Review: Manic Street Preachers

Manic Street Preachers
““Know Your Enemy””
(Virgin Records)

Manic Street Preachers seem to think of themselves as the Welsh version of Rage Against the Machine (competing with Chumbawumba for the title?).  They launched “Know Your Enemy” with a gig at the Karl Marx Theater in Havana, making history as the first Anglo-Western band to perform in communist Cuba.  But their real strength lies more along the lines of, say, Pulp-lite; string-heavy, pretty Brit ballads with a dash of socialist affectation.  Unfortunately, on the latest album, they haven’t come up with any.  Instead, there’s a schizophrenic mix of nostalgic thrasher-punk attempts and utterly empty pop fluff.  “Can anyone make a difference anymore / Can anyone write a protest song?” asks frontman James Dean Bradfield, devoid of irony, on “Let Robeson Sing.”  If the album is remembered for anything, it will be for its atrocious song titles.  “Ocean Spray” features a chorus born to be a radio jingle: “Oh please stay awake / And then we can drink some Ocean Spray” (their caps).  “My Guernica” is too dull to warrant description.  And there’s “Baby Elian” — Fidel probably had a terrific time crowd-surfing to that one.  “Freedom of Speech Won’t Feed My Children” mocks, “We love to kiss the Dalai Lama’s ass / Because he is such a holy man… Little boys with dangerous toys / All bow down to the Beastie Boys.”  Point taken, but clever lines don’t save the Street Preachers’ soul.