Send Away The Tigers – Manic Street Preachers

Label: Columbia

The initial and dominating impression you take away from this album, their eighth, is how very comfortable they sound. You’ll already be filling in the blanks there yourself, won’t you. But comfortable needn’t be a negative, it needn’t stand for all the things you presume it to. Granted, go back 15 years and the concept of the Manics being anything so sedate as ‘comfortable’ would have seemed an anomaly – they practically sold their whole shtick as an act of civil disobedience. Hence the subsequent impending and unending disappointment felt by many of those that invested so much in their cause early on. But following the all-surface-no-song ill-fitting abrasiveness of ‘Know Your Enemy’ and the grey hue of the sterile out-of-body experience that was the appalling ‘Lifeblood’, they come back from what appeared an irreversible low seeming capable, reenergised and masters of their own fortune, rather than tired legacy chasers shoring up their supposed importance.

They didn’t change the world. There was no revolution. But there was always more to the Manics than wearing balaclavas on Top Of The Pops, even if that can get ignored in favour of crucifying them for their lack of ideological fulfilment. There was a bounty of melody, passion and rich, juxtaposed arrangements, a searing, soaring songwriting capability – James Dean Bradfield’s gifted musicianship giving Nicky Wire’s and Richey James’ lyrics and artistic direction wings. Their debut ‘Generation Terrorists’ melded the hard edges and outlook of The Clash, the caustic guitar solos of Guns ‘N’ Roses and the swelling melodic colour of Motown, all sharpened by intense belief. And it’s this foundation, boosted by the anthemic scale and polish of ‘Everything Must Go’, that makes ‘Send Away The Tigers’ probably their best complete album since the peerlessly stark ‘The Holy Bible’.

The title track opens up the album with improved lyrics referencing both the drowning of sorrows and the ham-fisted liberation of Baghdad zoo by Allied forces, barked out by JDB with unflinching heart, entwining with Slash-esque licks and a warming, epic bed of distortion, establishing a chiming benchmark that they nary fall beneath for a pleasingly concise 10 tracks. ‘The Second Great Depression’ may revisit ‘A Design For Life’ (and there are a number of revisits), but an erupting chorus, assured washes of harmony and a tense pace give the template renewed might. ‘Rendition’ feels abrasive, but marches forth with bright purpose rather than misplaced or unconvincing anger, ditto the excellent ‘Imperial Bodybags’ that doesn’t get bogged down in its own self-importance as it could have done.

Sure, there is the ever-present suspicion that a successful hark back to their former glories is probably beyond them, ‘Underdogs’ (“this one’s for the freaks…”) for instance does feel a little forced. They are not the angry young men of old and as we have since learnt they are incapable of doing a particularly good impression of that anymore, but by sourcing the aspects of their earlier successes they are capable of still doing justice to, reigning in the indulgences and by following their heart as it sits in their chest now they have proved that their comfort zone isn’t actually such an uninspiring place after all.


Release: Manic Street Preachers - Send Away The Tigers
Review by:
Released: 14 May 2007