The release of ‘(It’s Not War) Just The End Of Love’, the first single from Postcards Of A Young Man, teased Manic Street Preachers fans everywhere, as the song promised a return to the huge anthemic songs that the band had so brilliantly produced back in the early years of their career. ‘(It’s Not War)’ is the first track on the band’s tenth studio album, and a great opening song it is too, but as the song comes to an end you begin to worry that you now have the rest of the album awaiting you, eleven songs of unfamiliar music which may or may not be the kind of sound which ‘(It’s Not War)’ hinted at. But then title track, ‘Postcards Of A Young Man’, starts and you realise that the musical teasing was genuine and that the rest of the album is going to be incredible. The second track has everything that the previous song has – those powerfulstrings flowing through the rocky sound of the band, with James Dean Bradfield’s typically tough voice rising from the music – but this time it’s even better.
This turns out to be the pattern for every subsequent track on the album; each song, bar only perhaps the two final songs, are obvious contenders to be released as singles, as the album is simply a collection of great mainstream rock songs. The band are joined by violins for a large part of the album which add immense depth to the surprisingly big sound that the trio already create. ‘The Descent (Pages 1 & 2)’, for example, has choruses so typical of the album, with strings meandering around the band as they march along, and similarly ‘Hazelton Avenue’, where the same strings echo the piercing guitar melody played by Bradfield, momentarily diverting to a quick oriental instrumental breakdown.
It’s not until the seventh track on the album, ‘Golden Platitudes’, that Manic Street Preachers show any signs of calming down, opening with a gentle piano tune backed by a delicate beat from Sean Moore. While the band takes this brief pause from the more upbeat stuff that the rest of the album contains, they turn slightly sentimental in their lyrics, asking “where did it all go wrong?” and “what happened to those days where everything seemed possible?” These few minutes of calm are a welcome break from the energetic music which quickly resumes with ‘I Think I’ve Found It’ and carries on until the end of the album. It is on this point only that the album can receive any criticism, as the band have failed to write anything other than ‘A Design For Life’ twelve times, apart from with ‘Golden Platitudes’. This is only a minor criticism, however, as such an approach to writing has ensured that Postcards From A Young Man is full of fantastic songs, showing that despite being ten albums into their career, the band have still got what they had fifteen years ago.