fri 14/06/2024

Album: James Dean Bradfield - Even In Exile | reviews, news & interviews

Album: James Dean Bradfield - Even In Exile

Album: James Dean Bradfield - Even In Exile

Manic Street Preacher finds moments of beauty in life of Chilean revolutionary

Victor Jara's life and legacy are the inspiration for Even In Exile

One of the most evocative tracks on James Dean Bradfield’s second solo album is hardly his at all. The Manic Street Preacher takes “La Partida”, a haunting, finger-picked melody by the Chilean musician Victor Jara, and blows it up to the size of an arena, its central refrain echoed back by a stadium’s worth of voices.

As a tribute to Jara who, with thousands of his countrymen, was tortured and shot by General Pinochet’s troops in the stadium which now bears his name, it’s both apt, and breathtaking.

Fans of the Manic Street Preachers are quick to list the art, music and literature they have discovered by following the rabbit trail of references in the band’s lyrics and sleeve notes. It’s a role that Bradfield steps into himself on Even In Exile: he has, in interviews, spoken about first hearing Jara’s name as a teenager in a song by The Clash. When the Welsh poet and playwright Patrick Jones - brother of Manics bassist and lyricist Nicky Wire - shared some poems he had written about Jara’s life with Bradfield, a concept album began to take shape, with the result loosely charting the revolutionary's life and legacy from a baby in his mother’s arms to his widow’s fight for justice.

Bradfield being the architect of the Manics’ heart-stopping choruses makes the parallels with the day job easy to draw - but by combining them with elements of Jara’s Spanish-style guitar and some of the most beautiful melodic flourishes he has ever written, Bradfield breathes new life into those old tricks. Album opener “Recuerda” (“Remember”) is particularly effective here; its Jara-esque first moments giving way to a refrain that stirs the blood, as Jones’ lyrics draw a line from Chile’s disappeared to the Aberfan mining disaster and the undermining of Wales’ language and cultural impact. “What was once lost we will find again,” sings Bradfield in a chorus straight out of Everything Must Go; that voice, as usual, raising the hairs on the back of your neck.

Thanks to the songs’ early life as poems, the lyric sheet is frequently as florid as the Manics at their most pretentious: the use of the full name “Victor Lidio Jara Martinez” turns the chorus of the biographical “The Boy From the Plantation” into a stodgy Wikipedia entry, despite the deftness demonstrated on the song’s verses. But for every clunker there’s a moment that catches the breath: images of thirty thousand Disappeared on milk bottles; the juxtaposition of Joan Jara’s bloody, road-worn feet and the blood on the hands of the soldiers; and what could be the album’s mission statement: “bondaged citizens make the best revolutions”. All this, and expect your reading list to expand too.

Below: hear biographical single "The Boy From The Plantation"


I'm down a rabbit hole now, looking for more background on the subject of the album. Great review!

Thank you! And me too - highly recommend James' three-part podcast series on Jara if you haven't already come across it!

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