Rejoice – Welsh rockers, Manic Street Preachers have a new album out! Titled The Ultra Vivid Lament, the album’s the trios fourteenth and comes three years after the release of its predecessor, ‘Resistance Is Futile’.
The first taster of the album arrived in May, when the band dropped ‘Orwellian’ – its catchy lead single with a storming melody and similar vibe to their Futurology era. Next came ‘The Secret He Had Missed’ – featuring haunting vocals from Julia Cumming of Sunflower Bean, the track sees the band explore a more piano based sound that they’ve recently described to be inspired by ABBA. Cumming isn’t the only guest on the album and ‘Blank Diary Entry’ sees Mark Lanegan of Screaming Trees and Queens of the Stone Age team up with frontman, James Dean Bradfield – not just adding his tough vocals, but providing a contrast to Bradfield’s, which are of a much purer nature.
The Ultra Vivid Lament is the band’s first album to be prominently written on piano and this is apparent in several songs – particularly the jaunty ‘Into the Waves of Love’ and the melancholic ‘Diapause’, with it’s shimmering keyboard solo. The decision to conceive the album on a piano rather than a guitar is down to Bradfield’s 105 year old neighbour gifting his family her treasured piano, before moving into a retirement home shortly before lockdown – a touching tale that leaves us enamoured with Bradfield’s new found skill.
Despite scaling the guitar back throughout the album, there are some classic Bradfield moments and not only does slow-burner ‘Quest of Ancient Colour’ explode with one of his trademark solos, but ‘Happy Bored Alone’ kicks of proceedings with an electrifying riff, alongside a menacing bassline that we can already picture bassist and lyricist, Nicky Wire stomping along to. It’s easy to see which songs will soar live and we’re fairly certain that nobody will be able resist both the choirlike chorus of ‘Quest for Ancient Colour’ and the rousing chorus of ‘Don’t Let the Night Divide Us’ – with the latter followed by an intricate guitar solo that’s sure to mesmerise onstage. One track that leaves a lot to the imagination live is ‘Afterending’ – with a build up reminiscent of ‘Golden Platitudes’ from Postcards From A Young Man, it’s the perfect album closer and could easily become a staple in the band’s setlist.
It’s Wire in particular who shines on this album, with lyrics that dive deep into his insecurities, grief, existential doubt and both frustration with and alienation from the modern world – the stunning ‘Still Snowing In Sapporo’ for example sees Bradfield poignantly sing about the Manics history: “still breaking my heart, the four of us against the world”, whilst ‘Don’t Let The Night Divide Us’ has him tackling frustrations with the government; “don’t let the boys from Eton suggest that we are beaten”.
In comparison to their previous albums – with the exception of Rewind The Film – The Ultra Vivid Lament is surprisingly mellow, which may disappoint hardcore Manics fans. Though whether you’re a fan of the direction they’ve taken or not, nobody can deny that it was a bold and impressive move for a band of such longevity to explore a new sound and we’re interested to see what they’ll do for album fifteen.