(Reorganising the website and having a social life and keeping up with work committments has meant the full refit has been postponed yet again, though items should start trickling out this coming week. Anyway, re-run time again: with the new Manic Street Preachers single(s) imminent, here’s what I thought of the last one…)

THE MANIC STREET PREACHERS – “The Masses Against The Classes”

It’s a sweet idea, but that’s all it is. The unending barracking the Manics have been getting for their plod-rock direction awakens some of the old fire in Nicky Wire, and so the band put out “The Masses Against The Classes”, and everything is feathery and glamourous and angry again, and your heart stops beating for 168 seconds, and the useless, hateful critics hang their ugly heads in shame, and – well, and then you wake up and the new single’s tragic.

Here’s what “The Masses Against The Classes” sounds like: it sounds like a bunch of students in 1993 forming a gigging halls-of-residence band called the Angry Avenue Ranters, it sounds like S*M*A*S*H, it sounds like Mel C would sound like if she made a record with ‘energy’ and ‘bile’, it sounds like somebody looked those words up in a dictionary, it sounds cynical and pitiful. “The Masses Against The Classes” is less convincing than anything else the band have ever recorded, in short: and it doesn’t help that in general it makes damn-all sense, and where it does make sense it sounds bitter and confused. “Success is an ugly word / Especially in your tiny world.” : paranoid politics-of-envy rhetoric sounds just as bad coming from James Dean Bradfield as it does coming from the Tories. A standardly snide anti-Manics position has always been that their lyrics and politics are a thrown-together jumble of insurrectionary babble, latterly leavened by Wire’s tabloid-columnist commonsense-isms. As of this release, that seems to be the truth.

It’s hard not to feel for the Manics: they’ve tried to make a record like they used to make, but they’ve changed too much to do it. It’s nothing to do with Richey Edwards, it’s because the Manic Street Preachers used to be a pop group, and sometimes a bloody good one. High-concept, image-centric, couldn’t play, didn’t care: that’s pop if anything is. And now they’re a Band, and pretend they always were. But the difference is that pop groups can get away with cartoon punk, and Bands most certainly cannot.