Sony - 2004 - 45 minutes

For Manics diehards, used to these Welshmen's radical rantings, the title of this record's lead single, 'The Love of Richard Nixon', must surely be disarming. Its music is in equally unfamiliar, airy synth-pop territory.

The track's only saving grace is the couplet "People forget China and your war on cancer", which suggests all may not be lost in the lyrics department at least. On 'Empty Souls', though, we're treated to clumsy couplets like "...collapsing like the Twin Towers/Falling like April showers".

'A Song for Departure' is worse - with its ascending, muted guitar chords, vocal harmonies and polite piano line, it's practically MOR. It even closes with a tearaway electric guitar riff that wouldn't be out of place on a 'Top Gear' compilation. And this was a band that called their debut album 'Generation Terrorists' – imagine doing that in 2004.

Without James Bradfield's signature vocals that are perhaps the band's most recognisable feature, you wouldn't even recognise piano ballad 'I Live To Fall Asleep' as the Manics at all. The vocal tennis on 'Always/Never', meanwhile, is simply dreadful.

'To Repel Ghosts' and 'Emily' are somewhat rockier affairs, and 'Glasnost' has something of a socialist message to put proceedings back on Manic Street. The album's most interesting track both musically and lyrically is closer 'Cardiff Afterlife', undoubtedly a reference to former guitarist Richey Edwards, who has been missing, presumed dead since his car was found at an area near Bristol notorious for suicides in 1995.

Ultimately though, there's absolutely nothing on this record to match the crashing guitar riff on 'A Design for Life', the roaring chorus of 'Motorcycle Emptiness' or even the pop rock catchiness of 'If You Tolerate This' from the band's 1998 album, 'This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours'. With retrospect, signs on that album pointed in this softer direction for the band, but it has to be said that 'Lifeblood' is still a disappointment.

Bill Lehane

Tracklisting: 1985 – The Love of Richard Nixon – Empty Souls – A Song for Departure – I Live To Fall Asleep – To Repel Ghosts – Emily – Glasnost – Always/Never – Solitude Sometimes Is – Fragments- Cardiff Afterlife