Nearly 30 years after their debut album, 1992’s «Generation Terrorists» was released, the Manics have released their fourteenth studio album, «The Ultra Vivid Lament». Coming three years after 2018’s «Resistance is Futile«, it is worth the wait.
The opening track «Snowing In Sapporo» features a classic, soaring Manics chorus and rhythmic guitars that could belong on their «Everything Must Go» or «Gold Against the Soul» albums. The song reflects on their 1993 tour of Japan, touchingly remembering Richie with the lyrics “Still breaking my heart, the four of us against the world.”
But this record is not just The Manics sounding like The Manics. James Dean Bradfield spent time during lockdown refining his piano skills and used the instrument for composition. It has opened up their sound a little, for example on the singles «Orwellian» and «The Secret He Had Missed» which demonstrate a heavy ABBA influence.
Nicky Wire is also on top form as a lyricist, particularly with his commentary on current culture in «Orwellian», the pop-rock «Don’t Let the Night Divide Us» and the piano ballad «Quest For Ancient Colour», where Wire has written “My scream had lost its source, like a reservoir in a summer drought”. The track features the album’s best guitar solo and evokes memories of «Motorcycle Emptiness». Bradfield’s guitar also shines on the haunting «Diapause», as do the keyboards.
There are a couple of intriguing and well chosen guest appearances: Julia Cumming (Sunflower Bean) on the upbeat «The Secret He Had Missed» (Bradfield’s guitar textures on this track are stirring) and Mark Lanegan on «Bad Diary Entry». Lanegan’s opening line couldn’t be more perfect for his deep, resonating voice – “In a garden full of locusts, pain was a crying man.”
It’s a coherent album, full of intelligent, melancholic and full-bodied music. They still sound fresh and relevant. Tender yet anthemic. If the Manics were aiming to recreate the sweet combination of upbeat melodies and ennui-laced lyrics that Abba mastered, they succeeded. The chorus of the final track «Afterending» requests «Sail into the abyss with me» – accept the invitation.
4,5/6 | Anne-Marie Forker
Utgivelsesdato 10.september 2021