From Welsh rockers Manic Street Preachers, I usually expect big, sharply written alternative songs with plenty of social commentary. What I do not expect are acoustic guitars and jazzy brass. Rewind the Film is a surprising entry in the Manicsâ€™ catalog, but it is also a welcome departure.
Singer James Dean Bradfield has some of the best pipes in the business, but the guest appearances are all worthy matches. Young English chanteuse Lucy Rose accompanies Bradfield on the first track, â€œThis Sullen Welsh Heart,â€ where Nicky Wireâ€™s lyrics turn a critical eye not to a political figure, but to himself. Another songstress, the delightful Cat Le Bon, brings a retro sound to â€œ4 Lonely Roads.â€ However, my favorite is the albumâ€™s title track, half of which is sung by Richard Hawley. Hawleyâ€™s delivery is precise and calm, a perfect contrast to Bradfieldâ€™s bombast when he kicks in.
Lyrically, Rewind the Film is fascinatingly vulnerable. â€œAnthem for a Lost Causeâ€ cuts into the isolating side of music, while â€œRunning Out of Fantasyâ€ goes even further into the personal. â€œIâ€™m old, Iâ€™m strange and Iâ€™m confidential,â€ Bradfield sings, â€œHas my fantasy run out of delusion?â€ For the political sorts, â€œ30 Years Warâ€ brings the snark and rage in a beautiful way.
Rewind the Film is bold in its quietness. Itâ€™s a graceful announcement and analysis of middle age. While this is their eleventh album, the Manics clearly are not interested in repeating themselves. Lucky us.