(I Miss The) Tokyo Skyline

(I Miss The) Tokyo Skyline: 3

The band has always had a sweet relationship with Japan – in their early days some of their most ardent fans were from Japan, their good friend and photographer Mitch Ikeda is Japanese, and Richey had an affinity with many of the cultural norms. That it took this long to write a song that mentions Japan specifically may surprise some. Perhaps if that ‘City album’ that the band talked about many years ago had come around, then maybe it would have featured something related to Japan. Presumably this song and many of the other recent songs with a city name in the title were borne out of that concept.

Back to the song itself, and it’s another lonely, sad affair on an album filled with similar moments. However, the inclusion of the gorgeous Japanese strings is gripping and startling in its newness, not least because you don’t expect such things from the band, but because you never hear anything like this in modern Western music. That inclusion alone marks the song as one of the more interesting on the album for me. James whispers his way through the verses, and barely stretches beyond hushed words in the chorus, but the emotional core still manages to break through. It can’t quite escape the pervading dullness which seeps through the album. It’s simply another acoustic song with some interesting additions from the Japanese strings and  electronic backing.

The Story Of The Song: I can’t be arsed quote hunting for every track, but given the band’s prior affinity for Japan it seems quite obvious that Nick still holds the Country and its capital in high esteem, even if it’s mainly because he can become completely isolated and unknown in its bustling streets. Hopefully I’m not gaslighting, but it’s not a song about how weird/futuristic/cute the place is, but like Australia it’s more used as a proxy for Nicky’s own desires – to be away, to be alone, to be at peace.

Natwest-Barclays-Midlands-Lloyds

A mostly pseudo Glam-Metal song packed with crushing guitars and little flourishes and riffs as the band takes apart the evils of Consumerism and banking.  The lyrics are exactly as you expect from the young band for a song with this name –  shouty slogans such as ‘death sanitized through credit’ and ‘the more you own the more you are’, though the ‘blackhorse apocalypse I’ve always found particularly apt and descriptive, comparing one of the bank’s mascots to Biblical imagery. The music is hardly innovative, but I do have a nostalgic fondness for much of Generation Terrorists which allows me to ignore what is otherwise a very plain song. The best moment though comes right at the end, with a fantastically creepy piano and guitar piece that doesn’t feel like anything else on the song, or on the album, a moment which (looking back) is filled with eerie, prophetic tones of doom, hinting at a future which has already passed us by.

Nat West – Barclays – Midlands – Lloyds: 3/good

The Story Of The Song: The song takes its title from four major British banks and discusses how much power they wield in society – it doesn’t really matter which one you turn to and as an individual you’re beholden to them from birth. There’s maybe something in there about how financial institutions have become the new religion, the single authority governing society and individuals, though that may be me reaching. Many have suggested the song was written because Nicky was refused a loan – way to get one back!

Misheard Lyrics: Economic fuckers

2. Oh to beat in Asia

3. Apathy is secrecy (I like this one better)

4. Lifeless automatons

Actual Lyrics: Economic forecast.

2. Words of Euthenasia

3. Apathy of sick routine.

4. Life as automatons

Little Girl Lost

A rambunctious, stiff little rocker, this B-side to Your Love Alone Is Not Enough hits the ground running and doesn’t let up. There’s nothing new or surprising here, it’s just a plain, old fashioned rock song with nifty vocals and summery melodies. Nothing special, but fun nonetheless. I like how every second is squeezed for detail – there isn’t a moment to breathe or a moment wasted, no pauses between transitions. James is going full pelt on guitar and in his vocals, with some of his finest snark in their post Rock days. There’s a cool bit of shredding in there for the solo – he doesn’t get a chance to whip out the shred much these days so you can tell when he’s enjoying himself – the extended little string bend right at the end of the solo for example, there’s no need for it but fuck if he’s gonna do it anyway. It’s barely over two minutes long, so even if you don’t enjoy it it’s before before you know.

Little Girl Lost: 3/Good

The Story Of The Song: It takes it’s name from the title of a William Blake poem, apparently. I don’t know if it’s based on anyone in particular, but it feels like another fan service/fan slapping song – both a dedication to and a loving critique of a particular listener.

Misheard Lyrics: 1.Hold you there till there’s nothing left

2. You’ve been looking to hop so soon.

Actual Lyrics: Hold you there till there’s no pain left.

