How Big How Blue How Beautiful
Recorded at the legendary Hansa Studios, is this Manic Street Preachers' 'Berlin album'?
That appears to be the aim, on a record that follows hard on the heels of last year's Rewind The Film and should be seen as a companion piece. Whereas the previous album was steady but unremarkable, this 12th effort in 23 years has loftier targets — to be a more experimental set, a European travelogue with influences ranging from Neu! to Kraftwerk, and a touch of David Bowie in its origins.
There's certainly a bit of Bowie in the meaty chimes of Let's Go To War, which would hunker down nicely on Low, and krautrock comes through strongly on the motorik Misguided Missile. On Dreaming A City (HughEskova) the Manics even try to emulate Simple Minds' classic, Berlin-influenced early single Theme For Great Cities, although results are mixed. It's committed but lumpen, a bit of that old MSPs sludge seeping in.
Maybe they don't quite have the edge to make a truly avant-garde rock record. Futurology is at its most successful on the warm but rattling title track, the sweet, surprising duet with Scritti Politti's Green Gartside on Between The Clock And The Bed and the tremendous single Walk Me To The Bridge, where thrilling riffs meet lyrics ("So long my fatal friend... Still blinded by your intellect") that feel like a toast from Nicky Wire to his old pal Richey Edwards. Old habits die hard.