1001 Albums You Must Die Before You Hear
#16 – Manic Street Preachers – Resistance Is Futile (2018)
The Manic Street Preachers’ depressing schtick gets well and truly tired on an album that MATT KELLY wished never existed.
You said it fellas.
PSA: Please rescue ‘International Blue’ from this album. Go download it right now – one of the best singles the Manics have ever done. A fantastic guitar riff, an irrepressible vocal from Bradfield, a driving beat and a chiming, resonant chorus: it’s all here. It’s criminal that it wasn’t a hit. Most of the rest of the album is just criminal.
Across the last seven albums, it seemed Manic Street Preachers were always running away from their previous creative direction. While this could come off as contrarian and scattershot, at least it meant each new record was a surprise – they never got stuck in a rut. Resistance Is Futile, by contrast, is the first album that does not seem like an apology for the last. Ironically, it’s the one they should actually be apologising for.
While it might sometimes seem like I enjoy giving a record a kicking, that isn’t the case here because RIF represents something deeply sad: a once-vital creative force outliving its own usefulness. Lazy, sappy background music, with RIF the MSPs have survived long enough to become the villain.
I absolutely loathe opening track ‘People Give In’ with its unbelievably corny chorus and WHOAH-OH-OH-OHs, while the tepid ‘Distant Colours’ is likely to break any old MSP fan’s heart. As for Dylan And Caitlin, while I’m not necessarily an authority on what a song depicting the relationship between Dylan and Caitlin Thomas should be, I’m pretty sure it shouldn’t evoke ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’.
A few songs snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. ‘In Eternity’ has a good hook that might have worked without such oily AOR production, and ‘Hold Me Like A Heaven’ has an intimate emotional centre tarnished by the OTT delivery of the chorus (those backing vocals!) which Imagine Dragons would deride for lacking subtlety.
And the one song where they try to rock out may be the worst thing on the album, the deeply unconvincing dad-rock of ‘Broken Algorithms’.
There are flashes of goodness. Bradfield delivers a great vocal on ‘Vivian’, the guitar riff punctuating the chorus on ‘Song For The Sadness’ is cool and ‘Sequels Of Forgotten Wars’ is pretty decent, with more fire in its belly and an intense chorus that sounds like it means it.
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But these moments are nowhere near enough to shake the uneasy sense that the Manics have lost the passion and defiance that once made them unique.
The problem isn’t that they’ve evolved or grown-up or become less angry – they’ve been doing that since Everything Must Go more than 20 years earlier. The problem is that I can’t see a point to this album. It feels like the work of a band out of creative directions, an undead act on autopilot, which in some ways makes it more depressing than The Holy Bible could ever hope to be.