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Old Songs Cast Long Shadows - WELT, 1st July 2014

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The Manic Street Preachers want to connect with "Futurology" to wild times. But they are long gone

The young woman rushes through Berlin. Your mobile is ringing. "Oberbaumbrucke in 15 minutes," says a man's voice. At the Oberbaumbrucke a mysterious figure is waiting. She presents the young woman with a choice: love or hate? The woman chooses love and is sent on.

Next stop: Elsenbrucke. There she has to make another decision: beauty or truth? Beauty. Continue to Mockernbrucke. Past or future? The young woman keeps running. The scavenger hunt ends in a hangar on Tempelhofer Feld. There the woman finds a black box with the inscription "Futurologie".

This is the storyline of "Walk Me To The Bridge," the latest music video from Manic Street Preachers. What's in the box remains a mystery. Maybe that's a metaphor for the creation of the band's twelfth album. In the footage of "Futurology", the three Welsh were probably facing similar decisions as the woman in the video. Above all, the question of past and future does not let the band go.

It's been almost 20 years since her guitarist Richey Edwards has disappeared from one day to the next. His car was later found at the Severn Bridge in Wales. From him to today every track is missing. Edwards was a self-reliant young man. What he lacked in musical talent, he made up for with charisma. Once a journalist from the New Musical Express asked him how serious Manic Street Preachers was with their music. Edwards then reached for a razor blade and cut in front of the interviewer "4 real" in the forearm.

In those early days when Manic Street Preachers was first a Guns N 'Roses influenced glam rock band and later a punk band, Edwards played an important role. He was the figurehead, giving them a touch of unpredictability. After Edwards' disappearance, the future of Manic Street Preachers was uncertain.

But James Dean Bradfield , Nicky Wire and Sean Moore continued. Three of them released poppy records, such as "Everything Must Go" and "This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours", which became bestsellers at the peak of BritPop. It turned out that the true key figure of the band is Bradfield, whose inexhaustible store of ideas for great melodies is the reason why Manic Street Preachers still exist today.

And yet it seems that the band still has to fight against the legacy of Richey Edwards and prove themselves with each album. "Old songs leave long shadows," James Dean Bradfield sings in "Walk Me To The Bridge". The burden of the past weighs heavily. A theme that already moved through the last record "Rewind The Film". Bradfield renounced almost entirely on distorted guitars, in the lyrics, it was about getting older: "How I hate middle age, between acceptance and rage," sang Bradfield.

But that was not enough Rock'n'Roll for the musicians. "Somehow we started to rebel against ourselves when we wrote the songs," Bradfield recalls. That's why they started working on another, wilder album at the same time: "Futurology".

Even the titles reveal how different the two records are: While "Rewind The Film" looked back, "Futurology" wants to look into the future. "Let's Go To War", Bradfield chants in one of the key songs. It is a move of the mid-forties to himself not to become comfortable. The Manics want to be loud and political again, just like on their most angry album "The Holy Bible" of 1994. So the way to the future should go back over the past.

But to play louder does not mean to sound younger. On "Rewind The Film" was not rocked, rousing the plate was anyway. "Futurology" but works with his guitar solos bloodless and bland. The production of Alex Silva, who recorded the album in Berlin's Hansa Studios, makes it even worse. Almost every song is suffocated by synthesizers.

A splash of color is provided by guest musicians: Scritti Politti singer Green Gartside is heard on "Between the Clock and the Bed". "Divine Youth" is the voice of Welsh singer Georgia Ruth, and Cian Ciarán of Super Furry Animals plays on "The Next Jet to Leave Moscow" keyboard. And then there's Nina Hoss. In strict theater German she sings "Europe goes through me". That sounds like the Manic Street Preachers were covering the "Pirate Jenny".

That the band in their late stage is very well able to record great records, has proved "Rewind The Film". Now only the courage to rest is missing. And the will to let the past rest.