James Dean Bradfield's Even in Exile: What You Need To Know
The last time Manic Street Preachers frontman James Dean Bradfield released an album under his own name was all the way back in 2006, making his solo debut with The Great Western, a collection of songs with a more personal theme that contrasted with his band's often overtly political statements.
14 years on, Bradfield returns with a new solo offering, only this one is quite a different proposition from the last; Even in Exile is a much more exploratory piece of work than his last offering, taking its inspiration from the story of Chilean poet and activist Victor Jara and soundtracking his life to music, with lyrics written by Welsh poet and playwright Patrick Jones (who also happen's to be bandmate Nicky Wire's brother).
After previewing a handful of tracks earlier this year, Even in Exile arrives in stores today - here's everything you need to know...
A little background...
Growing up to together in the Welsh valleys, Bradfield, Wire and Jones all shared a passion for literature as well as music, and Bradfield explained in an interview with NME in July that while he had known the story of Jara and his murder at the hands of Chilean dictator Pinochet's regime all his life, it was only recently that he had discovered Jara's music.
It was this combined with some of Jones' poetry about Jara's life that inspired Bradfield to put Jones' words to music and try to bring Jara's story to life.
Any special guests?
Not in terms of guest performers on the album, although alongside the album itself Bradfield has also launched a three-part podcast series Inspired by Jara, discussing his life and work with guests such as Simple Minds' Charlie Burchill and Calexico's Joey Burns.
What does it sound like?
The closest thing to Bradfield's usual output – either with the Manics or on his last solo album – is probably 'The Boy From The Plantation', which wouldn't seem too out of place on any of Manic Street Preachers' recent albums, but elsewhere things get much more interesting.
As you might expect given the lyrical subject matter, there are lots of Latin American influences that shine through on tracks like opener 'Recuerda' and the lilting 'Under the Mimosa Tree', but there are lots more surprises in store too, with the slow, industrial grind of 'There'll Come a War' offering up shades of 70s Bowie and the sprawling 'The Last Song' approaching something almost like prog-rock.
Possibly the album's other real highlight is 'Seeking The Room With The Three Windows', another prog-influenced track that stands out as one of the album's more euphoric moments.
Does it deliver?
Quite often when the frontman of a band releases a solo album it ends up not being all that much of a stylistic departure from what they would be doing anyway, and while Bradfield's voice is so closely associated with his band that it was always going to sound a bit like the Manics, Even in Exile is a very different beast to what you might have expected.
Perhaps Bradfield's work on his first soundtrack in 2017 for Ben Parker's film The Chamber has had an influence on Even in Exile; this is certainly one of the most expansive things he's ever released and at times it's a real joy to get lost in.
Even in Exile is available in stores now - you can also find it here in our online store.