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Oh Mummy, whats a sex pistol?
Journal For Plague Lovers - Manic Street Preachers
Member Name: obscuredbykep
Journal For Plague Lovers - Manic Street Preachers
Advantages: More from the great Richey James Edwards
Disadvantages: Some songs poorly made.
==Journal For Plagued Lovers==
Richey Edwards disappeared in February 1995. He was due to fly to the US; he had been withdrawing £200 a day for the past week or so, checked out the Embassy hotel at seven am, and then drove from London to Cardiff. On valentines day that year, his car got a parking ticket, and three days later was reported as abandoned. It is then assumed he jumped off the Severn Bridge. His body has never been found, but there have been rumored sightings of him all over the world. Either way, on November 23rd 2008, he officially became missing - presumed dead.
Richey Edwards was the lyricist behind the Manic Street Preachers, and wrote most of their songs, up until his disappearance. He is particularly well known from the photographs following an interview with Steve Lamacq, then working for NME. When he questioned Edwards' seriousness, Richey responded by using the razor he had, to carve "4 REAL" into his forearm. He was the whole drive behind the band, and when he disappeared, the band chose to continue, using four songs Richey had written for their 1996 album, "Everything Must Go".
I have been a fan of the Manics since they released their 1998 album, "This is my truth: tell me yours", which was the only album I had really heard. My ex-girlfriend, Sophie however, was a huge fan, and through that, I began listening to their discography, and discovered just how good the band really are. Their latest release beings the album count to 9.
A few weeks before he disappeared, Richey Edwards gave Nicky Wire (bassist) a folder, which contained various songs, haikus and collages. He gave photocopies to James Dean Bradfield (guitar + vocals) and Sean Moore (drummer). The Rymans folder with a picture of Bugs Bunny drawn on the front and the word "Opulence", contained 28 songs, of which four were used for "Everything must go", and around 10 were too short or impossible to turn into songs. The rest, make up this album. The first Manic Street Preachers album to contain lyrics 100% from Richey James Edwards. Nicky wire announced that no singles would be released from the album.
The album artwork was done by Jenny Saville, who designed the last album's artwork which Richey was alive for, "The Holy Bible".
== The Album ==
Opening with a strange extract from a film or something, which appears to have nothing to do with the actual song, but is swiftly followed by the music. It begins with a strong bass beat, and some gravelly sounding guitars come over, throbbing alongside the drum beat. Bradfield's vocals seem to have returned to the same sort of sound used on their previous albums (I was disappointed with their last..), and the song has a pretty sweet sounding chorus. The music repeats the same beats and riffs, and it too contains beautiful resemblance to their early work. While it certainly a pretty good song, it doesn't really contain anything which makes it stand in the back of my mind all the time, and certainly isn't the highlight of the album.
'''Jackie Collins Existential Question Time'''
A synthesized sounding riff opens this track up, leading into a nice soft rift with a gentle underlying series of chords. The drums that are beating have a real strength behind them, and as the verse begins, there are two guitar riffs being played - one from the left and one from the right. The chorus sees that original synthesised sound being played again, and is the short refrain of "Oh Mummy, what's a sex pistol?". It is a pretty catchy song, although not one of my favourites from the album.
'''Me and Steven Hawking'''
Opening with some German or Russian, or something, which, as normal seems to bear no relevance to the song. The real opening though is great, it has a sweet riff that has a sturdy back to it. The music in general is really catchy, and the lyrics are sung with some real tune to them, creating one of my favourite tracks from the album. The chorus is sang slowly, which suits the song nicely, before thudding back into the verses. iTunes says that is my third favourite from the album, which I think is fair to say. While they said they won't be releasing any singles from the album, this, if they did, would have been perfect.
'''The Joke Sport Severed'''
Opening acoustic, a simple series of notes, before the chords come in. The guitar has a nice folk sound to it, and the lyrics when they come in, are double tracked, sounding slightly eerie. Two guitars, nothing else. It then has a strange break down, after a chorus or so, with some crazy random sounds, before the song opens into the full band. Back to an electric guitar, a bass line, a great drum line, and even sound orchestral strings to add a touch of class. Definitley my second favourite track on the album, bringing my only complaint to be that maybe it's a bit too short.
