Manic Street Preachers : Lifeblood

The Initial Thoughts of Fiona Beckett

Fi Beckett gets over her shock at hearing 'The Love of Richard Nixon' for the first time to give Manic Street Preacher's new album a cautious welcome, followed by an enormous hug.

On first hearing 'Lifeblood', my immediate reaction was "is that it?" It all seemed to bland and samey, but now, after several plays, this album is slowly creeping up on me! I think that my expectations of the band are so high, perhaps impossibly high, that initially anything less than The Holy Bible wouldn't do. That's why I was so angry when I first heard 'The Love of Richard Nixon' and why I wrote that dismissive rant (look here). Despite this I've loved the last three albums, although they're nothing like The Holy Bible!

So, I've listened to the new album twice and I think I'm starting to understand it. Although at first I felt that there was no stand out track, that it just flows from track to track, uninterrupted, like a knife cutting through butter, I do like the individual songs and the more I listen to them, the warmer my heart gets. They've certainly done something right! I just wouldn't mind a break from the melancholic at some point! I mean if their lifeblood is running through this, they'd better call a doctor! And since when, in the entire history of The Manics, have you ever, EVER been able to decipher the lyrics on the first listen?!

I think that to appreciate this album fully, you have to listen to it in a darkened room, perhaps with a stiff drink and listening through headphones. Perhaps this is because it seems to be their most intimate album yet and it just sounds better in the right context. Maybe that's where I went wrong with the single?

I'm now listening to it for a third time, by candlelight, and it's just washing over me in great warm waves. Bless 'em. And yes, some tracks are starting to stand out. 'Always / Never' is quite hooky and '1985' stands out for being about the year they left school and the people and events (eg miners strike) that shaped them. And I love 'A Song for Departure' simply for containing the gorgeous line "this is a song to break your heart to." How can I resist? 'I Live to fall Asleep' is pure Nicky and seems centred around Richey's endless quest to be able to sleep :"When did you decide that sleep could save your life?" And despite my initial scepticism, 'Cardiff Afterlife' is good too, especially poignant considering the subject matter. And I think I'm going to fall in love with the whole thing, and back in love with the band.

I still think the choice of 'The Love of Richard Nixon' as a single was a mistake though...

My reservations came from my expectations that they would release something with a bit of bollocks, and when I heard it was the opposite of this, I was totally thrown. But listening to the lyrics, I realise that it wouldn't have worked if it had been a jump-up-and-down and shouty affair.

So yes, I've quite surprised myself by how much I like this album, and have been very relieved that I can remain in love with my favourite band. I hope that other MSP fans will give it a fair chance and so be able feel the same about it. Lifeblood is a great title for this album as it deals with emotions which have been just that for the past fifteen years - loss, anger, longing, love and, despite their protestations, regret.

Just one question, when did The Edge join the band?!!

Fi Beckett, 10.10.04