As the first of two albums from their recent recording sessions, ‘Rewind The Film’, recorded almost exclusively without electric guitars finds the Manic Street Preachers deep into their career at a crossroads. For lots of contemporaries, making this type of change of style so late in their career has signalled the beginning of their declines. So the question is, is this a new renaissance or the start of a slippery slope?
Never afraid to work with collaborators, in the past ranging from Traci Lords to Nina Persson, this time the Manic’s have enlisted Richie Hawley, Cate Le Bon and Lucy Rose. Hawley’s contribution is expectedly rich and baroque, enveloping the song in a veneer of velvety comfort. Rose’s breathless backing vocals add significantly to This Sullen Welsh Heart and Le Bon provides an excellent lead on 4 Lonely Roads . Nicky Wire continues his vocal contribution with arguably his finest to date on As Holy As The Soil (That Buries Your Skin).
The content of the lyrics certainly shows that the Manic’s are facing up to where they currently find themselves in their lives and career, intoning on This Sullen Welsh Heart with the opening words “I don’t want my children to grow up like me”. Further reflection is apparent on Anthem For A Lost Cause where Bradfield sings “redemption ,love and departure, I think you’re work is done” and again on Running Out Of Fantasy where “I don’t expect your sympathy, I’m old, strange and confidential”. This hardly seems like the Manic’s that have blazed such an incendiary polemic trail for the majority of their career. But they haven’t gone fully quietly into the night and on the final track 30 Year War sees them railing against “the endless parade of old Etonian scum” and calling out for answers to “The lies of Hillsborough, the blood of Orgreave, all the evasion at the BBC”. It’s good to know the Manics haven’t settled into the slippers and Bovril just yet.
Musically, the mostly acoustic led songs are embellished by extra instruments such as trumpet on the single Show Me The Wonder and strings on the title track Rewind The Film. There have been hints during their career with the odd song or two per album of this style. However for an entire album’s worth of acoustic lead songs it does take some adjusting to, relative to their huge repertoire.
This is Manic Street Preachers’ most mature album to date. Have they gone all tweed trousers and beige cardigans on us? Well no, some of the eye liner is still worn with pride. There is much to enjoy here both for long time followers of the Manic Street Preachers and for newcomers to the band, in what is as strong an album that they have ever produced.