Manic Street Preachers: Send Away the Tigers 

If the British band Manic Street Preachers are known for much of anything on this side of the Atlantic, it's most likely their strident political views and their guitarist who went missing in 1995 and hasn't been seen since. This is unfortunate, because the Manics are a pretty damn good band, as their latest album, Send Away the Tigers, clearly proves. I've listened to the whole thing three times (as I write this, I'm on cycle four), and it just keeps getting better.

The gents of MSP, who have turned their style from the punk-rock melding of their early days to a more melody-driven alternative rock sound, which means more rock and blues a la The Clash or Springsteen. If you like their political content, it's still there to enjoy; the most propulsive song on the disc, the rockabilly thumper "Imperial Bodybags," is about ... well, guess. The disc closes on a faithful rendition of John Lennon's "Working Class Hero," which sounds like a song near and dear to the Manics' hearts.

Most of the songs, in fact, are about political topics, but unlike some bands, the Manics don't push it in your face with their music. The songs are still good if you don't catch all the fire and fury of the lyrics. In fact, the set is so strong that even weaker moments, like "Your Love Alone Is Not Enough," a duet with Nina Persson of the Cardigans that leans too far into top 40 bubblegum, are still tightly crafted performances. There's no wasted effort on this disc; even after multiple listens, the 38-minute running time feels like half that.

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