When lead singer James Dean Bradfield released his solo debut last year, it seemed all was over for the Manic Street Preachers, especially after their last album, 2004’s Lifeblood did not seem to make much of an impression with audiences. Thankfully, the Manics are still together, and 2007 sees the release of their eighth release Send Away the Tigers. Abandoning the synth-laden sounds of Lifeblood and the messy rawness of 2001’s Know Your Enemy, the Manics return to familiar ground, producing a sonically similar album to 1996’s Everything Must Go.
The liner notes have a quote from Wyndam Lewis, “When a man is young he is usually a revolutionary of some kind. So here I am speaking of my revolution.” And that basically sums up the album. Acting their age and still sounding young and fresh, the album sees the Manics bequeath their wisdom. It’s a mature piece of work to be sure, full of recollection, nostalgia and a slight streak of melancholy. And it works like a charm; a song like “Autumnsong” holds power and grace, without pretension.
After being together for so long, it’s great to hear that the Manics still have the swagger they did back on their second album, Gold Against the Soul. As well, it’s great to hear songs like “Rendition”, “Imperial Bodybags” (which sounds like The Clash filtered through Guns N’ Roses) and “I’m Just a Patsy” rock harder than anything in their repertoire from the last ten years. Nicky Wire too, is still one of the most interesting lyricists today. “Rendition” and “Imperial Bodybags” pack a lyrical punch matched by maybe Bad Religion.
After several years and albums of exploring many musical directions, Send Away the Tigers embraces many of the different faces of the band over the years, and streamlines their sound, much like U2’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind. The band sounds re-invigorated and alive on this record, but with all the wisdom they’ve gathered over the years. As well, the band has honed their skills at writing amazingly catchy songs too; “Your Love Alone is Not Enough” is hooky and memorable in all the right places, and again “Autumnsong” is a bracing anthem.
I suppose learning from the mistakes of Know Your Enemy, the band learned the benefits of brevity, and like Bradfield’s solo album, Send Away the Tigers doesn’t overstay its welcome, and is quite brief. At ten tracks (plus a relatively bland hidden cover of John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero”) it’s quick affair, begging for another listen.
Every record the Manics have released since Everything Must Go sounded as if it could be their last. They all had an underlying sense of finality to them, a finality that is missing from Tigers, which is a good thing, because now the band sounds like their just beginning.