Album: Manic Street Preachers, Postcards from a Young Man (Columbia)

4.00

There are two distinct strains of Manic Street Preachers album: the grandiose agit-rock ones designed to force-feed arena crowds the sorts of philosophical ruminations they won't encounter at school; and the more hermetic, astringent exercises like The Holy Bible.

Postcards From A Young Man represents a swing back to the band's more expansive, epic style after last year's rather austere settings of Richey Edwards' final writings, Journal For Plague Lovers. The contrast couldn't be more pronounced: compared with that album's fraught introspection, this one seems oddly optimistic, even when Nicky Wire is railing against the manifold indignities of modern life. Unlike his unfortunate chum, Wire has been able to mature into a more skilled lyricist, smuggling his ideas through in lines which don't fight against the song structures, but embrace them, whether in straight-talking rhetoric ("This life, it sucks your principles away/You have to fight against it every single day") or sly poetic assonance ("Oh what a Shangri-La/Oh what a shower we are"). The result is a more streamlined, potent rock music, which James Dean Bradfield must find so much more satisfying to deliver.

As the title suggests, the album is loosely themed around the expectations of youth and the disenchantments of adulthood, with songs such as "Golden Platitudes" and "All We Make Is Entertainment" taking furious aim at the political treacheries of our era, the latter considering the decline of the UK's manufacturing base as a betrayal not just of the workers but of our own cultural heritage: if we're prepared to sell out Cadbury's whilst supporting Northern Rock, they suggest, what chance is there for our music industry, a proven money-spinner now being shunted towards the abyss?

The source of that decline, the Interweb, is roundly chastised in both "Don't Be Evil" – the title a mocking echo of Google's motto – and "A Billion Balconies Facing The Sun", for its seemingly heedless promotion of cowardly inhumanity and general vileness. "Auto-Intoxication" (a syndrome in which one's body is poisoned by its own organs) offers a metaphor for this self-destructive societal malaise, the brittle, spiky guitars and John Cale's piano combining in a churning glam-pop groove.

Solace is found in less virtual forms, such as the archive of postcards, artworks and writings nostalgically browsed in the title-track, and the bitter tang of grief and longing experienced in "Some Kind Of Nothingness", on which Ian McCulloch's baritone adds an extra layer of warmth beneath the stridency. A similar poignant reverie is welcomed over the mandolin trills and wistful organ of "I Think I've Found It" – just one of an impressive range of musical strategies employed here, from the early Seventies sound of "The Descent (Pages 1 & 2)", which could be a Mott The Hoople tribute, to Sean Moore's trumpet on "The Future Has Been Here 4 Ever", to the exultant strings lavished throughout what is surely the Manics' best album since Everything Must Go.

DOWNLOAD THIS (It's Not War) Just The End Of Love; Postcards From A Young Man; Golden Platitudes; The Descent (Pages 1 & 2)

Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
The American stand-up Tig Notaro, who performed topless this week

Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars

Arts and Entertainment

TVNetflix gets cryptic

Arts and Entertainment
Claudia Winkleman is having another week off Strictly to care for her daughter
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Children in Need is the BBC's UK charity. Since 1980 it has raised over £600 million to change the lives of disabled children and young people in the UK

TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his winning novel

Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
    Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

    Look what's mushrooming now!

    Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
    Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

    Oeuf quake

    Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
    Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

    Terry Venables column

    Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
    Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin