New Release – Manic Street Preachers, “Resistance is Futile”

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Welsh rock band Manic Street Preachers have just dropped their latest record, Resistance is Futile. Looking back at the twelve albums they’ve released since they burst onto the UK music scene with 1992’s Generation Terrorists — and especially over the unexpected late-period strut of their last few albums — it’s hard to escape the feeling that this is a place the Manics have been heading toward for their entire career. And it is a milestone, undoubtedly: you can love it or hate it, but you certainly can’t ignore it. Resistance is Futile is that kind of a record. Never huge in the US — with song titles like “Ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayit’sworldwouldfallapart” (really) they weren’t trying to be a commercial proposition, but somehow they sold out arenas around the world and sold millions. Resistance is Futile, then, is a good place to get on board.

In its first run, it can be a bit tricky to get into. But the hype is that this album could be their first number one record since 1998’s This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours. The band members themselves are more pumped about the new album than you might expect a group of middle-aged men with 12 albums and 3 decades of touring experience to be — but for the Manics, the message has always been the fuel for the spectacle, and they describe Resistance is Futile as being inspired by the frightening evolution of social media, which is a target ripe for their practiced ire and sharpened irony. They’ve always been a band with something interesting (and often oblique) to say about their times, and RiF lives up to that promise.

The numbers are lyrically sound, and if anything, a little too precise. Those who remember the more impressionist yearning of the Generation Terrorists era (if anyone can explain the meaning of the phrase ‘motorcycle emptiness’ whilst stone-cold sober, we will be impressed) may be surprised — but while other lyricists would have held back from the kind of clear, concise lyrics we have here, Nicky Wire has been at this for so long, he knows how to make it work. The songs reflect the band’s influences, which have always been erudite, varied and punk as hell, and Resistance is Futile continues the trend, with frequent references to the things the band loves, not for swagger or hip but for sheer joy, from Dylan Thomas’s poetry to Yves Klein’s paintings and Vivian Maier’s photography.

Resistance is Futile feels, from the sheer weight of practice and craft behind it, weirdly like a vintage album. It takes you back to a simpler time. “Liverpool Revisited,” sees Wire reminiscing about wandering around Liverpool with a Polaroid, and “International Blue” is pulled along by an undertone of beautifully captured melancholy, while “Broken Algorithms” brims with good intent and momentum and even (whisper it) uplift. But the best parts of the album come at the end. The last two numbers, “Song for the Sadness” and “The Left Behind,” are where the album truly tugs at the heart.

If you listen to the tracks all in one go, the album may come across as a bit unfocused; but this one is a grower. When you settle in for a rerun and listen to each song as a separate number, there’s a haunting quality to the punch and precision of this record that rewards repeat listens. Resistance is Futile has the potential to grow into a soundtrack for our weird, alienated, ever-more-connected times; consider it.

An avid drummer whose discography includes albums on Digital Nations (a Steve Vai imprint), music critic Louis Raphael has always kept a pulse on the San Francisco music scene. After many years as the San Francisco Music Examiner for Examiner.com and AXS.com, he decided to start Music in SF® as a way to showcase what the San Francisco music scene really has to offer.

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