2013’s ‘Rewind The Film’ was a change in direction for the Manic Street Preachers and yet it signed off with the incendiary polemic of 30-Year War. Against the reflectory tone, the parting shot suggested there was a lot more in the tank for the Manics to explore. The jist was we could expect to see more of this on ‘Futurology’ which was recorded at the same time as ‘Rewind The Film’ and indeed the latter album’s parting shot leads naturally onto a more politically charged manifesto. There are other similarities between the albums; instrumental tracks (Dreaming A City (Hugheskova), Mayakovsky) and less than obvious guest vocalists (Nina Hoss, Georgia Ruth Williams and Green Gartside) continue to play an important part.
Where ‘Futurology’ differs from ‘Rewind The Film’ is the overall sound which has a more modern Krautrock sheen. It stomps on Europa Geht Durch Mich, strides on Walk Me To The Bridge and marches on Let’s Go To War. In the Manics’ back catalogue, this new album is closest in sound to 2004’s ‘Lifeblood’, but has taken a massive leap in quality from that. James Dean Bradfield continues to sound as vital as ever and is surely one of the most underrated band front men around. He continues to provide the vocal and musical melodies in abundance and it’s no easy task to build those on the musings of Nicky Wire.
It wouldn’t be a Manics album without Nicky Wire delving into more meaty matters such as the working class and the economy where he writes about “working class skeletons” and “false economies”. It continues on Futurology; “slums need the poor/curled like an animal lying on the floor”. Lyrical inspiration also came from modern art and that is apparent on Black Square where there is a call to “free yourselves from the tyranny of objects/purged of all colour, the purest abstraction”.
While past contemporaries have fallen by the wayside, waiting for the inevitable comeback tour, the Manics have remained constant throughout never sitting back on what they have achieved, always looking to what they can do next. They are in the middle of a particularly rich period of their creative lives that is now stretching back five years to ‘Journal For Plague Lovers’. ‘Futurology’ can be considered one of their very best albums.