One listen to 'International Blue' - the first single from Manic Street Preachers' 13th album, 'Resistance is Futile' – blows that thought out of the water. The single is intensely melodic, supremely confident and driven by an empathetic melancholy. It's the perfect herald for a classic Manics album that's less one last shot at mass communication and much more a record ready made for massive communion.
Unexpectedly lyrically open, 'Resistance is Futile' finds the band working from an emotional palette they are not immediately associated with. From the cascading opening of 'People Give In' to the scattered resonance of 'The Left Behind', the album is very much the work of a band demanding to be heard and joined, at full volume. These are Manic Street Preachers songs written for the stage; songs to be sung against sunsets and shared in full-throated union.
The first Manics album to be recorded at their new Door to the River studio (situated at the head of a valley just outside Newport) with long-term Manics collaborators (producer Dave Eringa and mix engineer Chris Lord-Alge), 'Resistance is Futile' finds the Manic Street Preachers completely reinvigorated, clearly revelling in the change of scenery. The songs play to wide-vistas and open roads, nodding to the band's past (with echoes of 'Generation Terrorists' chaotic ambition of and the unrelenting melodies that run right through 'This Is My Truth…') while drawing a route map for the future.
While not overly fixated by the current news cycle, the album does obliquely confront subjects such as predatory tech companies, the impact of the 2016 referendum on personal relationships, and the nagging ennui inspired by modern party politics. Inspiration across the record comes from the deep vastness of Yves Klein's International Klein Blue, the deaths of both the famous and the anonymous (David Bowie and Vivian Maier), the city of Liverpool and Dylan and Caitlin Thomas' intoxicating relationship. As Wire says of the record, "In such a fractured and dysfunctional world, we found it impossible to avoid the idea of art as a hiding place and a weapon. Memory, loss and a sense of grace loom large over the record. To quote Phil Ochs, 'In such ugly times the only true protest is beauty.'"