Album review – Send Away the Tigers

Despite falling in love with the Manic Street Preachers’ 1998 release, This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours, I never became a fan of the band. I guess part of the reason for that is I didn’t care for their well-publicized political leanings, and allowed it to taint my enjoyment of the music. Stupid, I know. Anyway, I came across a positive mention of their latest release, Send Away the Tigers, on blogcritics so I thought I’d give them another shot.

The first things that stands out about the new album – in contrast to the only other one I’ve heard – is its brevity. Truth clocks in at a beefy 63 minutes, while Tigers is done in less than 40. This is fine with me, as I’ve always felt that less tends to be more. But it turns out that in addition to scaling back on the amount of music, the Manics have scaled back on the production as well. Tigers is certainly no lo-fi effort, but it trades the polish and reverb of Truth for a more immediate, guitar-centric sound. They’ve also replaced melancholy and cynicism with energy and anger.

But make no mistake; the great melodies and top-notch songwriting are still present. The opening title track sets the tone for the album – hooky, accessible rock with a sense of purpose. “Underdogs,” released as a free digital download, is a delightful slab of post-modern punk – but executed with more skill and less faux attitude.

For “Your Love Alone Is Not Enough” and “Autumnsong,” the Manics are joined on vocals by Nina Persson of The Cardigans. Persson does add a nice element to the songs, although I will admit that I am not a huge fan of the “new” vocal style she developed around the late ’90s. But that’s another topic entirely.

Great music aside, it wouldn’t be a Manic Street Preachers album without some politically and socially conscious lyrics. The obvious example here is “Imperial Bodybags” – Imperial bodybags, coming home in dribs and drabs/Life is numbers, with doggy tags/Filled with holes and coming back/So come on up the sky? – but in a brilliant twist the song is pure Rockabilly.

Another great thing Tigers has going for it is consistency. While I’m not certain there are any true standout tracks, there is also no filler at all (although the cover of John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero” isn’t really essential). This seems to have been a conscious effort on the band’s part, as according to their MySpace page they just wanted the best songs, with no “wanking.” That economical effort is obvious – none of these songs let you linger. They get in and get out before you know what hit you. Rather than feeling cheated, however, I just feel like I need to go back and listen again. Very refreshing.

Don’t bother looking for Send Away the Tigers in U.S. record stores, as it has not been released here and may not be. This is only available outside the U.S., or via download services – legal ones of course. It hit #2 on the U.K. album charts, but I guess we Americans have to make room for more Nickelback albums.

My personal favorites – “Rendition” and “Imperial Bodybags.”

Track listing (“Working Class Hero” is a hidden track on some versions)

  1. “Send Away the Tigers” – 3:36
  2. “Underdogs” – 2:49
  3. “Your Love Alone Is Not Enough” – 3:55
  4. “Indian Summer” – 3:54
  5. “The Second Great Depression” – 4:09
  6. “Rendition” – 2:59
  7. “Autumnsong” – 3:40
  8. “I’m Just a Patsy” – 3:11
  9. “Imperial Bodybags” – 3:30
  10. “Working Class Hero” – 2:47
  11. “Winterlovers” – 3:03
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