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Album Review
Journal For Plague Lovers

Journal For Plague Lovers
by Manic Street Preachers

Sony Music

Review Date
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

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