Albums round-up: Live Life Living by Example; Mutineers by David Gray; Wanted on Voyage by George Ezra; Futurology by Manic Street Preachers

Futurology by Manic Street Preachers

Futurology by Manic Street Preachers

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Having wrong footed swathes of his audience with a 2012 album inspired by grunge, rapper turned pop singer Elliot Gleave taps into 90s rave culture for his new, decidedly more commercial, outing.

Bpms are busy, bass lines robust and chorus hooks are plentiful in Live Life Living, his fifth studio album, begun in Los Angeles with Stuart Price and completed in London with Fraser T Smith and Critikal.

“I’m happy with you/But I need the truth/And I miss my youth/It was all so simple,” the 32-year-old sings nostalgically in key track Kids Again. You can’t help feeling fields full of thirty somethings will second that emotion when Gleave hits the festival circuit this summer.

“I’m naked like a tree/It’s the only way to be,” declares Sale singer-songwriter David Gray somewhat startlingly in Back in the World, the opening track of his 10th album in a 22-year career.

Certainly songs such as As The Crow Flies, Cake and Eat It and Girl Like You have a zest that his work has lacked for a while; The Incredible is not unlike Bon Iver with its layered harmonies and poetic obscurity.

As ever with Gray, you feel a mournful minor chord is just around the corner but on Mutineers you feel he is at least trying to break away from the formula that brought him such success with White Ladder and A New Day at Midnight.

Where Gray took four albums to hit paydirt in the late 1990s, young Homes Counties troubadour George Ezra has done it first time with his debut long player Wanted On Voyage. Such, perhaps, is the accelerated pace of the music world and the patience of major labels today.

At 21, Ezra has the model looks and lusty, powerful voice to catch the eye and ear of the modern media. What he perhaps lacks is songs of sufficiently high standard to make a consistently good album.

For all the rambunctious charm of Budapest and Cassy O’ tracks such as Listen to the Man and Breakaway sound like little more than sketches while Did You Hear the Rain? verges on folk-blues pastiche.

Fans of Mumford & Sons and Eliza and the Bear, however, will most likely embrace this wholeheartedly.

If last September’s Rewind The Film saw the Manic Street Preachers musically at least nudging into easy listening, its swiftly promised follow-up is indeed, as they said at the time, much more spiky.

Where last time around the band couched the middle-aged anger and despair of Nicky Wire’s lyrics in acoustic reverie, Futurology fumes and rages with riffs as steely as the sentiments of Let’s Go to War and Europa Geht Durch Mich.

“I am the sturm und drang/I am the schadenfreude,” spits James Dean Bradfield with feeling in Misguided Missile.

Here the sonic inspiration seems to stem from pre-New Gold Dream Simple Minds and the synth-rock of Ultravox but Between The Clock and The Bed at least sugars with the pill with a sweetly sung vocal from Green Gartside of 80s perfect pop theorists Scritti Politti. It’s among the best things that the Manics have recorded.

Emeli Sande at O2 Academy Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

Gig review: Emeli Sande at O2 Academy Leeds