Postcards from a Young Man 3/5 And so to the 10th album from the Welsh trio. From anarchic trailblazers to chart-topping rock refrainmakers, last year’s Journal for Plague Lovers saw James Dean Bradfield, Nicky Wire and Sean Moore tackle the final folder of lyrics left by guitarist Richey Edwards before his 1995 disappearance, immortalising the last of his powerful words to music.
Where Journal… began with the malevolent pulse of ‘Peeled Apples’, the opener and first single for Postcards…, ‘(It’s Not War) Just the End of Love’, instantly sets the album’s tone: the Manics sound reinvigorated, uplifted. Unabashedly bolstered by swooping strings, Bradfield’s vocal (and guitar solo) is jubilant even as he looks back on the embers of a dying relationship.
‘Some Kind of Nothingness’ is similarly poignant and at peace in the face of memories – Echo And The Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch adding extra vocals alongside the blustery gospel choir. Their glossy brand of orchestral bombast (‘Hazelton Avenue’, ‘The Descent’) and the extraneous soloing (‘All We Make Is Entertainment’) is overcooked and, in spite of Moore’s warm trumpet blasts, Wire’s flat, awkward vocals and hapless cowbell twonks relegate ‘The Future Has Been Here 4 Ever’ to clunker status. Still, the John Cale-assisted ‘Auto-Intoxication’ contains elements of Holy Bible-era Manics in Bradfield’s lower, angst-fuelled register and the economical guitaring.
Elsewhere it’s hard to deny the pop-rock surge and sweep of ‘A Billion Balconies Facing the Sun’ and closer ‘Don’t Be Evil’ – named after Google’s motto – in which Bradfield rails against the chorus of negativity fuelled by internet forums. It’s a mixed bag, unlikely to win new fans, but a rousing reminder of the Manics’ unique synergy as they approach 25 years together.