Over the next coming days, I’m set to finally roll out my favorite records of last year, 2014. Today’s sole entry is my favorite record. Remaining posts will be a collection of brief reviews in capsule form.
Putting the Manic Street Preachers into a historical setting is perhaps the greatest way to begin to see just how special the band continues to be. As they entered their third decade recording music there wasn’t any reason to believe they would be any different from any other once great band reaching that point; the Who had seen their third decade together birth the post-Keith Moon unevenness of Face Dances and It’s Hard; the Rolling Stones produced as much dreck in the 80’s (Emotional Rescue, Tattoo You, Undercover, Dirty Work, and Steel Wheels are all so hit and miss that only Voodoo Lounge‘s general blandness makes them passable in comparison) as David Bowie did (Tonight is as middling as he’s ever been and the later work with Tin Machine only points to this conclusion even more: though to be fair to Bowie you’d admit that this is the Manics twelfth album, while Bowie was still that strong too—his twelfth was Heroes after all). The Kinks could even be thrown into the mix, and hell, if it wasn’t for the resurrection on Delta Machine, Depeche Mode would be pointing to the same ether after the retro-thud of Sounds of the Universe. Saying all this, especially in 2014, the Manic Street Preachers seem most closely comparable with U2, they both are attempting rejuvenation and relevance within the larger framework of politically charged arena-art rock, but where U2 released one of the blandest records by a major artist ever in 2014 (with Songs of Innocence) coupled with the complete missing of the mark that was the Apple iTunes giveaway/breach of privacy, the Manic Street Preachers miraculously continued to release some of their most forward looking music of their ever growing career. The fact that the music is as chart ready as it is politically astute only laments even stronger at the thrust of the music on display here.