Album Review

Journal For Plague Lovers

Journal For Plague Lovers

by Manic Street Preachers

Sony Music
1 / 10
13th June 2009

Reviewed by Courtney Sanders

When I really don’t like a band I justify all the hate by giving them groups of bands that they’re similar to so at least their not alone in my disliking of them, and A) it lets me put massive amounts of bands into completely discardable categories and leave them in a box somewhere way at the back of some unused closet or stairwell, and B) it makes me feel a tad better for publically deriding people who have put their creative wares on display. So, Coldplay are one of those bands, and they go into the same MOR emotional in between outbursts in fresh indie genius in England circa 2001 with Keane (whose lack of guitarist gimmick card aint fooling anyone) and Travis.

And Manic Street Preachers have a category too, and it’s worse than the above. They belong in the same category as…U2. Why? Their limitless ability to re-invent their image and career, the simple fact that they’ve been around for almost as long and should know better by now – as with U2 – and, finally, and fundamentally, the constant pushing of political and moral ideas and high ground without any actual message.

Now I want to make this clear: sometimes bands with political content can work. I spent the best part of six months last year obsessed with Brooklyn bands who were using their creative outlet as a platform for anti-Bush propaganda. But there are times when it works and times when it doesn’t. The like of TV on the Radio and Yeasayer were Directional. It was very clear that their political rhetoric was limited to one President only. MSP, like old Bono, seem to set up their lyrics, themes and even album titles – hello Journal for Plague Lovers – in a way that discusses all the problems in the world at once, in an uber condescending ‘we can solve this with music’ way. Fuck off. I don’t like being talked at, especially when I don’t know what you’re talking about.

On top of not having a message (and maybe because of this) there’s this constant ‘Shock Factor’ at work that just sounds gross and inappropriate. Aforementioned TV on the Radio had ‘Hey Bush / Fuck your War’ on their latest album. MSP have a lyric that is A) the antithesis of above and B) probably sums up everything that is wrong with bands like these talking about world and moral issues: ‘When a married man fucks a catholic/ The wife dies without knowing / Oh Mummy, what’s a sex pistol?’ There’s blasphemy, there’s some ambiguous link to an ‘issue’ and a ridiculous attempt at linking popular culture into the fold. Note to MSP: you are not the world’s cultural undertakers.

And the musicality? It’s the same as it’s always been which incidentally means every song sounds the same. There’s a generally slow build up to an EPIC chorus of driving guitar and shouty vocals, and then sometimes it breaks down and really lets old James Dean Bradfield connect. If you tolerate this? You are wrong.

Courtney Sanders

Total: 9
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Different Strokes for different folks. Some people like the Manics, some don't.

I do. In fact I'd put The Holy Bible in the top 5 records of all time.

And with talk going around about this being being a follow up of sorts to THB, I was eager to see if they could recapture the brilliance from 15 years ago. Especially considering all songs were to feature lyrics taken from missing (presumed dead) guitarist Richey Edwards.

This attempt to recreate past glories could have gone horribly wrong for the Manics, but they kick things off in style, with hard hitting opener 'Peeled Apples'. And this sets the mood for a solid album and probably their best since 'The Holy Bible'.

The album has a nice mix of rocking heavy guitar tracks 'Me and Stephen Hawking', 'Journal For Plaque Lovers', 'Marlon JD' and some classic poppier tracks like 'Jackie Collins Existential Question Time' and 'Virginia State Epilpetic Colony' with a nice smattering of beautifully soft tracks, like 'Facing Page: Top Left' which could have been a nice fit on 'Everything Must Go'.

The closing track is sung by Wire, which is something totally different for the band, but is somewhat fitting as it is in no doubt a goodbye from Edwards, to his band mates.

Although it might have been nice to end the album on that note, bonus track 'Bag Lady' starts up and sounds like it could have been at home as a track on The Holy Bible. It serves as a reminder of how great that album actually was, and how this is their finest moment since those days. Check it out.


Posted by 5608 7 years ago

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I have not heard anything off this album, yet.

However, Courtney, you haven't actually reviewed Journal For Plague Lovers. You begin the review immediately slating a band because you personally don't like the Manic Street Preachers.

I don't know you Courtney, so I really don't care whether you like this band or not. Just review the album for it's own merits.

Your previous prejudice seems to cloud any decent analysis so I immediately switched off, anything you said about the band got lost in your player hating.

You judged this band before you even pushed play.
Posted by 9484 7 years ago

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Flip what kind of a review is this? Every album on UTR gets in the high registers, then this? Did you even listen? It was amazing, and the fact that it contained lyrics written 15 years ago by the late Richey (something you totally neglected to mention) is great. Next time, can you actually review the album?
Oh, and as much as I dislike them, Keane do now have a guitarist.
Posted by 1401 7 years ago

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You're right, I don't like The Manic Street Preachers, I never have, but I feel it's for legitimate reasons.
Firstly, while their musicality is certainly practiced and learned, I don't find it particularly exciting, interesting or progressive, and these are the fundamental factors I usually use to determine whether an album is super interesting or valid.
Secondly, and this is probably slightly more personal - but I also know I am not alone - is their lyrical countenance as the music industry's moral caretakers or something. I deride continuous lyrics like this as I find them impossible to relate to or engage with.
So for me, an album that was neither particularly musically progressive or exciting, and contained lyrics within every song that I could neither relate to nor engage with deserved a 1 out of 10.
Posted by 12639 7 years ago

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Someone should have reviewed this who was willing to take an unbiased road in terms of The Manic Street Preachers back catalogue. Not someone who is easily tripped by personal prejudice.

Leave their next release in more capable hands.
Posted by 9484 7 years ago

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as a writer myself i get the feeling that you're letting your insatiable hate for this band get in the way of the actual review.

yes, you are meant to express your opinion. an opinion on the album is required though, not a lengthy tirade on the band with a passing sidenote at the end mentioning the actual album.

it's very difficult to not come off as really pretentious when you express your opinion on anything creative, so if i was to give you some advice for future reviews it would be to remember that your job (assuming you want to write a balanced, well-rounded review) is to present your subjective view as objectively as possible.

Posted by 9344 7 years ago

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I think this reviewer fancies themselves as a bit of writer, but maybe it's not reviewing music that they should be doing.

It's easy to say, i don't like the MSP, and give it a shit review. To be honest I didn't like 'This is My Truth...' and a few of their other stuff, but i heard this the other day and it's a really good album.

The reviewer says she doesn't find it 'exciting, interesting or progressive' yet I think it's bloody interesting. The story around them doing this album, and using the lyrics from their missing/dead guitarist from 15 years ago, and trying to structure songs around them and how they believe they were meant to be interpreted is nothing short of amazing.

It's exciting because they write some really catchy rock songs. Some of their best, and some of the best you'll hear this year.

It is progression from where they have been in recent years. Their songs are more polished and rock better than ever. And on this album they do it better than most.

And some of the lyrics don't relate to the reviewer. Oh no. It's a shame the Manics didn't ask everyone in the world what they liked and what they could relate to, because them they could have been a hit for everyone including this reviewer.

The reviewer must hate (or possibly love) instrumental bands. What are they saying?

Posted by 12750 7 years ago

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Not all album reviews have to be good...
Posted by 10460 7 years ago

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that does seem low
Posted by sam - anonymous 6 years ago

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