Middle age was never part of the Manics' game plan, the trio having vowed, in 1991, to make one "statement" album then split up. Yet here they are, 22 years later, forswearing the bluster of their 90s work in favour of an austere, largely acoustic sound on an LP whose main concerns are childhood and death. The former is addressed on the stunning title track, on which Richard Hawley overshadows James Dean Bradfield, while another guest, Cate Le Bon, is quietly impressive on the urbane 4 Lonely Roads. The result, improbably, is their best set in years.
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Paul Mardles is a subeditor on the Observer New Review