2. You’ve been looking for hope so soon

Foggy Eyes

An entirely lackluster cover for the Indian Summer release, I haven’t heard the original but based on how inane and boring this is I have no interest in seeking it out. It’s another song with a silly filter on the vocals, the guitars are drivel, the band sound like they are playing in their sleep, the melodies are terrible, the lyrics are fine but their delivery is irritating as hell. The majority of the song is based around a very simple riff which repeats and repeats – that wouldn’t be so bad if the riff was remotely interesting or if the verse melody didn’t mirror the riff. There really isn’t anything positive to say about this at all, unless you have a particular affinity for James shouting ‘bang, bang, BANG’ at the end. A low point.

Foggy Eyes: 1/Crap

The Story Of The Song: It’s a cover of a song by Beat Happening (no, me neither). At this point in their career they were chucking any old shite on their B-Sides – lots of instrumentals, covers, and experimental fannying with no real direction. Fair enough.

Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head

The second Manics cover song I ever heard. The first was Bright Eyes, which is both a better song and a better cover. It’s another idiosyncratic cover of a classic song, you’d almost think the band were a bunch of hipsters for covering something like this. Then again, they’ve always liked Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid – the film being name checked in popular B-Side Sepia. This was the band’s first recording after Richey’s disappearance, contributing to the War Child Charity album. It’s an authentic, touching cover and depending on the day I like it more than at other times. I don’t have anything bad to say about it, it’s just one of those songs that I’m too familiar with that I feel locked in by it’s all pervading fame and therefore want nothing to do with it. James does a great job belting out certain phrases with typically Manic phrasing, and it has some sweet horn play in the middle to hint at what would come in their next album. It’s a decent cover, but not one I particularly want to hear again.

Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head: 2/Okay

Happy Ending

Happy Ending: 3/Good

As the title suggests, this does sound happy, one of the very few songs in the Manics catalogue that sounds genuinely content. It’s another very simple song with simplistic, poor, repeated lyrics from the Lifeblood/There By The Grace Of God era, and at the time felt like a possible goodbye from the band. The band seemed like they wanted to go in one direction musically, but there was an uncertainty over whether they could convince themselves and fans of this direction, so possibly they would just pack it all in instead. Happily they didn’t, and we are left with this curious, piano driven pseudo-goodbye, pseudo-dedication. The melodies are amicable enough, Bradfield hits some high notes and while the song reaches for those crowd-pleasing chorus peaks the piano makes it feel more like a Coldplay song in places. It rarely goes beyond ‘yeah, this song sounds nice and nothing else’ but it’s enjoyable enough in small doses to keep it higher than average for me, with extra points because the band sound like they are content. 

The Story Of The Song: I’m not sure if the band has ever talked publicly about this one, but based on what they were going through at the time – the downgrading from Stadium chart toppers, the changes in musical and stylistic direction, the boredom Wire was always mentioning in interviews, and of course the lyrics themselves, it seems reasonable to assume they had this planned or written as a thanks and good bye song. It’s a little too soppy in one way for a band as angry and punk as they are, but it does fit. If it was meant to be a goodbye, I’m surprised they released it at all.

Let us know your thought in the comments!

Little Trolls

One of Wire’s finest lyrical moments, this one is a savage response to some journalist’s racist attack on the Welsh; if there’s one lesson folks, it’s that you don’t go up against a Manic in a verbal war and hope to win. The lyrics are of course brilliant; funny, perfect one-liners, and Bradfield’s deadpan delivery is spectacular.

Musically there isn’t a whole lot to say – a simple blending of electric and acoustic, notable only because of the little middle section where Bradfield shrieks like a monster. There are easily missed moments of interest – the acoustic guitars feel like they’re being played with a floor brush rather than by hand, and the electric parts are extra fuzzy. The percussion is light in the mix too.

At its core this is a protest song with a simple hook, and you feel like it wouldn’t be as fondly remembered if the lyrics had been unremarkable.

Little Trolls: 3/Good

The Story Of The Song: Critic, writer, Journo, dead guy, A A Gill wrote a piece on Wales and Welsh people in The Sunday Times for some reason. He didn’t think much of the Welsh, and described them as dirty, ugly little trolls and other such jibes. His comments were even reported to the Commission for Racial Equality, to which he responded that he couldn’t care less as the Welsh have said plenty about the English with no comeback. While much of what was said was done in a tongue in cheek manner, the twat clearly had some deep-seated issues with the Welsh which he covered up with the bravado of Trump-supporting Podcaster. Wire didn’t approve of the insults and responded in kind.

