'The album of 2009' (Independent - 5 stars)
'A phenomenal rock record' (Q - 5 stars)
'An outstanding album' (NME, 8/10)
All fair comments? Along with the inevitable comparions with 1994's The Holy Bible, reviewers have been falling over themselves to praise the new Manic Street Preachers album, Journal for Plague Lovers. Using lyrics left behind by Richey Edwards this was always going to be an emotional release (no more apparent than on the album's closer William's Last Words, sung by Richey's close friend Nicky Wire and with lyrics that are laregly assumed to be a suicide note).
It is the first Manics album that I've been interested in since being left disappointed by Everything Must Go. There have been a few sparks since then (The Masses Against The Classes in particular; even the style and choice of its b-sides - one acoustic, one cover - were a throwback to the early Manics singles) but nothing that has been sustained. One meat & potatoes album followed another.
And in truth, this is a genuinely good album. Yes, it's familiar in places. Yes, some of the vocal melodies struggle to wrap comfortably around the vast lyrics James Dean Bradfield is trying to get out. And yes, it is their best album since The Holy Bible (a task made so much easier by the standards of their output since 1994). But it's also a prime contender for the best album of the year - watch those year-end polls with interest.