Despite my formative years taking place in the nineties, at the height of alternative rock’s cultural influence, I must admit that Welsh rock-outfit Manic Street Preachers never really registered much on my radar. Sure, I knew they existed, heard their name bandied around now and then by friends or the music press yet, unlike their legions of fans, I never felt the call to seek out and listen to their music. Now, twenty years after the release of their most successful album, This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours, the Manics drop their thirteenth record, Resistance Is Futile. Not bad for a trio of school friends that started a band over thirty years ago.
Resistance Is Futile opens abruptly with People Give In, the song’s guitar riff and string arrangement already underway. It is a striking and effective way to begin an album, especially when James Dean Bradfield’s smooth and melodious voice joins in, but the track’s chorus feels overdone and undoes some of the song’s charm. Lead single, International Blue, deserves props for referencing French artist Yves Klein in a rock song, yet the song feels a tad too polished, which is a shame as no single musical element is misplaced or overblown. Dylan & Caitlin is reminiscent of eighties pop-rock, an effect strengthened by the additional vocals provided by The Anchoress.
With an earworm of a chorus, Vivian is a pleasant surprise of a song about a photojournalist, although the smattering of camera shutter sounds throughout is unnecessary. Sequels of Forgotten Wars interestingly juxtaposes dark, gritty tones with glossy flourishes, while Hold Me Like a Heaven is unapologetically soft-rock and in many ways sets the tone for the album’s tail end which verges on the bland and forgettable. Overall Resistance Is Futile is a competent album, as is to be expected from a band of Manic Street Preachers standing, but it isn’t a compelling album.