It's hard to fathom now that the Manic Street Preachers were responsible for some of the most angry, politically-charged music of the early 1990's. Obviously much of their evolution to the left of the MOR sound, can be attributed to the departure of legendary guitarist Richey Edwards. However, the remaining trio released two rather excellent albums in Edwards' slipstream, namely the much-heralded 'Everything Must Go' and the underrated sophomore record 'This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours', an album since slagged off by main songwriter Nicky Wire. So it's somehow ironic that 'Lifeblood' is a return to that sound with a very rich, expensive production that seems to be the work of a dozen session players and an orchestra rather than three men in their mid-30s equipped with mere guitar, bass and drums. Make no mistake, this is not an agenda-setting record that is going to change the world, more a decent anthemic rock effort with a few great hooks. On '1985', 'Always/Never' and 'Empty Souls' these hooks are huge and stirring but on 'I Live To Fall Asleep' the gentle piano melody is even more effective and unshakeable. On the flipside there's the bland mid-paced 'Emily', a misjudged overblown finale ('Cardiff Afterlife') and one or two other songs which could do with a tune. With all rough edges that remained now smoothed over by a glossy sheen, the Manics now seem to be a direct contradiction of their own band name.