Not that they would have it any other way, but The Manic Street Preachers have spent their fifteen year career as a contradiction in terms. They sound like an American band, but have never broken America. They’ve written songs about the herd mentality that everyone can sing. Were they a Labour politician, their memoir would be called something like “A Life In Opposition”.
“Send Away The Tigers”, however, is an album which aims to simplify things. (We know this because the album arrives accompanied by a 1000 word piece by Nicky Wire explaining how simple it is.) Whatever, this undeniably represents a leaner, more accessible version of the Manic Street Preachers. We know them to be passionate, intelligent rock band – here, a great leap forward is made. Over a lean 38 minutes they actually show us, rather than simply telling us.
Not that the band are without some of their traditional excesses, of course. Though in many respects a back-to basics guitar record, strings are everywhere in these arrangements. The songs are customarily wordy, and some dubious taste calls – “Autumnsong” is essentially Slash playing the theme to “Auf Wiedersehn Pet” – are sometimes made. However, there are several moments here – the excellent single “Your Love Alone Is Not Enough”; “Indian Summer”, “Send Away The Tigers” itself – where the band reconnect with their finest tuneful moments, and create some great anthemic rock.
And for all their stated aims, it’s here, when Manic Street Preachers are involved in the relatively pure act of making music that people connect with that they continue to do their best work. We live in times crying out for some chewy political treatise from this band – happily, that is an opportunity overlooked. Instead, here there’s a catchy rock song called “Imperial Bodybags” which proves that their heavy words can, when occasion demands, be lightly thrown.
This was never a band to love without thinking about it, of course. “Send Away The Tigers”, however, sees the brain of the Manics reunited with their strongest qualities: their heart, humanity and soul.
Q and A
UNCUT: The Manics seem revitalised here. Does it seem that way to you?
JAMES DEAN BRADFIELD: “It does feel a bit like that. If you look at our lead-off singles since 2001, hardly any of them have had any kind of punk rock influence in them: The Love of Richard Nixon sounded like Pat Metheny. We just thought, “fuck, let’s just go for it.”
How did the songs develop?
“We’ve had a keyboard player with us since 1996, and it’s been great in a lot of ways – but it’s maybe made us lose sight of when we used to practice together in our living room. I’m not saying it’s a real return to roots, but it’s a return to using your first idea, rather than chasing the second or thurd one, like on (i)Lifeblood(i). Sometimes it’s nice to disengage your brain.”
It sounds quite political also?
“I think for the last few years, I think you can get a bit scared about what a political lyric might mean. Bile and anger is one form of it of course, but I think Nick thought he wanted to write something a bit more human and a bit more straightforward. Something like “Imperial Bodybags” is about trying to humanise a reaction to death.