Album: Manic Street Preachers, Journal For Plague Lovers, (Columbia)
Manics rise to a challenge from across the decades
Sunday 17 May 2009
The album of 2009 – hands down, no contest – contains words by a man nobody's seen since he disappeared 14 years ago, set to music by three men who've been playing together for more than 20 years.
Prior to his still-unsolved disappearance in 1995, Richey Edwards bequeathed to his fellow Manic Street Preachers a folder of lyrics, prose, pictures and ideas. For years, its contents were closely guarded. For a while, there was talk of publishing them in book form (but, when Bloc Party stole one leaked line for their own inadequate purposes, the error of that plan became plain).
At last, James Dean Bradfield, Sean Moore and Nicky Wire have answered the challenge from across the decades, and have done Edwards proud. Journal for Plague Lovers – the band's ninth album – echoes their 1994 masterpiece The Holy Bible both visually (controversial and highly symbolic artwork, showing a beautiful but bloodied child, by Jenny Saville; that Simple Minds backwards font) and sonically, with Steve Albini (chosen chiefly for his work on Nirvana's In Utero, an Edwards obsession) capturing Bradfield's guitars at their harshest and most ear-scouring.
It isn't 100 per cent punishing and pitiless: "Facing Page, Top Left" uses twinkling Welsh harps, and the closing "William's Last Words", featuring Lou Reed-like anti-singing from Wire, will break hearts.
Like the best Bill Hicks routines, Edwards' words resonate with spooky truth ("The Levi jean has always been stronger than the Uzi" and "Falcons attack the pigeons in the West Wing at night", both from opener "Peeled Apples") and often make you laugh out loud.
Not that they're funny ha-ha (the sole shard of humour being the Larkin-derived couplet on "Me and Stephen Hawking": "Oh the joy, me and Stephen Hawking we laugh/We missed the sex revolution when we failed the physical"), but as an involuntary awestruck response to his genius.
Wanna know what's really scary? On this evidence, Richey Edwards was actually improving.
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 Ed Miliband less influential than One Direction's Louis Tomlinson by official Doncaster power list
- 3 Japanese island overrun with cats after population explodes
- 4 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 5 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
Kurt Cobain's life and death: Montage of Heck film uses unseen footage to tell Nirvana frontman's story
Game of Thrones season 5 spoilers: What we can expect according to George RR Martin's books
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Drugs Live: Twitter responds to Jon Snow and Jennie Bond smoking cannabis
Jimmy McGovern's new TV series 'Banished': Why Australia's past has such resonance today
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'