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I am a huge Manic Street Preachers Fan and I have seen them once in London (Which is actually a lot by my standards) and I own three of their works, two of which are greatest hits albums and one is a single. The other album I own is also a greatest hits album which also has a lot of their best work but is more focused on a more concentrated period of time and does not include some of their earliest work and some of their later work. This CD was released at the end of October last year dnd was bought for me as a gift at Christmas.
The front cover features a pretty girl who looks around 16 with some sort of brass instrument hanging (don't wan't to show my ignorance) over her neck, their is grass in the background and the sky is blue but is a dulled, almost gray blue, behind the girl lies an old brass building.
I think the cover is ok but it does not evoke any particular strong feeling and I feel its actually not meant to have any particular meaning to it. I would have preferred the cover to be a bit more brighter and vibrant.
1. Motown Junk:
I find this song to be bland and uninteresting, as with most manic street preachers songs its hard to make out all the words but I have always felt this song's words were probably not so good and having checked them on Wikipedia my feelings were confirmed as the lyrics just repeat themselves a lot and have not got a clear meaning or purpose. Compared to some of their work it is a lyrically very poor song. As for style it is a sort of more punky song than a lot of their work, which is usually more rocky.
An exert showing the relative banality of the lyrics:
"Motown junk a lifetime of slavery
Songs of love echo underclass betrayal
Stops your heart beating for 168 seconds
Stops your brain thinking for 168 seconds
Motown junk, motown junk, motown junk, motown junk"
2. Stay Beautiful
This is a song that I first heard only after receiving the CD, its actually a 1991 release just like the song above which are both from the album generation terrorist.
I really like this song its catchy and is in my view an assault on channels such as MTV and the like which even then where very much consumerist and where tending towards showing vacuous music made by good looking, in-fashion people instead of showing good music of substance. It is even more relevant now than when it was when it was released in my view with the problems the manics complain of in this song having just multiplied further and further:
Lyrically it starts of strong and fades a little but the first two verses are real class in my view:
"Find your faith in your security
All broken up at seventeen
Jam your brain with broken heroes
Love your masks and adore your failure
We're a mess of eyeliner and spraypaint
D.I.Y. destruction on chanel chic
Deny your culture of consumption
This is a culture of destruction"
Which is saying that bands like the Jam don't exist any more in the mainstream and this is now true for great bands like the Manics and even non political bands such as blur. It is a catchy rocky song and after hearing it a few times I am sure you will agree its a good part of their work
3. Loves Sweet Exile
First heard this at the Manics concert Last year and they were telling us that they thought it was going to be a big song that left an inalienable mark on a generation.
Having listened to it you have to wonder why! Its a classic case of a band often not being the ones in the best value to judge the merits for good or bad of their own song, note I say band and not the factory produced blandness we are stuck with these days, it seems.
It does have ok lyrics, again about the oppressed worker and lower middle classes of which most of us belong. However the chorus just sounds drony and whiny rather than stirring and emotional like some of their other material. A plus point is that their is a pretty good guitar solo in this song.
4. You Love Us
This song is where we start getting to the more well known stuff, this is a great song with good lyrics and a driving rock guitar and anthemic chorus, "You Love US" is probably overall mostly a swipe at the music industry of the time accusing the manics of being unable to connect with an audience when playing live.
The music industry was against the manics, like a lot of capitalists because they are a genuine threat to their way of doing things and a threat to the vacuous music they make money of of.
5. Slash and Burn:
Like You love us this is a song with very heavy guitar and a fairly catchy chorus, it was one I heard just last year not long before I received this album. I thought it was about boom and bust economics but now thing the song meaning of this song is actually quite elusive, I don't have any idea as to what its singing about in this case!
Not quite as good as you love us, in my opinion but unlike Loves sweet exile and Mowtown Junk I do not skip it when it comes on my cd.
6. Motorcycle Emptiness
Probably the greatest track they have ever done from an elitist perspective, everything about this song is great from the deep and meaningful poetic lyrics to the
gorgeous, heart wringing guitar solo and the emotive vocals in the chorus.
Culture Sucks Down Words (How this society has been dumbed down and how peoples views are moulded by what they read and social engineering)
Itemise Loathing and feed yourself Smiles ( Buying happiness in a nut shell but really not feeling good about it or anything, no true happiness to be acquired through purchase).
