posted on June 10, 2009 19:00
A review of the album 'A Journal For Plague Lovers' by Manic Street Preachers
Fourteen years ago Richey Edwards, the then lyricist and rhythm guitarist of the Manic Street Preachers, went missing at a well-known suicide spot on the Severn. And despite a handful of alleged sightings of the former Manic, was in November of last year announced dead. And now in 2009, A Journal for Plague Lovers adds another chapter to the legacy of one of Britain's great songwriters.
The Cluas Verdict? 8 out of 10
For those of us inclined to sentimentality, the Richey Edwards saga has been an ongoing source of enchantment, never allowing us to stray too far from Manic album releases, on the admittedly slight chance that the tragic lyricist might return. Sadly, since it has been well over a decade since his disappearance, it would seem unlikely that such a scenario might arise and so A Journal for Plague Lovers serves as the next best thing.
The use on this album of a folder of poetry left by Edwards is a source of controversy that has split opinion amongst even the most hardcore fans of the Manic Street Preachers. For some it is a worthy homage to the band member who supplied so much of the content that made 1994's 'The Holy Bible' such a mesmerising and quintessential rock offering. For others, the folder of poetry left behind embodies the most intimate of details written by the troubled icon in his darkest moments and question whether it is advisable to put these words to music after so much time has passed. According to the band themselves, the lyrics were simply too good to be left unreleased.
From the instant that the opening track 'Peeled Apples' kicks in, you get the impression that this is the Manics back to their best. There are the movie snippet sound clips that have become a common feature of their albums, followed by thumping bass lines and the familiar grungy guitar riffs of James Dean Bradfield. On this album the Manics are typically outspoken and meddlesome. The first track explores the role of brands and consumerism as Bradfield roars out:
"The levi jean will always be stronger than an uzi" and "A series of images against you and me trespass your torment if you are what you want to be".
And without time for so much as a breath, the second song on the album kicks off. 'Jackie Collins Existential Question Time' is arguably the strongest track on the album, combining the various elements that over the years have merged to define the Manics, such as the anthemic guitar riffs, caustic lyrics and the inimitable vocals of Bradfield.
A Journal for Plague Lovers has, in parts, an uncomfortably overwrought feel to it. The lyrics are that of a confused, emotional mind struggling to get a grip on the multiplicity of mysteries in modern society. 'She bathed herself in a bath of bleach' for example, is a fairly cynical insight into the pitfalls of love and lust.
Despite the gritty and often forlorn nature of the album, it enthralls from start to finish. Undoubtedly there is enough quality on the album to whet the appetites of the now almost famished Preachers' fans (their last album 'Send away the tigers' wasn't all that great) and enough to re-ignite the interests of those who were often sitting on the fence in relation to the Welsh band. With the ominous sounding riffs and frenetic vocals, A Journal for Plague Lovers sounds more like a follow up to The Holy Bible than any other Manics release.