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Manic Street Preachers
Send Away The Tigers (Reissue) Patrick Clarke , May 15th, 2017 09:35

Few among even the many, many Manic Street Preachers diehards would argue that Send Away The Tigers is the band's best album, but in the context of their career only 1996's superb rise to the masses' attention Everything Must Go rivals it as their most important.

When it first appeared ten years ago, the days of the furious shock tactics of the Manics' early years and the defiant, arena-filling anthems of the late 90s were long behind them. Their previous two albums, 2001's bloated mish-mash of directions Know Your Enemy and 2004's broadly panned foray into synth-pop Lifeblood had been, by the standards they'd already set, flops, while Nicky Wire and James Dean Bradfield's respective solo albums during a subsequent hiatus were seen by many as a sign that the band's fire had finally fizzled out.

Enter Send Away The Tigers, both fearless and flawed, slathered in glitz and riffs, its lyrics laced with grandiose statements of intent. For a band that had hurtled through many incarnations across their career, for the first time it felt like they were resetting the clock, reeling themselves back from the self-indulgence and pomp that had begun to mar their career to re-lay the groundwork. As a result, in the years that followed they have been free to explore new territory with a newfound legitimacy; Send Away The Tigers, in short, made the Manic Street Preachers relevant again.

The album has been newly reissued for its tenth anniversary, a relatively short space of time that finds the record itself broadly the same listen it was a decade ago, save for the unusual decision to axe the second song 'Underdogs' in its entirety in favour of 'Welcome To The Dead Zone', originally a B-side from the era. It's a better song, a more nuanced, melancholy turn than the rapid, one-dimensional rallying cry it replaces, but means the reissued edition bears a completely different trajectory.

Coming as it does between the lavish kick of the album's opening title track and the hit single on which the Manics' comeback was carried, 'Your Love Alone Is Not Enough', it acts as a pause for breath perhaps lacking first time around, where 'Underdogs' was more of a breathless transition. When James Dean Bradfield and The Cardigans' Nina Persson trade lines on 'Your Love Alone…''s subsequent duet, it's given more space as a result, and feels even more of the grand pop cornerstone of the Manics' revival it was in 2007.

The rest of the album has its highs and lows. The band's politicising is on occasion a little on the nose, their cover of John Lennon's 'Working Class Hero' and 'Rendition' in particular, and 'Indian Summer' still sounds like a not-quite-as-good 'A Design For Life', although there's more standouts on the record than one might remember. The grand sweeping melodrama of 'Autumnsong' and 'Winterlovers', the sheer ferocity of the chorus on 'Imperial Bodybags', and hidden gem 'I'm Just A Patsy' still retain every ounce of their sheen, thanks in no small part to James Dean Bradfield's skills as a frontman; rarely in the Manics' career was his guitar inflected with such uncompromising power, his voice with such an effortless soar.

Given it's been only a decade, the remastering efforts that come with the new edition were never going to be all that revelatory. There's a reinvigorated kick to it, sure, but it's in the host of extras that the reissue proves its worth. There are of course the regulation host of demo versions – the only shape in which 'Underdogs' is represented – where Bradfield's intimate home recorded versions of 'Indian Summer' and 'Rendition' are the highlights, but it's on the second disc's unloading of peripheral material that the real delights are buried.

There's a pair of enjoyable turns from Nicky Wire's low, cracked vocal, not as acquired a taste as usual, on the melodic 'Lady Lazarus' and the gritty 'The Long Goodbye', fan favourites like War Child compilation contribution 'Leviathan', McCarthy cover 'Red Sleeping Beauty and 'Love Alone…' B-side 'Boxes And Lists', and for some true hidden treasures look no further than the propulsive mini rock opera 'Foggy Eyes' and the gloriously indulgent sprawl of 'Fearless Punk Ballad'.

As ever, the band were prone to the occasional glorious misguided missile in this era, their cover of Rhianna's 'Umbrella' remains as baffling as ever, while their attempt at a saccharine festive hit 'Ghost of Christmas' is still unremarkable, while an acoustic 'Autumnsong' Persson's solo rendition of 'Your Love Alone' is delightful perhaps only to the anoraks, but what could be more Manics than this warts and all barrage of brilliance and mistakes?

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