“Things have gone wrong too many times / So take a slow boat to China”
Manic Street Preachers
- Send Away The Tigers
have often been more about the band themselves than the actual music. There is a question at their core: how does a band deal with losing a member, a friend and a leader like Richey Edwards
. It’s one that they’ve spent over a decade trying to answer. Their previous album, Lifeblood
, was a commercial failure, possibly because they had tried to answer the question too many times.
“This one’s for the freaks”
Send Away The Tigers was a question with a different question to answer: to whom, exactly, are this band still relevant? Their old fans are entering into middle age, the new potential fans have their on bands. Who wants to listen to 40-year old revolutionaries? It’s the question you can’t help asking when you first play Send Away The Tigers, and the prognosis isn’t good. Surely it’s time for the Manics to smash their last guitars and fade into obscurity?
“Trade all your heroes in for ghosts / they were always the ones who loved you most”
- Your Love Alone Is Not Enough
If so, then somebody forgot to tell the band. Send Away The Tigers is old-fashioned Manics: loud, confident, confused, maybe pointless, definitely brilliant. There are some low points: Your Love Alone Is Not Enough
seems genetically engineered to annoy the faithful old fans, and Underdogs sounds like your uncle trying to impress an emo
by playing him old Black Sabbath
“ I guess we’ll have to test / Until there’s nothing left”
- Indian Summer
But it opens with an eponymous belter, and the later tracks show Nicky getting better at what he has been trying to do since Richey left: Imperial Bodybags
and I’m Just A Patsy
not only rock, but the lyrics have a seamless blending of the personal and political that Nicky
has never managed before.
“What happened to forever?”
- The Second Great Depression
Perhaps the standout track is the also the most frustrating. The Second Great Depression is filled with New Adventures In Hi-Fi
-era guitars, which is what a band like the Manics should be doing right about now. They pull it off brilliantly, even throwing in a traditional Manics-style chorus. But, apart from the equally good Indian Summer
, they look down this path and choose not to take it, instead trying to rock as if they were still arrogant teenagers from Wales.
“Oh God, I sound just like a liberal”
Oh, and then there’s Autumn Song
“Wear your love like it is made of hate / Born to destroy and born to create”
- Autumn Song
The Manics really have no right to write a song like this. They’re old men in this game, and they’re coming off the back of a disastrous album. Yet there is Autumn Song
right in the middle of the album, with its enormous chorus that is designed simply to fill a stadium. They expect to be playing this song to packed arenas, which is a bit of an assumption.
“I need an angel from above”
- I’m Just A Patsy
But that’s the Manics. Still hoping to sell 16,000,000 copies and break up
“Nothing’s finished, it just fades away / Like a lover who has lost her faith”
- Imperial Bodybags
There’s one last thing you notice about the album, as the hidden track plays out, a version of John Lennon
’s Working Class Hero
. The brevity is amazing. The Manics are a band who’ve never known when to shut up, but Send Away The Tigers only lasts for 38 minutes.
“Winter lovers / Winter trees / The beauty of / Dead industry”
Is it a return to form? Is it an answer to those lingering questions? Probably not. But it is the best album that the Manics have done since Richey left.
“You’re still fucking peasants as far as I see”
- Working Class Hero