Organise your safe tribal war (about both how those in power will use the average person as their soldiers to go and fight some enemy whilst they sit comfortably in their house at no risk,and also how we protest things but never have the courage to bring about real change through revolution as we have become to scared of death)
"Under Neon Loneliness, Motorcycle emptiness"
Its just great to sing to this line at the top of your lungs, Neon Loneliness is a symbolism of how all our cities are so bright and vibrant and yet its all artificial and how we can be surrounded by people in a city yet feel all alone, what's lacking is a sense of society and belonging. Motorcycle emptiness is a personal reference to the manics upbringing where they lived in an a poor area hard hit by the impact of the loss of mining and how they lived close to a wealthy area where more affluent teens bought motorcycles and how this society made them feel isolated and excluded. It is also a reference to how the purchase of the bike did not bring any real lasting happiness or increase in mental state of the consumers and how our society has become obsessed with possession,consumption and not meaningful spiritual and intellectual endeavour.
7. Theme from Mash
I love this song from a musical point of view and again it is a very catchy song, which begs to be screeched out at the top of your voice, again it has a great guitar solo and I love this cover which brings rock and blues to the track and the guitar solo is up there with motorcycle emptiness. Good lyrics but not theirs!
8. Little babby nothing:
A song about how its immoral to pay or use women for sex and also partly a critque on some fellow marxists who think a women is empowered by being "desired" and having freedom of her own body, well the song makes it clear that people desire something they can not materially own, that is beauty " your pretty face offends because its something real I can't touch".
Also explains Ritchies intrest in buddahism near the end with the lines "you are young, you are pure, we are the usual sluts that they mold" referring to both right wing capatilists who profit finacially from pornography and sexual explotation and left wing moral relatvists who profit ideologically from such an arrangment but richy aspires not to desire, to be bigger than the material realm.
9. From Despair to Where :
Is a song where the band member "Richey" who latter went missing, mention's his depression and how growing up is not such a great thing, how innocence becomes shattered and how happiness that we had as a child is harder to hold on to as an adult, another one that I love singing along to and another of my favourite tracks, I particularly like the acoustic guitar and style of signing in the first few lines.
10. La Tristesse Durera
Another anthem of a song which I love to sing to and again it has some great rocky guitar playing at its core. I love the base riff that plays through out the song.
"I see liberals, I am just a fashion accessory, People send post cards and they hope I feeling well."
This line contrasts the profoundness of the war veterans experience with the triviality of people sending postcards. The overal message is about war veterans and how it can cause some people depression and the horrors they may have gone through such as seeing friends die, in particular its about how we don't really appreciate world war two veterans who thought for us to save our freedom. "I sold my medal to pay some bills", a tragic indictment of society.
11. Roses in the Hospital:
A good song which is well reasonable. It has alright lyrics but I am not sure what its overall message is. Again the guitar solo is interesting but not scintillating like on some tracks.
12. Life Becoming a Landslide:
Is a catchy song that ambles along nicely, it is more a love song than most of their material and is about how we don't have true love a lot of the time and how people lust after others rather than truly loving someone.
Just an amazing song that is, as the title suggest, played at a breakneck tempo and the lyrics are spat out with aggression and conviction. The Lyrics are again truly poetic and awe-inspiring and at times obscure and difficult to extract the meaning with which they are undoubtedly loaded with. Heavy, heavy guitar returns to give this a grungy punky sub genre of rock feel.
A song I just don't like, for a band who are generally pro revolutionally I don't like the critique of communism it presents and its lack of appreciation for Lennon, Guevara etc, because people like that were hereo's (not stallin who was a despot). As is Castro, Morallez, Daniel Ortega and Chavez. I regard this song as anti-revolutionary to be blunt. Plus the lyrics are just way too confusing. I am all for abstract but this takes it to another dimension!
15. SHE IS SUFFERING:
A little depressing this song without any other arching hope to counteract the despair unlike a lot of the more enjoyable songs they produce. But it is a very deep song. Apparently the manics where into some aspects of Budaism which goes like this:
If you don't want things you can't experience the sadness of not having them, which is certainly logical but I am not sure if this philosophy is at all practical or even desirable!
16. A Design for Life:
Although this track, along with if you tolerate this your children will be next are probably the most widely known tracks and the signature tracks of the band they are not as good as motorcycle emptiness but are still sublime records, which I love.
Most people know what this song is means in general but their are lines that are up to interpretation as well which people can argue various subtlety different interpretations which are logically valid arguments. I don't however agree in total relativism, that what anyone takes out of a song is valid, that its not what the song means to the artist that should be interpreted, because it is.
Thus a number of people, the small minority, who have no concept of the word "metaphor" take the line "we don't talk about life, we only want to get drunk" as a literal criticism of how we all behave in society (which is actually a little true, that all classes do often like to drink, but does NOT relate to this songs meanings and unlike lots of parts of the song this line is NOT at all up to the listener to make up their own meaning by missing a blatant metaphor). Then there are people who know fine well that its a metaphor but because of their political views don't like to take the message of the song on board.
