Manic Street Preachers (Sony)

At last, the Manic Street Preachers have finally released a follow-up to third album 1994’s The Holy Bible. Sure, they’ve issued five albums since then. But Journal For Plague Lovers picks up where their most acclaimed LP left off. The production is bare-bones basic; the lyrics are by the band’s presumed-dead guitarist Richey Edwards; the sleeve art by The Holy Bible designer Jenny Saville.

Given the band’s desire to return to their roots, it’s surprising that Journal For Plague Lovers doesn’t sound more desperate. Indeed, whether due to the lyrics or the influence of engineer Steve Albini, the group sound energised throughout.

However, the stripped-back approach only emphasises the band’s shortcomings. Edwards’ lyrics are gauche, James Dean Bradfield’s singing is one-dimensional, and the tunes are bluster. Great if you’re 15, perhaps. But fans are surely old enough to know better.