Misheard Lyrics: You taste but ridiculous

2: Pay your dues and pay your tolls

3: Live like animals/Live like Hannah Balls/Live like Anna Boulds

Actual Lyrics: Your taste buds ridiculous

2: Pay our dues and pay our tolls

3: Live like cannibals

Let us know what you think of Little Trolls in the comments!

Sex, Power, Love, Money

I think I would like this one a lot more if James had picked literally ANY other way to sing than the cringeworthy way he does. Is he rapping, is he speaking? It’s not right whatever it is. The chorus is fine, but the verse vocals make me want to pull my shirt over my face and hide until it goes away. Making matters worse are Wire’s ill-advised bonus vocals building up to the chorus, and the embarrassing old man lyrics. And whatever the hell that cowbell thing is – I CAST THEE OUT! It’s a shame because there’s a better song in there somewhere, and it even manages a decent guitar solo at the end. It’s best forgotten.

Sex, Power, Love, and Money: 2/Okay

Misheard Lyrics: A recycled novel, women inside

2: Its tone is truthful, it really never lies

3: Self fuck your tears as they rain from above

Actual Lyrics: It reads like a novel

2: It’s cold, it’s truthful, it really never lies

3: Set fire to tears as they rain from above

The Story Of The Song: Is it about money and greed, is it about the blurring of political and class lines when you reach such a level of wealth that such things don’t matter anymore? Is it about the self-made tech and social media billionaires? Fuck knows.

 

Underdogs

The most openly punk, and most overtly silly song from Send Away The Tigers it’s a dedication to fans, to those of us outsiders and freaks and underdogs. The lyrics are mostly poor although we appreciate the sentiment. Musically it’s very simple, the verses swept along by chugging, muted guitars, with a sudden explosion of manic drums and electric guitars for the chorus. It’s a fun bit of fluff, a curious moment of charity by the band, and one that comes off as both bizarre and harmless.

Underdogs: 3/Good

Misheard Lyrics: And the disposable destiny/and the dis-a-poseable (?) destiny

2: Shining bright but not disappeared

3: Passive like some faded stars

Actual Lyrics: And the disciples of our destiny

2: Shining bright but now disappeared

3: Passing like some fading stars

The Story Of The Song: It’s ostensibly a dedication to the fans. From day one, superfans of the Manics have been notable for being what idiots may term ‘freaks’. As the band became more popular, you can see a clear division in the fandom – those who came on board around the time of Everything Must Go (myself included) and who only like the big hits (myself not included), and those who are obsessed with the band and love everything. Then there are those who take it further by dressing up like Nicky and Richey. The song was the first single from Send Away The Tigers and in a rare moment of whatthefuckery from the band, they encouraged fans to send video footage of themselves to be spliced into the video. Ironically, fan reception of the song was not positive, so much so that the song was removed from the re-release of the album.

 

Epicentre

Another track that should by rights vanish into obscurity within the thousand other songs on Know Your Enemy, and for most fans that probably is the case. But I’ve always ranked it as my favourite non-single from the album, mini-epic that it is. The lyrics are more simple, personal, and poetic than the more overt political stuff elsewhere on the album, and the sound is cleaner and mature. A blend of piano and acoustic guitar verse and a slightly heavier chorus, it is once again the melodies that make this most memorable for me, with Bradfield providing a fine range of singalong moments. Nothing about the song is huge or immediately catchy, but the building of the simplicity has a hypnotic quality so that every subsequent time the ‘feels like’ line comes around it is more powerful. We don’t really need the addition of the swirling part of Masking Tape added at the end, but it doesn’t hurt the song.

Epicentre: 4/Great

Misheard Lyrics: 1. I’m slipping myself away, into the gridlock of yesterday

2. A love song destroyed

Actual Lyrics: 1. I’m sleeping myself away into the blurred life of yesterday

2. My nerves are destroyed

The Story Of The Song: I don’t have a lot of info on this one, rather than being about ‘a thing’, it seems to be a collection of Nicky’s feelings about himself. And he showcases himself as a bit of a mess – trembling, tired, ambivalent, numb, but lucid enough to mock himself and his foibles.