No the author actually states in an interview that it was meant to rope in people who weren't left leaning or interested in politics to make them think it was a drinking song but that most people should be able to easily understand the true meaning of the lyrics, as unlike other songs, they are not using some obscure, hard to comprehend metaphor.
I love the line "Work came and set us free" which is of course a well known line from Auschwitz.
17. Everything Must Go:
A good song with nice string accompaniment throughout, I enjoy this song but its not my favourite song of theirs.
18. Kevin Carter:
Is a song about a photographer who took a famous photograph of a girl starving in south africa, and who later killed himself, he received fierce criticism for not helping the girl, being more interested in photographing her plight than helping. The track is dark and moody and has a sort of mysterious feel to it with some lovely threatening trumpet solos marking a big contrast to a lot of their rock and occasionally heavy rock material.
A song with great guitar hooks (not so much the solo's which are still better than average), it is about how the band tried to deal with the loss of Richey, and how you can't escape your poblems by running away from them or pretending they don't exist.
Kind of ironic then that a lot of people from the UK are now emigrating to australia in search of a better life, I don't know if this was happening that much at the time of writing and whether the song was also meant to be a catch all for people emmigrating just like the manics, to escape their problems, the grass is always greener-type-syndrome.
1. If you Tolerate this then your children will be next
A great song, which is the other song that is most well known amongst the general public, which is a song all about world war two and in particular franco's part in it and the spanish civil war which occurred just prior to world war.
It details at first the naivety of the Welsh, Irish, Scots and English farmers and proletariat who signed up to fight the fascists "If I can shoot rabbits, then I can shoot facists" , "Bullets for your brain today, though we will forget it all again, monuments put from pen to paper turns me into a gutless wonder".
" Gravity keeps my head down, or is it mabye shame of being so young and being so vain." This is likely referring to how the communists used the young men not just to fight a war against franco but how different communists fought each other for power, those allied to russia and those not. It is a dual meaning because I think it also means the current young socialists thinking they are original and for them not recognising the sacrifices paid by our distant forbearer's in order for them to walk about with freedom.
"And on the street tonight, An old man plays with newspaper cuttings of his glory days." How the war is now just a distant memory of those of an older age, and perhaps is a critique into how it is not in the focus of our lives anymore".
The track is great and features some great string movements on it.
2. The Everlasting:
This one has some wurilizer type synths in it along with thrilling guitar and orchestral parts. Its a really emotive song and seems to be about old peoples intollerance of immigrants, as epitomised by the line " are you old I hear you say, it doesn't mean that that's ok, so dont forget or dont pretend, its the same all in the end"
Just another great song that you have to srcream along too.
3. You stole the sun from my heart
A good simple popy love song which makes a nice contrast to their more involved work and is more accessible to those who don't love poetry or deep lyrics, its a great little song and shows the manics versatility in my opinion. It was my favourite song when I was about 13 or so but now I realize their are far better manics songs, but it's still good!
A song about a massive wave, a metaphorical wave that is, it was about to twins who were alleged arrsonists who were put in prison because they never spoke, elective mutes, however their "only crime was silence" and the line "disco dancing with the rapists" refers to their time in prison which held discos every week.
When one died the other began to talk and so the sunami washing over me, is a cleansing act, a return to normality in a way.
5. So why so sad?
An alight song, its not as weak as Mowtown junk, nor half as sung by me as their other songs, when it comes on at home on my cd I can actually do other things rather than listen to it and sing! So its ok as background music but not much else.
6. The Masses Against the classes:
A great rocky song, with deep meaning in the lines " we love the winter, it brings us closer together" as in oppression against the worker class is meant to hurt them but it actually galvanizes and spurs them on. All though the line "success is an ugly word especially in your tiny world" is yet another of a line with dual meaning, it means both that the manics are not keen on the fans who think that their going more mainstream is a bad thing and also is an example of the disdain the upper class have for those beneath them. As epitimtimised by fox news pronouncements that we should revere the wealth creators and that if someone is hard done to its because they didn't work hard enough, not that the system is inherently unfair.
7. Found That Soul:
Another Track that I hadn't heard of prior to possessing this album. Its quite a rocky track in the more heavy grunge style rather than sonically pleasurable screaming guitar solo style such as on "motorcycle emptiness"
8. Ocean Spray:
Is quite a slow tempered affair and again is not one of their more well known songs, and again I had no knowledge of this song prior to owning this album. Its not so gripping as we usually expect but on the plus side it does have quite a chilled vibe to it and the reverbed trumpets we here in "Kevin Carter" are back.
