Album reviews: Manic Street Preachers, Kali Uchis, Eels, Hinds and Kylie Minogue

In this week’s roundup, the Manics are as fervently political as ever, while Spanish rock band Hinds thrive on their imperfections

Roisin O'Connor,Ilana Kaplan,Nick Hasted
Wednesday 04 April 2018 15:43
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Artwork for the Manic Street Preachers album ‘Resistance is Futile’
Artwork for the Manic Street Preachers album ‘Resistance is Futile’

Manic Street Preachers – Resistance Is Futile

★★★★

Download this: “Dylan and Caitlin”, “Liverpool Revisited”, “Distant Colours”, “People Give In”, “The Left Behind”

As if anyone would expect the Manics to “mellow” this far into their career. The Welsh rockers return on Resistance Is Futile – their 13th album – with as much fire in their bellies as they did on their debut.

These songs don’t just glimmer softly, they shine: James Dean Bradfield is still the resplendent frontman he’s always been, belting out Nicky Wire’s lyrics with a crusader’s zeal. What’s essential, too, is that you know this energy will translate perfectly across to the band’s live shows. No song sounds over-rehearsed, and plenty sound like they were laid down on the first take.

Opener “People Give In” is all Elbow-esque theatricism: sprightly strings, a chime and the thrum of a double bass. It signals the first instance of a recurring theme on this record, which is the band’s tendency to contradict themselves via their song titles. It sounds like a defeatist statement, yet there’s an irrepressible sense of hope in everything they do.

There are occasional lulls in the effectiveness of Wire’s songwriting – or the instrumentation drowns out the intricacies – but the passion and enthusiasm in Bradfield’s delivery and the band’s performance never wanes for an instant; the crashing drums that close “Distant Colours” are euphoric, while “Hold Me Like a Heaven” is classic Brat Pack movie romanticism; you can’t help but picture Molly Ringwald and Judd Nelson at the end of The Breakfast Club.

Elsewhere they remain as fervently political as ever: “Broken Algorithms” is particularly ferocious, that urgent guitar riff driving Bradfield to new heights as he sings of “the heap of broken images … that can’t be fixed”, the mood is one of an impending uprising against the status quo.

On “Dylan and Caitlin” – celebrating their heritage with a song dedicated to the celebrated poet and his wife, the poet Caitlin Thomas – Bradfield’s throaty shouts meld wonderfully in a call-and-response track with Welsh singer The Anchoress; together their voices soar over jaunty violins and that double bass, following the briefest twangs from an acoustic guitar that could easily have slipped into a rendition of “California Dreamin’”.

“Vivian” uses an affecting sample that recalls the wind-up toys you had as a child, fuelling the song’s tones of nostalgia, before Bradfield confirms in the opening lyrics that it is, in fact, the click of a camera. His voice is longing as he calls out the name. “Liverpool Revisited”, meanwhile, is a poignant tribute to the victims of the Hillsborough disaster: “I think of the 96, as the tears fall down on me,” Bradfield sings, and a little later: “Fight for justice, fight for life/there are angels in these skies” – honouring not just the victims, but their families, who fought the establishment and seemed determined to come back stronger every time they were knocked back. Few places have a stoicism and pride quite like the Welsh, but Liverpool could give them a run for their money. The song ends with Bradfield promising “we’ll never leave you now” and a final, lingering guitar note.

Resistance Is Futile isn’t the Manics exploring particularly new territory; if anything, as they note themselves at points on the album, sometimes it seems as though little has changed and they’ve found themselves reiterating messages they first sent over 20 years ago. They’re still fighting the same battles, but really, it’s incredibly comforting to know they’re on your side, and to be assured that they’ll keep on fighting. (Roisin O’Connor)

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Hinds – I Don’t Run

★★★★☆

Download this: “New For You,” “The Club,” “Rookie,” “Soberland” and “Finally Floating”

Two years ago, Hinds emerged out of the grunge rock scene in Madrid, ready to prove they were not to be ignored. Their debut album Leave Me Alone made them one of the most successful female-fronted indie bands to come from Spain – and the hype caught on quickly. Since forming in 2011, Hinds have cut their teeth playing gigs worldwide all the while dealing with criticism, sexism and all the hardships young women in the music industry face. The brainchild of Ana Perrote and Carlotta Cosials, the women met through ex-boyfriends who believed that music was for men to make and women to watch. In defiance, Perrote and Cosials ditched their boyfriends, went on a road trip and started making music. Eventually they’d add Ade Martin and Amber Grimbergen to the band to make Hinds a quartet. They’ve come a long way since their playful debut.

