Manic Street Preachers Know Your Enemy

Right from the opening riffs of Know Your Enemy, it's obvious that the Manic Street Preachers have maintained their gritty approach to rock and that this album is here to kick you firmly in the ass. With their previous two immensely successful albums, the Manic style drifted into full-on arena rock, with sweeping string sections and lavish production. While Know Your Enemy is by no means a lo-fi affair, there seems to be a more dedicated attempt to return to more abrasive material. Tracks like "Found That Soul," "Intravenous Agnostic" and "Dead Martyrs" are crunchy, riotous rock tracks fuelled by the notorious energy level that made the Manics what they are today. The album does have a lot of unique features, such as the single "So Why So Sad," which is an outstanding pop song with a production style that sounds so much like the Beach Boys that it's a little scary. There are also down-tempo tracks like "Let Robeson Sing" and "His Last Painting," and they even allow themselves to have some fun on the bubbly "Miss Europa Disco Dancer." Overall, this is a great album - diverse, energetic, intelligent and, above all, consistently catchy. Singer James Dean Bradfield still has tight control of his powerhouse voice, and the sharply political subject matter, as expected, is still present. This album brings out the best aspects of the band and takes them in a needed new direction. The orchestras may be gone, but make no mistake, this is a big rock record. (Virgin)