It’s tempting to view Postcards from a Young Man as the Everything Must Go to Journal for Plague Lovers’ The Holy Bible, but the analogy isn’t quite that simple.
Everything Must Go was cathartic, the bandmembers exorcizing their grief after the disappearance of Richey Edwards, but Postcards from a Young Man is as celebratory as the Manics get, a record that recklessly flirts with joyousness.
Once again, the band abandons coiled, tense art-punk for anthemic stadium-fillers, creating arrangements so overloaded they threaten to collapse in a tower of sitars, strings, mandolins, fuzz guitars, and cameos from Ian McCulloch and Duff McKagan.
The presence of an Echo & the Bunnyman and a Guns N' Roses is typical of the Manics’ almost ludicrous overreach: they blend moody Englishness with American hooks, which has been their plan since the outset, but they’ve rarely been as successful as they are on Postcards from a Young Man simply because they let their penchant for exaggeration run wild.
With the notable exception of Nicky Wire’s lyrics -- whose small scale almost seems like a relief after the airing of Edwards’ unused words on Journal -- everything here is bigger than usual, the rhythms packing an unusual swing, the productions scraping the sky, and the hooks spilling out of James Dean Bradfield’s mouth and guitar alike.
All this bustle winds up being the rarest of things for the Manics: it is fun.
Granted, it is serious-minded fun with ambition, but with Manic Street Preachers you take fun whenever you can get it, and they’ve never sounded as ebullient as they do here.