'''Journal for Plagued Lovers'''
Drums and feedback, and a stiff bass line begin this song. It has an old feel to it, like some of their early work in "Generation Terrorists", but mixed with "Everything Must Go". Very nice indeed. The music behind the track is OK, nothing massively special or catching, kind of your average Manics track I suppose. It doesn't have anything that really sticks in my mind, and even despite having listened to it about a dozen times, I couldn't think how it sounded when it started.
'''She Bathed Herself in a Bath of Bleach'''
This has a great strong bass line, thrown gently behind the drums which pound louder that the strumming on Bradfield's guitar. It has a real angry sound behind it, just like their work on "Generation Terrorists", in fact it would have fitted nicely on that album. The bass leads the song through, except in the chorus when some indistinct guitar chords are struck, and later when there is a nice little solo piece, which fits in pretty well. I read somewhere, that it was written about someone that Richey met whilst in hospital.
_ "She'd walk on broken glass for love_
_She thought burnt skin would please her lover_
_To keep love alive and lust beside_
_Kind people should never be treated like..."_
'''Facing Page: Top Left'''
Another acoustic piece, with a real clear sound to it. It is a really simple song, just Bradfield and his guitar, no drums, no bass, just a splash of some sort of plucked string instrument with a highish pitch, which I have just discovered are Welsh Harps. It is another of my favourites from the album, although I cannot get my head around the lyrics, which are I think, about neophobia, or the fear of something new. The song in whole is a great number, which I imagine would sound awesome performed live with the echoes from the room adding reverb to the powerful sounding song.
_"Private care, sugar pills, the flak of healing._
_Fragrance my escort of no meaning_
_This beauty here dipping neophobia."_
It opens with an annoying synthesised sounding drum beat, which I don't like. Overlapped with a strange and frankly boring guitar riff that just folds over the drums. So, for a beginning the song does nothing for me, but as it gets in, and the stupid sounds of fake drums and naff guitar give way to the Manics actually playing their instruments properly, we have a half decent song, with the verses containing that darn drumming. I think this is actually one song where they have not done Richey's words justice, I really don't think the music fits the lyrics properly, and it doesn't have much of a Manic Street Preachers feel to it at all. Probably one of the tracks the album could easily have skipped.
'''Doors Closing Slowly'''
Some piano notes fade in briefly, but only stay for a second or two, before a slow thud of the drums enters, and a few gentle clangs from the guitar. It is one of those songs, that I don't know if I like. While it has some great lyrics from Richey Edwards, I think it is the second instance where the band have failed to deliver a great song from it, it isn't unlistenable, just, boring. Maybe it's too slow paced, it just seems to go on for ages, and not in a good way.
'''All is Vanity'''
We go from a boring song, to something much better. A clatter on the symbols and a quick roll on the drums see this song opening up. The riff from the guitar with the deep bass and well timed drums opens a great sounding song. The intro is long, much longer than all the others anyway, reaching nearly a minute, and the music is continued through the two verses that the song consists of. While is isn't a masterpiece by any description, it has a catchyness to it, although the absence of any solo piece from the guitar maybe detracts from the song, and if you stuck in something really decent in, the track would be sure to reach one of my favourites.
'''Pretention / Repulsion'''
It begins with quickly, just a riff on the guitar and then the singing bass and drums come in, no messing around. Musically the verses keep very simple, the basic little riff and unimaginative drumming keep it going nicely. Come the chorus however, and we have something that sounds perfect for sitting in "The Holy Bible", containing the anger or whatever it was they processed back then, it sounds great. The solo guitar piece is short and not so sweet, mediocre at best, but no matter how crap the solo and the verses, the fact that the chorus has a real buzz to it makes it a really decent song.
'''Virginia State Epileptic Colony'''
It opens with something that sounds really un-manics, but soon reverts to their sound. The verses are simple, a nice drum beat and some clattering from the guitar, and although I cannot hear it distinctly a bass line hidden their somewhere to. But the chorus is where this song shines, maybe its just the way "V-S-E-C" is sang, but it really has a great sound, and from then on the song is just so much better. Rather than a guitar solo, there is a little break down piece, with a piano and guitar taking it in turns to play a little tune, sounds pretty decent, then it is time for a couple more renditions of that catchy chorus.
