Never a band to shy from grand schemes, this is the first of two planned albums recorded by Manic Street Preachers during a brief hiatus. Rewind The Film finds the Manics in reflective mood and, as such, most closely reflects 1998’s mega-selling This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours.
Like that record, Rewind… mainly deals in a sense of nostalgia, a propensity for wallowing in self-pity and a curious emptiness. Opener This Sullen Welsh Heart’s key lyric, and perhaps Nicky Wire’s template for the album, is “The hating part of me has won the battle easily.” It feels self-centred and bored, and is reflected by much of the album’s music. The key to melancholy is surely wit and empathy; the writer has to have something absorbing to say about the way they’re feeling. Here, lyrics such as “My ecosystem is based on hatred” and “Democracy sure made a fool out of me” are so inelegant they’re unintentionally funny; singer James Dean Bradfield’s explosive, remarkable voice is often neutered by clunky rhymes and unimaginative melodies.
There are some plus-points: single Show Me The Wonder really does Bradfield justice, all early Dexys joy; 4 Lonely Roads is the best tune here, sang beautifully by Cate Le Bon; (I Miss) The Tokyo Skyline is musically among the best things the Manics have done, with bubbling electronics and wobbly strings. It should have been left as an instrumental. 30 Year War sees Wire directing his rage outwards and, though it lacks the imagination of their earlier rants, it’s a real relief.