Resignation and revolution, despair and defiance. For the Manics, the friction between these extremes has long lit the spark that propels them.
Despite the defeatism in its title, 2018’s Resistance Is Futile drew fuel from its arthouse passions and lunging melodic outreach. Three tough years later, their 14th album rakes over the wreckage and emerges as a generous, deeply humane mission statement.
The Ultra Vivid Lament is an album of profound melancholy, but also one lit up with heroic, big-pop colour.
While the world seemingly offers few reasons to be cheerful right now, the Manics tap into one sure resource for galvanising returns: a great record collection. Even by Nicky Wire’s crate-digging standards, their track-by-track guide for the album brims with artful and populist reference points. The Clash, Lodger-era David Bowie, the Bunnymen, Simple Minds and more leap out among audible points of influence. Clearer still, James Dean Bradfield’s decision to write a lot of the songs on piano also brings pronounced echoes of Swedish pop juggernauts ABBA to the fore.
Yet even at their most referential, the Manics cannot help but be themselves. That abiding constancy becomes an increasingly sturdy source of potency the more the album unfolds.
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