Album Review: Manic Street Preachers – Journal for Plague Lovers

By on Tuesday, 26th May 2009 at 12:00 pm

Manic Street Preachers - Journal for Plague Lovers (cover)February 1995 – Richey James Edwards, guitarist and lyricist of one of the most controversial bands of the 90s mysteriously disappears. November 2008 – thirteen years after his disappearance, the flamboyantly beautiful member of Manic Street Preachers is officially confirmed as dead, even though his body is yet to be found.

Richey’s ‘departure’ ultimately ran parallel with the Manic Street Preachers’ withdrawal from their arty post-punk sound that made them so intriguing to all in the early 90s. Instead, the remaining trio matured slightly, producing mediocre rock that saw them become mainstream stadium-favourites across the world.

This 2009, however, sees Manic Street Preachers return to their roots via ninth studio album, ‘Journal for Plague Lovers’. The album took it’s inspiration from a folder which belonged to Richey, and was given to bassist Nicky Wire just a few days before he went missing. Crammed with lyrics, doodles and other musings, the Manics finally decided to take this bundle of Richey goods and turn it into a musical spectacular this May.

Edward’s creative influence on Journal is clear from start to finish. For starters, the band have certainly re-injected a more scorching, punkier sound back into their music. “The more I see, the less I scream” frontman James Dean Bradfield spits amid track one, ‘Peeled Apples’, a snarling number, with deep and heavy penetrating riffs.

‘Jackie Collins Existential Question Time’ is perfectly-preened guitar-pop with genius lyrics to match it’s similarly genius title, with the chorus repetitively asking “Oh Mummy, what’s a Sex Pistol?”. The spiky energy continues on into track three, ‘Me and Stephen Hawking’, a speedy number lead forth by an awesomely addictive riff.

Tracks including ‘This Joke Sport Severed’, ‘Facing Page: Top Left’ and ‘Doors Closing Slowly’ bring the album’s tempo down to a slower notch, with the latter track being a noticeably haunting number due to it’s sullen, repetitive drum beat and equally dark lyrics – “Listen to the selfish ones, they are the voice of accomplishment”.

However, the Manics prevent things from become too mundane by continuing a youthful furore into tracks such as the frantic ‘Marlon J.D’, and the vigorous punk number ‘All is Vanity’, which comes complete with angered guitars and similarly frustrated lyrics – “It’s not ‘What’s wrong?’, It’s ‘What’s right?’, Makes you feel like I’m talking a foreign language sometimes.”. Meanwhile, Bradfield’s forever-distinctive voice is demonstrated perfectly amid the mighty ‘Journal for Plague Lovers’ and the enthusiastic ‘Pretension/Repulsion’.

The album comes to a close with ‘William’s Last Words’, which sees a fragile and slightly nervous Wire take over vocal duties on this poignant number that’s surely asking us to think back to Richey. While Nicky may not be the greatest vocalist to have graced your ears, his shakey, gentle voice works perfectly for this incredibly moving number which brims with similarly heartbreaking lyrics – “Wish me some luck as you wave goodbye to me, your the best friends I ever had, goodnight, sleep tight, goodnight, God bless”.

A few minutes of silence later, however, and we soon realise that the Manic Street Preachers aren’t done with us just yet, oh no. Suddenly, amid the quiet, a dark, rumbling bass kicks in, followed by frantic guitars, speedy drums and those trademark epic vocals. ‘Bag Lady’ is the hidden fourteenth track on ‘Journal for Plague Lovers’, gloriously harking back to raw grit of vintage Manics. Indeed, this electric tune is an apt ending to this nostalgic musical trip of an album, which you can go grab now for £8.98 over at

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