Well, who saw this coming? Manic Street Preachers are one of my favourite bands of all time. I’m not the kind to retain ticket stubs and keep records, but I would guess that I have seen them live more than any other band. Perhaps. The Holy Bible is one of my top ten albums of all time. Sometimes I still cry when I listen to Everything Must Go. And the first four tracks of Gold Against The Soul could take the Pepsi challenge with any other album’s opening quartet.

They clearly mean a lot to me, but I must confess that I thought the magic had gone. Recent albums were decent. Respectable. But they weren’t going to challenge that incredible pinnacle between ’93 and ’96. Shame on me.

The Ultra Vivid Lament, the fourteenth studio album from Manic Street Preachers, is quite brilliant. The tunes are phenomenal. Of course they are – that’s what James Dean Bradfield does. He is a great pop composer – always was – and The Ultra Vivid Lament is an outstanding collection of intelligent pop bangers. Melodies abound.

As I spoke about in my Louder Than War review, we still get the politics. That’s what makes them the Manics.

It’s tough to pick out highlights. I’m almost afraid to slight those I don’t mention. But my personal favourites are Quest For Ancient Colour, featuring a breathtaking piano (yes, piano) intro from Bradfield and the haunting Diapause. Both the opening track, Snowing In Sapporo, and the closer, Afterending, provide magnificent and very personal bookends.

After The Holy Bible, we asked where the Manic Street Preachers went from there? Twenty-seven years later we find ourselves asking the same question. And that’s a lovely place to be.


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