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JAMES DEAN BRADFIELD - "The Great Western"   Print  E-mail 
Written by Mark Reed  
Saturday, 08 July 2006
Emotions are the currency here – and no, it's not fucking Emo


Solo albums – especially whilst the original band are still a going concern – are almost always crap. Well, not so much crap, as defiantly overlooked, and sounding often very much akin to a band shorn into quarters, a castrated animal trying to walk on one leg.


Stepping into the solo arena first, James Dean Bradfield, Manic Street Preacher’s songsmith, virtuoso guitarist and vocalist (in many ways, the David Gilmour to Nicky Wire’s misanthropic Roger Waters), manages to stamp a distinct, separate but clearly related personality onto the face of ‘The Great Western’.


Gone are the furiously articulate lyrics of his bandmates, the wall of inarticulate guitars, the abstract concepts and imagery. In short – all the things that made the Manics intellectually exceptional and interesting – are missing. Instead of lyrics that arrest the brain and force it to think, the music feels its way through to the listener.


Emotions are the currency here – and no, not fucking Emo. But “The Great Western” fails to compel. It fails to pin the listener against the wall the way that truly great Manics songs do : It’s impossible to just hear a song like “Faster”, for example. A song like “Faster” compels you to listen. Much like an exorcism. But here, it’s all too easy for the songs to just drift over the listener, lacking the essential X-Factor that made the Manics so essential to modern living.


On occasions the album breaks free. “That’s No Way To Tell A Lie” is as good as any Manics song of recent years. Meanwhile, the Beach Boys-styled rock overload of “Émigré”, excels - a tense coiled snake of a song that strikes with the same kind of truth as someone who didn’t see a UFO, but BELIEVES he saw a UFO, an emotional truth if not an intellectual one.


Aside from occasional high water marks such as the epic “Still A Long Way To Go”, “The Great Western” overall lacks the compulsive, essential lifeblood that underpins the Manics work as a band : the feeling that the music has been made because it is something that had to exist, that needed to be born. “The Great Western” is the first step in setting oneself free from the gang, creating himself as an individual and not as a member of an Army. Whilst every journey starts with a step, is unclear exactly where this is going to go. A promising beginning.


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