9. Let Robeson Sing:
This one is another of their fairly big hits and along with motocycle emptiness, little baby nothin" one of my personal favourites. The lyrics are about the singer Paul Robeson who was involved in the black civil rights movement and also about his blacklisting under the extreme right wing M'carthy witch hunts against any one who was any less than right of centre or worse left wingers like Paul Robeson.
It also points how socialism can go wrong "went from cuba to see castro never got past sleepy moscow". Indeed people like paul robeson embodied the good fruits of marxism and not the more destructive elements, and whilst I know the Manics would not hesitate to call themselves marxists I feel they do so, like many, without a full understanding of the clearly bizare elements of engles communist manifesto such as viewing famlies as oppressive, hopefully tommorows socialists will be far left one nation socialists with independent views different from groups like the socialist worker party but that doesn't seem too likely sadly as many can't see the inequality that a philsopohy based on Engles "life only has value when given it by someone of higher worth" philosophy, which should have been inherently regarded as anti socialist but sadly many people end up being directed by people with this mantra, often thinking they are working for the greater good when they are not.
10. There by the grace of god:
Is an existential and well known song about the nature of the human condition. "All the drugs in the world can't . With with grace we will suffer, with grace we shall recover." Suggesting that we can't put death off for ever no matter how far medicine advances but that all the joys and pain we go through are all part of a bigger plan and that we will live again.
11. The Love of Richard Nixon:
A good song about a president who was infamous for the watergate scandal, but also about how his own party let him down in order to save face.
12. Empty souls:
Is more of a soft rock track a bit u2ish in sound but also whilst sounding typically manicish as well, its a nice track and somehow also manages to feel that it would work quite well as an electronic rock track such as the likes of keane play. This is a newish song dealing with terrorsim and the suggestion that things we see are not as we are lead to believe without stating what is the truth, which to me is more honest than any one who claims to know exactly how things really are.
13. Your love alone is not enough:
An even more recent track that is pretty catchy if not as deep as their other work, a simple love song. Which seems to me to just be about a couple in an imperfect relationship.
14. Autmn Song:
I really like the guitar loop in this song that starts the first few bars. Its meaning wasnt really clear to me however but people I know have told me its about being older and looking back on the statments a person makes when they are younger. Usually I get lyrics better than most folks.
15. Its not war (just end of love):
A great little song with lovely guitar hook that is classic manics and "classic" "modern" rock. Admittedly its the guitar rather than the lyrics that make this track
16. Some kind of nothingness:
A song explicitly about the dissapperance of Band member richey.
17. Post cards from a young man:
A song about how your ideals change as you get older and may also be an admitance that the world looked soley through a kaliedscope of left vs right is not the whole picture to the politics we see, that their are other dimesions and that some issues are wrong vs right.
18. This is the day:
A cover of a song by "the the" its a song about hope in a world that seems to give us much cause for doubt, remind me very much of the saying " a man can live for 3 days without water, 3 weeks without food but cant survive 3 minutes without hope"
19. Rock and roll genuis :
A comedy extra song with a pretty "talking heads once in a life time" souding guitar piece.
A great album with an extensive collection of their best works and will have you longing for the time music was THIS good, sadly it seems we may be subjected to two decades of the mainstream being dominated by the RNB dance stuff which has actually destroyed the decent works produced by both genres as well.
This review appears on ciao under the same user name
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Motown Junk
2 Stay Beautiful
3 Love's Sweet Exile
4 You Love Us
5 Slash 'N' Burn
6 Motorcycle Emptiness
7 Theme From M*A*S*H (Suicide Is Painless)
8 Little Baby Nothing
9 From Despair To Where
10 La Tristesse Durera (Scream To A Sigh)
11 Roses In The Hospital
12 Life Becoming A Landslide
15 She Is Suffering
16 A Design For Life
17 Everything Must Go
18 Kevin Carter
Disc #2 Tracklisting
1 If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next
2 The Everlasting
3 You Stole The Sun From My Heart
5 The Masses Against The Classes
6 So Why So Sad
7 Found That Soul
8 Ocean Spray
9 Let Robeson Sing
10 There By The Grace Of God
11 The Love Of Richard Nixon
12 Empty Souls
13 Your Love Alone Is Not Enough
15 Indian Summer
16 (It's Not War) Just The End Of Love
17 Some Kind Of Nothingness
18 Postcards From A Young Man
19 This Is The Day