As Holy as the Soil (That Buries Your Skin)', see the return of the horn section and, in the case of the former, the only lyrics on the album penned by Bradfield, while Wire steps up the microphone for the latter, an unabashed love letter from Wire to his late, lamented bandmate, Richey Edwards.

As Rewind the Film heads towards its conclusion, 'Running out of Fantasy', contains lyrics which could be at the core of the album, in that they examine the transience of life in a rock band. Lines like: "The seduction of a fading power/ in a hotel in the middle of nowhere/ I'm running out of fantasy," press home the melancholic, yet strangely uplifting feeling of Rewind the Film.

The instrumental 'Manorbier', including some marvellous theremin vibes, gives the listener time to relax before '30 Year War' closes the album in more familiar Manics territory. As Wire told Burrows on thequietus.com: "It's definitely about Thatcherism, about the establishment across the last 30 years, and it doesn't matter what government is around, we always love to portray ourselves as this holier than thou country, and yet we have scandal after scandal uncovered, right to the root of power, government, Murdoch, the police, Hillsborough, this stupefaction of the class I grew up in, which I think all stems from Thatcherism really." With references to the Hillsborough disaster, the battle between striking miners and police at Orgreave coking plant in 1984 and the various scandals centred on the BBC that have been uncovered over the past 12 months, the song rails against institutional cover ups, before referencing Lenin with the refrain, "What is to be done".

Over the past 21 years, Manic Street Preachers have consistently released thought-provoking albums, full of dynamic songs with intelligent lyrics. Some hard core fans might not welcome what might be perceived as a dilution of the Manics sound but, for this reviewer, Rewind the Film is quite possibly their best album since Everything Must Go. Never mind Rewind the Film, it's about time to turn the record over for another listen.

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