A new Manic Street Preachers album is a bit of a trepidatious experience for me these days. I've been disappointed by them before, but I always want to love them. As a skinny, vaguely alternative kid in 1990s Cardiff, I grew up with the Manics. Gold Against the Soul was one of the first albums I ever bought, my first girlfriend was a rabid, feather-boa toting Manics fan, and as a result I think they are still the band I have seen live most often.
Postcards From A Young Man is probably the first Manic Street Preachers album release I've been excited about since Know Your Enemy, after the overly commercial missteps of Everything Must Go and This Is My Truth... that album promised a lot, but largely failed to deliver. Postcards though has been trailed by a great single, and promises to walk the line between the radio-friendly epic rock Of Everything Must Go, and the more outré personal/political stuff of Holy Bible. It's a high risk high-wire act, but if they pull it off...
(It's Not War) Just The End Of Love kicks things off on a high. The more I hear this track the more I like it. From the opening bars evoking the grand stadium rock of A Design For Life, to the killer chorus and James Dean Bradfield's still powerful voice, it's a perfect study in making a Manics hit. Maybe not be the most intelligent, or creative track on the album, but as a hook to remind people that the Manics can still write a hit, it works a treat.
The title track Postcards from a Young Man next up unleashes the string section to tug on the heartstrings for a poignant but kind of mawkish paean to youth and young manhood. Skip forward a bit though, and track six Auto-Intoxication has the antidote to all of the slightly stale stuff elsewhere. Hold on to something, this is a balls out hard-rocking track, with a good old-fashioned Holy Bible-vibe to the lyrics ("Disaster isn't coming, it's already arrived / I am so lucky, I think that I survived"). Great stuff.
I enjoyed Postcards From A Young Man, both for the new material itself, and the trip down memory lane that it provoked. There are some big hits in the making here, not least End of Love, and some classic Manics stuff going on as well. Best of all though it just reminded me of the Manics' great back catalogue that is there for me to go back and explore.
I'm off to listen to The Holy Bible and Generation Terrorists.
Final Score: 83%