In 1991, the Manic Street Preachers planned to sell 16 million copies of their debut and split up. Many years, many hits and one big mystery later, this colourful band and its fans appear in a unique documentary that tells their full story.
Always aware of the import of even their slightest movement, Manic Street Preachers place a lot of weight on their album titles and 2014's Futurology is designed as a conscious counterpoint to 2013's Rewind the Film. That record wound up closing an era where the Manics looked back toward their own history as a way of moving forward, but Futurology definitively opens a new chapter for the Welsh trio, one where they're pushing into uncharted territory. Never mind that, by most standards this charge toward the future is also predicated on the past, with the group finding fuel within the robotic rhythms of Krautrock and the arty fallout of punk; within the context of the Manics, this is a bracing, necessary shift in direction. All the death disco, free-range electronics, Low homages, and Teutonic grooves, suit the situational politics of the Manics, perhaps even better than the AOR-inspired anthems that have been their stock in trade, but the words – crafted, as ever, by Nicky Wire, who remains obsessed with self-recriminations, injustice and rallying cries – aren't the focus here.
A month before the release of their sixth album in early 2001, the Manic Street Preachers organised a one-off gig in Cuba. Louder than War contains footage of the entire concert (famously attended by President Fidel Castro), as well as the group's caper around the island. The country was chosen by the Manics because of Cuba's anti-American stance, a position that band members supported and have drawn upon in their material. Superbly produced and edited, the end result however fails to represent the group's visit and views in a positive light. Reading between the lines, it's obvious that their trip was just as much a challenge to Americanisation as Wham's 1985 tour of China.