Always aware of the import of even their slightest movement, Manic Street Preachers place a lot of weight on their album titles and 2014's Futurology is designed as a conscious counterpoint to 2013's Rewind the Film. That record wound up closing an era where the Manics looked back toward their own history as a way of moving forward, but Futurology definitively opens a new chapter for the Welsh trio, one where they're pushing into uncharted territory. Never mind that, by most standards this charge toward the future is also predicated on the past, with the group finding fuel within the robotic rhythms of Krautrock and the arty fallout of punk; within the context of the Manics, this is a bracing, necessary shift in direction. All the death disco, free-range electronics, Low homages, and Teutonic grooves, suit the situational politics of the Manics, perhaps even better than the AOR-inspired anthems that have been their stock in trade, but the words -- crafted, as ever, by Nicky Wire, who remains obsessed with self-recriminations, injustice and rallying cries -- aren't the focus here. Unique among Manics albums, Futurology is primarily about the music, with the surging synthesizers and jagged arrangements providing not an emotional blood-letting or call to arms, but rather an internal journey. At times, this is broad, expansive rock & roll, possessed by insistent four-four rhythms unheard in the group's discography, but when the Manics do dip into disco -- as they do several times, most prominently on "Sex, Power, Love and Money" and "Dreaming a City" -- they're underscoring how they're making music for the head and the heart, not the feet or loins. That's also why Green Gartside is such a welcome presence on "Between the Clock and the Bed": his Scritti Politti managed the divide between radical art and commercial pop, providing a touchstone for the Manics even if they rarely specifically mimic his sound. They're more infatuated with Neu! and Kraftwerk or Public Image Ltd, but these jagged, difficult sounds are filtered through the trio's now instinctual arena-filling gestures and that tension is what gives Futurology a resonant richness. The Manics aren't ditching what they are, they're building upon it and finding an invigorating path into middle age.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine