Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Album Review: Futurology

Last year, one of my favorite bands, Manic Street Preachers, recorded a large number of songs  - more than would be needed for a "normal" album. In the wake of this, one plan I read they had was to release it as a massive single album with a title like 70 Songs of Hate and Failure...or something like that.

I am glad they didn't. Not because the music is bad. To the contrary, those songs turned out great.

No, singer/guitarist James Dean Bradfield, bassist/lyricist Nicky Wire and drummer Sean Moore smartly realized they had two distinct albums on their hands - musically and thematically. One is a muted, toned down reflection on becoming older put to mostly acoustic arrangements. The other is more like adventurous rock themed around the future and feelings the band experienced in many of their European travels.

Futurology-era MSP left to right: Moore, Wire, Bradfield
The former came out as Rewind the Film in late 2013. The later just came out as Futurology.

I wrote a review of Rewind the Film that you can read HERE. I loved it, for the music itself, but also for the Manics for trying something new and succeeding wonderfully.

As for Futurology, a lot has been written about it already - almost universally good. Instead of me repeating what other have said so well in analyzing the album, I'll point you to an enlightening review by the site The Quietus. They run down the album song-by-song with some excellent observations.

I will, however, give a quick thought on each tune and a rating:
The Cover of Futurology
  • Futurology ****A big, bright tune that'll have you tapping your toe and rocking along.
  • Walk Me to the Bridge *****An intense rocker about change with a big riff and lyrics.
  • Lets Go To War ****A minor key song against the damage done by the upper class with a chanty vocal and PiL-like bass line.
  • The Next Jet To Leave Moscow****Back to up tempo, melody and a propulsive beat, this one reflects on how the band's left-leaning approach has been co-opted and their own hypocrisy.
  • Europa Geht Durch Mich ***It means Europe Passes Through Me. An odd one for the Manics, but I like it! Guest vocal by a German actress.
  • Divine Youth.*** This one could have been on Rewind the Film. Slower, guest female co-vocal, more basic instrumentation in a song about youth losing its way in the modern world.
  • Sex, Power, Love and Money****A little reminiscent of the band's song Repeat from their very first album, this one chants and rocks out a message about "four small words that won't be denied."
  • Dreaming A City**An instrumental. Sounds like it could be a theme song for a cop show or something. OK, but probably not one I'll listen to much.
  • Black Square****Disembodied German voice repeats key lines from Europa Geht Durch Mich at the start, then the tune begins. The title refers to an opera and work of futurist art from the early 20th Century symbolizing the end of objects and time. The mid-paced song references the eternal "newness" of any art. 
  • Between the Clock and the Bed***The title references a piece by Edvard Munch. Guest vocal by former Scritti Politti lead singer. The song seems to be about self doubt. 
  • Misguided Missile**A meditation of the perils of self-obsession and the distractions that causes. 
  • The View From Stow Hill***A slower tune, this one appears to be talking about the relatively unknown, un-talked about violent history of a Welsh city...Newport. 
  • Mayakovsky**Another instrumental. A bit more upbeat and rocking that the other one on Futurology. Echoey, quiet voice at the very end speaks in English the key phrases of Europa Geht Durch Mich.
Must Have
These are the best songs on the album to me and show off the interesting, diverse sounds on the record:
  • Walk Me To The Bridge
  • Europa Geht Durch Mich
  • Lets Go To War
  • Black Square
  • Sex, Power, Love and Money

If You Want More
  • Futurology
  • The Next Jet To Leave Moscow
  • Divine Youth
  • Between The Clock And The Bed
Could Skip
  • A View From Stow Hill 
  • Misguided Missile 
  • Dreaming A City
  • Mayakovsky

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