'''William's Last Words'''
Opening with some strange sounds which I see as nothing but wasted time, the song soon properly opens to the rolling drum beat. Musically, blissfully simple. Quiet drums. Acoustic strumming, and just a hint of bass, and to sing - well, as a change, it is Mr. Nicky Wire, since Bradfield didn't feel right singing it. This song can be viewed, as being as close to a suicide note as anything from Richey Edwards, and is both lyrically and musically beautiful. The use of violins, cellos and other stringed things, add a shining beauty unbeknown to the rest of the tracks, and serve as an unquestionably perfect close for the album, and for Richey. Initially, the track really annoyed me. I didn't like it at all, I hated Wire's singing, and thought it was far too drab for the song, and it just sounds so un manics-like. But now, that is what I like about it. It sounds different to everything they have ever done, with only vague similarities, and of course the genius behind the lyrics. The song really grew on me, and is now my favourite track on the album, and contains the best lyrics by far, which although are at times ridiculously simple, contain a deep sincerity to them.
_ "Goodnight my sweetheart_
_Until we leave tonight_
_Hold me in your arms_
_Wish me some luck as you wave goodbye to me"_
_"You're the best friends I ever had_
_Goodnight, sleep tight_
_Goodnight, God bless_
_Goodnight, nos da_
_I'll try my best"_
'''Bag Lady (Hidden Track)'''
Open a deep bass line, and a strange clatter of the guitars, sounding distant and unimportant. The music contains some old sounds to it, and the singing does too, it is another track that would fit nicely on one of their older albums, maybe "Generation Terrorists" or "Gold Against the Soul" It sounds like they haven't tried to move on at all, and have successfully relapsed to their old sound - and it is awesome. The lyrics are like a poem, it is really well written, and the music compliments it very nicely.
_ "To be morally good_
_Only rather to love_
_A devil pretending to be a god_
_Laws written on paper and paper burns_
_Eternity is not a sunrise"_
== The album as a whole ==
So, I went and got it as soon as I possibly could, eager to hear more from Richey James Edwards. Looking forward to hearing how the Manics would sound, after being really disappointed with their last album, and falling more in love with their earliest work. I had read that they had been playing with going back to their "The Holy Bible" days, which is possibly one of their best albums, and I can certainly see the areas where they have tried this. I can see touches of "Generation Terrorists" and "Everything Must Go" too, but it is such a mixed album I really don't know what to think.
While they have definitely beaten their last album, which I despise, and contains about 2 tracks at the most I listen to, they haven't produced a consistent enough album for me to put it along side their early work at all, which is really disappointing. Being the last time that Richey's work will appear in the band, I had hoped for a really fond, strong goodbye. I wanted an album that had the power behind it that their early works did, only slightly wizened by experience. I wanted to hear something that I thought Richey Edwards had helped produce, that he had been pivotal in, something which bore resemblances to what the band used to be. I was disappointed.
Sure, they did, in places a great job. There are some tracks on the album which have been stuck in my head for days, some which I listen to over and over again. But they are spaced with songs which just fill, just use up Richey's lyrics for the sake of creating an album. It's like being handed gold and coating it with bronze. Why do it?
I understand their ambitions, to finally use Richey's last pieces, to put him to rest, to, in a way, have a final goodbye, and everlasting tribute. But if I was Richey, I would rather be remembered for my contributions to "The Holy Bible" and "Generation Terrorists" than this, it just isn't fitting enough for such a talented lyricist.
You can get the album for £8.99 from HMV, or for £15.99 you can get the 2 Disk Special Edition, which contains demos for the songs too. The demos are good quality, not like really early crap versions, but just before the final touches and last minute changes were made.
'''Do I recommend it? '''
I am struggling. I really want to say yes, but I'm battling saying no. It left me with real mixed feelings. I think, I would give it 4 stars. The good tracks on the album are great, and it contains some awesome pieces, and I suppose, the poor tracks aren't shit, just not what I was hoping for.
'''Have a listen?'''
Bag Lady - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LipcAZzXGw4
William's Last Words - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Qepn6PN8Y4
The Joke Sport Severed -http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLupZxHkIdA&fe ature=related
Summary: More from the great Richey James Edwards