“WE’VE ALWAYS BEEN MORE COMFORTABLE WITH THE PAST OR THE FUTURE,” COMMENTS NICKY WIRE. “IT’S THE PRESENT WE FIND A BIT FRIGHTENING”… FUTUROLOGY, MANIC STREET PREACHERS’ FORTHCOMING ALBUM, IS OUT ON JULY 7TH.
The band’s second release in less than a year was – like 2013’s elegiac REWIND THE FILM – partly produced at Berlin’s Hansa Tonstudio; a facility steeped in lore but perhaps most notable as the location for David Bowie’s reinventive ambient / electro / rock soundclashes LOW (mixed there in winter 1976) and ‘HEROES’ (recorded there during the summer of 1977).
It was also, in the later months of 1990, the primary site for troubled early explorations in U2’s wrecking-ball-and-rebuild exercise ACHTUNG BABY. A little less conspicuously, the legendary ‘studio by the wall’ played host to the making of Depeche Mode’s CONSTRUCTION TIME AGAIN, Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds’ YOUR FUNERAL… MY TRIAL, Iggy Pop’s LUST FOR LIFE, REM’s swansong COLLAPSE INTO NOW and – erm… – MISPLACED CHILDHOOD by Marillion. Each release, in its own distinct way, something of a landmark statement by the artist.
Making noise in the Meistersaal down Köthener Straße is probably a bucket list luxury for any band conscious of lineage. For the mean-it (and can-afford-it) Manics – thinkers to a man – doing so was clearly also the physical expression of some new manifesto, almost certainly drafted in the hope that Hansa’s legacy as eye of several impressive creative storms would inform their sessions, and reinvigorate. So, how much of a definitively ‘Hansa record’ (as if such a thing could actually exist) is FUTUROLOGY? Is there common ground(shift) with that mostly esteemable preceding pack? Is the Manics’ twelfth studio album a forward-motive ACHTUNG or a weary COLLAPSE INTO the NOW which the band have found so frightening?
WALK ME TO THE BRIDGE seems to say goodbye to Richey Edwards (“So long my fatal friend / … still blinded by your intellect”) though Wire has explained Øresund Bridge (joining Sweden and Denmark) and the idea that “bridges allow you an out of body experience as you leave and arrive in different places” to be the inspiration. Tick-tock guitar and pulse briefly recall THIS IS YESTERDAY (THE HOLY BIBLE) before exploding into anthemic ’80s Euro-club synth chorus.
Ah, the 1980s. They’re everywhere here, meaning that FUTUROLOGY has an incredibly pungent whiff of the past about it, specifically the years in which the band members were growing up, though it also sounds sci-fi futuristic in the context of their previous work.
BLACK SQUARE (OMD’s SOUVENIR knocked off the mantelpiece); THE NEXT JET TO LEAVE MOSCOW (QUARTET-era Ultravox on a heavy course of steroids); LET’S GO TO WAR (big dumb hip-hop / new wave / Faith No More / Frankie Goes To Hollywood bombast mash-up); SEX, POWER, LOVE AND MONEY (Charlie, Mick and Keef kidnapped UNDERCOVER OF THE NIGHT by The Clash); EUROPA GEHT DURCH MICH (Bowie’s JEAN GENIE on a German capital city carve-up with ice-cool lipstick ‘n’ leathers Absinthe cabaret queens); instrumental DREAMING A CITY (HUGHESKOVA) (drum fills lifted from Duran Duran’s THE WILD BOYS; theme to some cult Ukranian TV detective show imported by Channel Four in 1988, shown at one in the morning on a Wednesday, and viewed only by the unemployed – SHAFT for the shafted)…
If all this seems vaguely ridiculous, then it is. And if saying it’s vaguely ridiculous seems disparaging, it isn’t. FUTUROLOGY is tremendously uplifting; one of the most interesting moves the Manics have made in years. Plugging into Hansa’s powerpoints has recharged batteries.
FUTUROLOGY is a distinct departure from 2013’s REWIND THE FILM, which now seems as if it was the beautifully judged feint before a knockout punch. (It’s rather telling that the pair were recorded simultaneously, with songs divided up later; the dynamic one-two by design not accident).
2013’s album was low key but did not signal any quiet going into that gentle night. In a contrary setting of acoustic guitar, brass and strings, uncomfortable lyrics railed against any dying of the light. The ground covered on FUTUROLOGY is often similar (MSP have their semantic fields all neatly ploughed, thank you), but running right through the middle is a stream of hot piss and vinegar sonics.
Immediacy – and production framing songs in deep nostalgia for the ’80s – is a much more poignant and effective way to convey a lingering sense of youthful anger. FUTUROLOGY ditches the mixed messages. From a sigh to a scream. Magical sleight of Hansa.
Order FUTUROLOGY here.