While Hinds’ struggles were masked in metaphors on their debut, I Don’t Run is quite literal: the band aren’t evading their flaws or their challenges, in fact they’re facing them head on. The group still rely on carefree melodies and jangly surf pop to accompany their lilts of frustrations and angst. Tracks like “New For You” and “Rookie” focus on upbeat melodies and hooky choruses while “Soberland” encapsulates the realisation of needing to kick a bad habit and “Linda” is an aching meditation on isolation from touring. I Don’t Run feels fuller than Hinds’ debut, perhaps because of the confidence the band gained on the tour grind. With their latest work, the songs aren’t so much layered in jokes as they’re vying to be taken seriously – something they’ve earned. Seriously does not equal cleaner. If you’re looking for smooth guitar riffs and auto-tuned vocals, you won’t find it on I Don’t Run: Hinds thrives on their imperfections and that’s the point. (Ilana Kaplan)

★★★★☆

Download this: “Feel Like A Fool,” “Miami,” “After The Storm” “Tyrant”

Kali Uchis isn’t easily defined. Since her 2012 mixtape Drunken Babble, she’s been fusing reggae, jazz and early R&B. But her palette has only expanded since her beginning: she collaborated with Snoop Dogg on his 2014 mixtape and then recruited Diplo, Tyler, the Creator, Kaytranada and BadBadNotGood to feature on her 2015 EP Por Vida. Since then, the 25-year-old musician’s collaborations have ranged from Tyler, the Creator to Jorja Smith. Her feature on Daniel Caesar’s “Get You” even earned the duo a top 5 R&B hit on the Billboard charts. The eclectic nature of Uchis’s music feeds into her persona with her retro-pinup look and wing-tip eyeliner that recalls the look and sound of Amy Winehouse.

Isolation has Uchis being the ultimate tease: revealing parts of herself but not giving away her entire story straight away. Opener “Body Language” transports listeners into Uchis’s lush Bossanova fantasy, but the genre-defying artist quickly shifts gears on the psychedelic reggae track “Miami” preaching independence: “Why could I be Kim? I could be Kanye.” The singer also pays homage to her Latin roots on the dancehall and reggaeton-tinged “Nuestro Planeta”, but quickly moves into sultry neo-soul territory on “Feel Like A Fool” (“Loved you for being sick and twisted/But pussy is a hell of an addiction”). It’s hard to nail down who Uchis is, but that’s how she likes it.

Isolation represents the different facets of Uchis: the survivor, romantic and the rebel. But she still manages to keep herself a mystery through moody metaphors and Uchis – who grew up in between Colombia and Virginia – has been largely underrated the past few years, but Isolation might just finally give her the attention she deserves. (Ilana Kaplan)

Eels – The Deconstruction

★★★★☆

Download this: “Premonition”, “The Epiphany”, “Today Is The Day”, “In Our Cathedral”

The second Eels album, Electro-Shock Blues, defined Mark Everett’s mode of beautiful, redemptive reactions to a growing list of personal tragedies, spinning him off the post-grunge charts to a more delicately intimate place. Twenty years on, its producer Mickey Petracia has returned for this soft prayer of a record.

The Deconstruction’s title track sets the scene, suggesting fracture and pain as strengthening preludes to growth. The Deconstruction Orchestra and Choir are mostly hushed presences in the redemption songs which follow. The choir angelically murmur beneath the lovers’ commitment of “Premonition”, while “The Epiphany” floats on dreamy cellos as breath-sharpening new experiences beat nostalgia. “Sweet Scorched Earth” is a love song as our poisoned world burns, also buoyed on cinematic strings.

Three pop songs break the stillness. Ominous brass like mansion doors slowly swinging wide and the dirty guitar twang on “Bone Dry” could be borrowed from John Barry’s darkly sexy On Her Majesty’s Secret Service score, while “You Are the Shining Light” has the swaggering squall and crunch of a mid-Sixties Hollywood party. “Today Is The Day” sums the situation up: “Life is quick and life is strange.”

Guilt, sickness, depression and death have their haunting power acknowledged. The optimism of a songwriter who sees the world’s love and beauty through his own sometimes deep pain rarely falters. This album’s concentrated, meditative mood returns in the closing “In Our Cathedral”. Like the rest of the record, it offers sepulchral sanctuary from life’s assaults. (Nick Hasted)

Kylie Minogue – Golden

★★★☆☆

Download this: “Golden”, “Shelby ’68”, “L.O.V.E.”, “Music’s Too Sad Without You”

The heavily publicised, wrenching heartbreak of Minogue’s 2016 breakup from Joshua Sasse must have made returning to music a healing prospect. On A&R advice, she turned to Nashville for the next move in a career which has so far always replenished itself, despite its musically negligible beginnings.

The gentrified bohemia Jack White’s presence has added to the city’s corporate country music wasn’t on the agenda. Producer Nathan Chapman, who helped steer Taylor Swift’s march from country-pop princess to global pop queen, was. Contemplating the yards of Swift gold records lining his corridors when she demoed first single “Dancing” must have concentrated Minogue’s mind on the aim in view. When the country twang of its first 30 seconds gives way to a whoosh of dance-pop, the hybrid hoedown has begun.

Vinyl crackles and acoustic guitar squeaks nod to “authenticity”. More interestingly, Minogue abandons the cyber-pop vocal sheen of 2014’s Kiss Me Once for a more exposed version of her thin voice, especially on the cracked country twang of “Radio On”. Intimations of mortality are let into the songwriting in her fiftieth year on “Live a Little”, in which she “slept by candlelight, scared of running out of time”.

And though the Nashville experiment is finally too half-hearted for the desired transformation, “Shelby ’68” mines Melbourne memories for a more personalised rural makeover. When Minogue’s voice takes a sly upward tilt at its lines’ ends, and finds immortal liberty in the spin of a disco ball on “L.O.V.E.”, you remember why she’s survived. (Nick Hasted)

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