Sustaining themselves throughout the Coldplay generation, Manic Street Preachers have accrued some decidedly negative connotations. The titular track of their twelfth studio album, Futurology, is a prime example, immediately evoking the bland wimp-rock of Keane and suchlike. I hasten to point out that Manics are not ‘copying’ this genre, rather this genre copied the Manics, in the process mangling their progenitor’s sound. Unfortunately, Futurology isn’t the band’s best work, and at times it’s rather difficult to extricate the brave pioneer from the mindless bandwagoner.
With this in mind, the album is at its best when it deviates from this charged blueprint. Walk Me To The Bridge has a chorus that reminds me of Simple Minds and Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, whilst the verse is one of the only clear enactments of the Krautrock the band was apparently listening to during the writing process. Still, this potential allusion is merely a shade - it can’t be mistaken for Neu!.
Meanwhile, Sex, Power, Love And Money has all the sublety of Children Of The Revolution and serves as a credible electro/glam hybrid. Although the main success of this track is that its ridiculous chorus somehow avoids being the daftest part of the album.
Speaking of daft, Futurology seems hell-bent on continuously making its listener cringe. Whilst theoretically, the German lyrics in Europe Geht Durch Mich are an interesting inclusion, the protruding nature of these repetitive interjections reminds me of an average ensemble number on the West End rather than Kraftwerk. Meanwhile, the overzealous delivery in Let’s Go To War is wince-inducing, unaided by lyrical imagery you’d expect from a politicized Sixth Former rather than experienced partisan musicians.
What The Next Jet To Leave To Moscow and Divine Youth prove, are that Manic Street Preachers can still write a better pop-rock slow number than many of their descendants. Regrettably however, neither of these tracks are quite good enough to irrevocably separate the band from the fodder. Through no fault of their own, there are just too many adequate anthems and ballads in the world to set the majority of Futurology apart. This, coupled with the hit-and-miss deviations from this template, mean the band’s twelfth album cannot be counted among their best work. I can’t take any schadenfreude from Futurology’s failures, and hopefully any future efforts will be a step up.