I decided to do this as a ‘first impressions’ rather than a review, as my favourite British band of all time always give us albums that take time to reveal their treasures, hell after listening to The Holy Bible every week for 25 years, I still discover new things both musically and lyrically. Of course, in 2021, we have reached the point where a new Manics album is not as important as it was back in the early nineties. I bought Generation Terrorists on day one on cassette and every album since on day one. Hell, I bought this on day one, I just think that at album 14, you know you are not going to get The Holy Bible II (or III if you count Journal For Plague Lovers as a sublime sequel which I do) and this is the first time I have greeted a new Manics album after being disappointed by the last offering. Not hate, disappointment, if you’ve ever been a stroppy kid throwing your toys out of the pram, you will know that the look of disappointment is the ugliest you could ever see. For a few weeks me and Resistance Is Futile were great friends and then…I realised that I was waiting for the same two songs – People Give In and Dylan And Caitlin, which both belong on the Best Of glories with the best of the old days, but the rest…the fact that I cannot remember much aside from that terrible Liverpool song (and I stand up for SYMM every fvcking time) and a load of things that we have heard done better. RIF is my 14th favourite Manics album. How’s that for feint praise?
And so The Ultra Vivid Lament…I loved both Orwellian and The Secret He Had Missed, so it is the equal of RIF already, but Still Snowing In Sapporo is a brave and seductive opener. Quiet, quaint, words you don’t expect to use to describe the ‘generation terrorists’ but is is a beautiful start.
Quest For Ancient Colour sounds like a perfect EMG b-side – “Like a reservoir in a summer drought”, the same dour feelings of This Is My Truth, but with added JDB Abba style piano prettiness. Don’t Let The Night Divide Us has the same Swedish pop sound mixed with an Andy Williams grace, although “Don’t let those boys from Eton suggest that we are beaten” is up there with ‘the world is full of refugees’ in the tiny home of terrible Manics lyrics, it almost spoils the whole song but the pop heart beats through.
Diapause is my favourite so far, another TIMT funereal punch. “I’ve built so many walls to keep these feelings true, I’ve burnt so many bridges but not the one that leads to you” over an (un)easy listening beat, Sean is great on this record and James’ piano basics (revealed on the brilliant second CD of demos) grow into an atmospheric scream.
Calling a Manics Song Blank Diary Entry might be tempting fate, especially if it includes Screaming Trees alumni Mark Lanegan, it will either be glorious or grimacing. Luckily it is the first. Cold, sighing, the reflective glare of the past once again on a classic Nicky Wire lyric.
And that is where I am after one day in album 14’s company. A band I have seen 56 times, remember, I’m not someone who ever wants to speak badly of them, but the last album does little for me and I’m still burned by Show Me The Wonder, but so far, The Ultra Livid Lament is a lot warmer than recent records and I would already put it above Resistance Is Futile, Rewind The Film and Postcards From A Young Man. Let’s see how time treats it, shall we? <3