Album review: Resistance is Futile by Manic Street Preachers. Released on Columbia Records CD/DL/LP on 13 April ★★★★★ • by Simon Whittle • It’s been four years since the Manics released two great albums in the space of ten months. Since then we’ve had plenty of political tsunamis; so have the Manics aimed their sights at any obvious targets?
Again, the band have declared war on the obvious. “In such a fractured and dysfunctional world,” says bassist and main lyricist Nicky Wire of Resistance is Futile, “we found it impossible to avoid the idea of art as a hiding place and a weapon.”
So, the driving, anthemic International Blue pays homage to artist Yves Klein and his International Klein Blue. Just as the 19-year-old artist Klein once symbolically ‘signed’ the sky, the Manics have reached for the unobtainable and ended up owning it.
Album opener People Give In is widescreen melancholia at its very best; drenched in melody, with a passionate chorus and soaring strings. One can but bask in its glory—resistance is… y’know.
Lyrically, there’s a flowing ease right across this album, exploring human fragility, pride and legacy. And the sadness, of course—we’re not here to party.
‘Let the banners unfold…’
On Distant Colours, singer James Dean Bradfield dwells upon political ruptures and fragmentation, Trump and Tory election victories, through the guise of a love song:
“Let the banners unfold, let them fall to the floor… A Cold War for the mind, my distant colours still bleeding, a broken promise for the soul, never loving, never healing.”
Bradfield recently told Clash magazine his lyric came to a real fruition with Brexit, “when you realise you’re sitting around the table with people who all vaguely had the same voting patterns in their life, just ripping each other apart.”
The intoxicating, stormy relationship of Caitlin and Dylan Thomas, and America’s effect on them, is explored on Dylan & Caitlin, on which James duets with Catherine Anne Davies; The Anchoress stealing the show with the killer line, “Dylan, don’t leave me behind, love has diverted and died…”
The band pay tribute to the “king and queen of style” David Bowie on the shimmering and powerful instant classic In Eternity, which delivers melody in droves.
Vivian looks at Vivian Maier, the Chigaco nanny and secretive street photographer who took 150,000 unseen and unpublished photos that only attracted critical acclaim on their discovery after her death:
“The museums and the galleries have become your home. Would it mean that much if you are looking down?”
The Manics re-address Hillsborough on Liverpool Revisited—an upbeat salute to the city that dared to fight; joyous, in fact, to the point of a Nicky Wire guitar solo on an early morning stroll by the Mersey:
“I think of the 96 as the tears fall down on me. There is courage, there is pride; you can see it in your eyes. Fight for justice, fight for life; there are angels in these skies.”
Broken Algorithms channels Illusion-era Gn’R, and warns about predatory tech companies, “As you caress the beauty of your screens, remember their mission, to own your dreams, to avoid tax and order your life, to sell you a future you may not desire,” a theme echoed via the pulsating rock of Sequels of Forgotten Wars.
‘Tattered manifestos litter the mind…’
The album’s cover is a photo of one of the last samurai warriors, “someone who knows his time is over, thanks to the coming of the gun,” says Wire, who adds that “memory, loss and a sense of grace loom large over the record.”
Memory is touched upon on the radio-friendly synth-tinged pop of Hold Me Like a Heaven, “Tattered manifestos litter the mind, diplomatic plans ravaged by time.”
“Memories are all we leave; fragments of lost melancholy,” sings James on A Song for the Sadness, over huge, stadium-ready signature riffs.
The gentle comedown of final track The Left Behind sees “lonesome warrior / willing conquistador” Nicky in fine voice, as he contemplates, “Waiting for the end of time, waiting to be left behind.”
Resistance is Futile is a skilfully mature, imaginative, uplifting and beautiful record that’s destined to shine brightly alongside the band’s greatest work.
• The Manics play Glasgow Hydro on 25 April, with special guests The Coral