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LIVE REPORT: Manic Street Preachers
Emily Mackay , April 14th, 2014 06:12

As the Manic Street Preachers gear up to release their new album Futurology, Emily Mackay finds a band determined to keep ever moving forward. Photos by Valerio Berdini of liveon35mm.com

"FUTURE IS OUR ONLY OBJECTIVE" flashes the big video screen before the Manic Street Preachers take the stage. A typically Manicsian reference to Aleksandr Rodenchko and Varvara Stepanova's constructivist manifesto, it's also a declaration of intent for 12th album Futurology, due out in June, a record they've described as a "nasty" bedfellow of The Holy Bible.

If last year's Rewind The Film sounded like the band picking a path through ageing and self-doubt, a reappraisal needed after the Postcards From A Young Man's "one last shot at mass communication", the tracks played tonight from Futurology reveal a band with a renewed hunger, a refreshed anger.

Scritti Politti's subversive sugar ("pop reggae and post-modernism - a marriage made in heaven or hell, you decide," quips Green Gartside) is in many ways the perfect appetiser for the Manics, but from the moment they rip into a lean and mean 'Motorycle Emptiness' (not quite as much of a setlist shock as opening with perennial set-closer 'Design For Life' in Brighton two days before, but still fiercely bracing), they're an abrasive palate cleanser. Though Nicky Wire might joke about his "midlife crisis" leather jacket, they sound like their collective crisis is now firmly in their rearview, and they're facing the future with a stark, mature clarity and energy.

'You Stole The Sun From My Heart' is punchy and aggressive, James Dean Bradfield's voice to bear the spirits of thousands shouldering and bellowing through, and the way he screams the intro to 'You Love Us' is less bracing than actually petrifying. 'It's Not War (Just The End Of Love)' sounds fast, gnarled and bristling. It's a hard-hitting set, with barely a duff moment excepting perhaps the always comparatively leaden 'Masses Against The Classes' and an overlong acoustic closed by 'My Sullen Welsh Heart', a song too subtle to really work live placed alongside the high drama of 'Everything Must Go' or - dear lord, on a Friday night - 'Archives Of Pain'. "We're still undecided about doing Holy Bible shows," confides Nicky. "The trouble is I'd have to learn all those basslines..."

The glowering and malevolent power of that track and a scissoring, vicious acoustic 'Die In The Summertime' makes it a tempting thought, but you can't escape the feeling such nostalgia is against the spirit of the band. More fitting is moving forward with the first of the new tracks, 'Europa Geht Durch Mich', a 'Jean Genie'-ish glammy rompy-stompy sort of post-punk with Teutonic vocals by German actress Nina Hoss (tonight on tape), chords ascending brightly into a design for Eurotopia. The second new track is the title track of Futurology, all bright, exuberant slashes of guitar, and the promise "we'll come back on day/We never really went away" . The best, unveiled for the first time tonight is 'Let's Go To War', a funky, miltant march with an assertive bark of a chorus and an unsettlingly eerie melody, spitting of "working-class skeletons" and "false economies".

It sounds like a bold leap forward for a band whose path has never been picked out perfectly, but always bravely, who rarely fall far from grace but always pick themselves up, and who just can't get comfy resting on those National Treasures laurels. The future's bright - the future's Manic.

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