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Protect And Survive (Resurrection)


Well, here's a bit of a surprise. Manuskript have always had a certain flair for reinvention, but on this album - the band's fourth - the 'Skript veer decisively away from their previous incarnation as purveyors of fresh-as-orange-juice new wavey pop, and move instead towards a kind of retro-flavoured synth-rock in which everything rumbles along on beefy chunks of programming, and the guitars have been heavied up into the RAWK zone. It sounds, in fact, as if the band have been listening to such eighties synthrockers as Alphaville and Robert Palmer, and they've thought, hang about. We could cop a bit of that!

The album appears to have some sort of concept running through it - relationships viewed as if they were a war zone, basically. The lyrics juxtapose army and espionage references with personal angst, and you're never more than a couple of lines away from a military metaphor. The music is produced to sound big, laden with drama and stadium thunder. 'State Of Affairs' is built on a whumping dance beat and robust interjections of guitar (there's even a splendidly shameless solo) - it reminds me of eighties editions of Top Of The Pops, back in the days when every self-respecting pop kid would drop everything on a Thursday night to catch the nation's popstrels rocking out on TV. 'Protect And Survive' hammers itself into the listener's brain with a bamalam synthdrum beat, and even throws in a guitar solo that squeals like Eddie Van Halen's in the house. 'The New Black' is a bit of smooth after the rough; uptempo but slinky with it, a soundtrack for nights out cruising in the Ford Granada Ghia - you know, the model with the velour upholstery. 'Romance Is Dead' is as jaunty as Buck's Fizz, while 'Licence Revoked' could be a long-lost B-side of Robert Palmer's 'Johnny And Mary'.

Manuskript'Charm Offensive' is a slight oddity among this company, for it's built upon a bouncy synth line that would have the Slimelight cyberheads bopping merrily were it matched to Assemblage 23-style lyrical angst. However, Mike's effortless, smooth vocal always ensures we stay in the pop zone. 'Angels Of Islington' ramps up the guitars to an alarmingly rock-bastard level, but the band's eighties aesthetic always comes through. Imagine, if you will, Rammstein crossed with Big Country. Yes, I know, there's something about that combination that fairly shouts, 'It'll never work, you mad fool!', but somehow Manuskript get away with it. Finally, 'Grace And Favour', wrapping up the album, is an epic slice of rattling dance-rock, complete with a big chorus boosted by female backing vocals. Very effective it is too, although I'm tempted to remark that it sounds like T'pau getting down at the disco. But then, Manuskript would probably take such a comment as a compliment.

I'm a little taken aback by this album. It's not where I expected Manuskript to go after their last release, the diverse and often left field-ish Natural High. The band, as ever, sound assured and confident; the songwriting is strong, the choruses are never less than devilishly catchy. But the prime influence - big, bumptious, eighties synth-rock - has left me floundering a bit. I would've preferred a lighter touch, and more of those intriguingly off-kilter ideas the band delivered last time. Instead, Manuskript sound so entirely at home in their newly adopted musical area I fully expect that next time we see them on the gig circuit they'll be sporting mullets and wearing their jackets with the sleeves pushed up.


Essential links:

Manuskript: Website | Myspace

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