This is doubtless neither the time nor the place to go inserting gloomy panegyrics, but there’s something innately pertinent to this, the return of Blackwood’s finest the Manic Street Preachers, for the last time I was in Wales was for my grandfather’s funeral. It was the second I’d been to in as many weeks, and although I’ve never had even so much as a Welsh address, it’s the national identity I’ve always felt most closely aligned with. It’s for this that my favourite Catatonia song is, and always will be, International Velvet; that Cwm Rhondda can almost make me consider rugby a bearable pastime; and this that first birthed my abiding infatuation with the Manics. So that they should reawaken the enamourment with a track entitled Rewind The Film – along with news of a subsequent album of that same name – ties in strangely aptly with his passing.
The typically rudimentary album artwork depicts a blurred glimpse of the Severn Bridge’s luminous aquamarine hue, but clearer still in my mind is the indelible imprint made by the memory of sitting beside him staring out to sea. There’s little I wouldn’t do to rewind the film to reinsert myself into that very moment, and oddly enough there’s a strange kind of solace to be found within this irrefutably sublime acoustic lull of delightful humility. It’s a quality which hasn’t exactly been an ever-present across the Manics’ colourful histories, and you’d be hard pushed to find a Celt as outrightly gregarious as Nicky Wire. Although as Richard Hawley here so inimitably croons: “Rewind the film again/ I’d love to see my joy, my friends/ Rewind the film again/ So I can fall asleep content” the Welshmen and their ephemeral associate strike a supremely intimate timbre arguably not heard since Lifeblood. Yet whereas their gravely undervalued 2004 endeavour was found to be brimming with the sort of pomp that probably could only find true comfort in the commercial surrounds of stadia nationwide this, their first in three years, pertains to an elementary closeness; an itself consolable and indeed empathic piece of reserved splendour.
Hawley’s weatherbeaten baritone inevitably befits the refreshing bursts of string as succinctly as they do his lyrics of “playing my old records” although perhaps most intriguingly, the link thus struck between his native Sheffield and the Manics’ Cymru brodorol is a remarkably decisive one. The Yorkshire outpost was of course once a hotpot of precious metal, whilst South Wales, similarly, was then a hive of mining industry. It was indeed the figurative coal from which the Industrial Revolution arose to such incendiary national relevance, and neither locality has really achieved so esteemed a status since a certain Prime Minister – one ironically recently returned to the ashes and dust from whence she came – put paid to said trades and the sooted hopes of the industrious employees thereof. But stoking a more sedate sort of fiery beguile than that for which they’ve long since been renowned, the perennially sedulous Manic Street Preachers here restore great faith in their enduring legacy – one to have gently wavered with the release of their ultimately bathetic Postcards From A Young Man of 2010. Whether Rewind The Film would’ve been to my granddad’s taste I’ll never know, though it is without question a stirring return to a pulsating vein of quite vivacious form from the Caerphilly stalwarts.
Rewind The Film is anticipated September 16th on Columbia Records.