The Ghosts Of Christmas

Christmas, eh? Everyone loves it – the food, the presents, the laughing at tramps who don’t get anything, the good will, and of course the music. I actually pity you poor yanks and your crappy Christmas music – everyone knows the UK owns the Christmas Song, although since our peak in the 70s and 80s there hasn’t been much to sing about. No surprise then that the Manics stepped up out of nowhere in 2007 with this slice of nostalgic perfection.

Musically, it has all the hallmarks you want, jolly, woozy, party music with big brass, jingle bells, and cheery chorus, and hooks as addictive as cocktail sausages. Lyrically wonderful it is too, each line marvelous at evoking universal memories – or universal for Britain. Footballs, Scalextric, drunken joy, Morcambe And Wise – this is a song which should be played alongside all of the other British favourites and deserves airplay every December on all of those terrible Top 50 Christmas song shows which take over the music channels on TV each year.

Misheard Lyrics: Sulu’s on the malteaser (?)

Actual Lyrics: Zulu’s on, the Milk Tray’s out

The Ghosts Of Christmas: 4/Great

Donkeys

Generic Ratings: 1: Crap. 2: Okay. 3: Good. 4: Great

A true cult favourite for most hardened fans, this one has been adopted by fans as their own anthem and dedication, hardly surprising with lines like ‘put some lipstick on, at least your lies will be pretty’ speaking a thousand truths for us outcasts and misfits who find affinity with the band. Musically it’s okay, standing out mainly for a fantastic solo and of course Bradfield’s high pitched final screech. I do like how the solo sounds so skyscraping, only for it to be restrained and drawn back as the song comes to a softer, stuttering finish.

This B-Side to Roses In The Hospital is one of the most highly regarded by fans and the band alike and would later appear on Lipstick Traces – I like it okay and go between giving it a 2 or 3 score, but the solo tends to keep it in the higher group.

Donkeys: 3/Good

Misheard Lyrics: 1. Donkeys don’t have lots of tears. Actual Lyrics: Donkeys don’t allow their tears.

Misheard Lyrics: 2. And emotion never fear. Actual Lyrics: No emotion never feel.

Misheard Lyrics: 3. Donkeys wake up in a sty. Actual Lyrics: Donkeys weight cracking a spine.

Misheard Lyrics: 4. Lost with solace inside/loves the silence inside. Actual Lyrics: Those with silence inside.

Misheard Lyrics: 5. Donkeys are only left with dice/lice. Actual Lyrics: Donkeys are only left with lies .

Love Letter To The Future

Generic Ratings: 1: Crap. 2: Okay. 3: Good. 4: Great

This is an interesting one, a B-Side from Your Love Alone Is Not Enough which seems like a straightforwards rocker, but has plenty of substance and an interesting and unusual structure, at least from this band’s perspective. It opens innocently enough with chugging chords fading into a big riff, which then gives way to thick, unsteady massive chords and superb Bradfield verse vocals. The chorus returns to the big riff with powerful enough melodies and lyrics sung over the top. We get Bradfield putting on his guitar God hat again for a brief solo before returning for another fun and furious chorus – it’s overall a fun song with a few decent ideas in its structure which raise it above being just another heavy B-side.

Love Letter To The Future: 3/Good

Misheard Lyrics: 1. Measuring our lives in coffee stains

Actual Lyrics: 1. Measuring out lives in coffee spoons

Send Away The Tigers

Generic Ratings: 1: Crap. 2: Okay. 3: Good. 4: Great

If any fans were put off by the experimental, electronic sounds of Lifeblood, then the opening track of Send Away The Tigers should see those fans sighing in relief. They play a little trick with a false organ start, but the opening guitar attack sets the tone for the album – a more streamlined, old fashioned rock sound with guitars, drums, bass, and vocals all unhindered by studio jiggerypokery. It’s a terrific opening riff, and the melodies and musical strength shines through the three and a half minutes, not allowing any spare seconds for additional nonsense – the point is made, and we can leave it at that. Lyrically, Wire seems to be on better form, and although the old themes of regret and nostalgia are prevalent there is a freshness to proceedings after the sleepy nature of the last album which makes you sit up and listen – and that chorus is bound to stay in your head for hours.

Send Away The Tigers: 3/Good (Patrick Jones video)

Misheard Lyrics:

  1. There’s no hope in the counties
  2. Faces on whores
  3. Same noise death and destroy
  4. Look at me I’m modest and free

Actual Lyrics:

  1. There’s no hope in the colonies
  2. Fixing some holes
  3. Same noise left to destroy
  4. Look at me I’m honest and free

Everyone Knows/Nobody Cares

Generic Ratings: 1: Crap. 2: Okay. 3: Good. 4: Great

Another B-Side from that point in time when Nicky was having extreme difficulty putting together more than a couple of lines for any song. Luckily the music is sweet enough that we can use the excuse of being elegiac to cover up the absence of inspiration. The watery, waif like beats are out of place, the bass is funky, the servant keys and sounds aptly encourage the cold tone, the voices and static electronic beat accentuated the unfeeling nature of the world which the song is talking about, but it’s the melodies which raise the song above being a dirge.

Everyone Knows/Nobody Cares: 3/Good

Rock And Roll Music

Generic Ratings: 1: Crap. 2: Okay. 3: Good. 4: Great

I was never a huge fan of this song, mainly because it’s been covered soo many times, by soo many artists that it’s completely pointless for anyone else to do it. There are a bunch of songs from this era which are better, which have hardly ever been covered, and plenty of artists with a similar sound who we know the band love who they haven’t covered. Why not do some Del Shannon? We know James loves him. Anyway, it’s given a nice thick edge, the piano remains intact, you know the song already and this isn’t really any different from any other version you’ve heard.

Rock N Roll Music: 2/Okay

You Love Us

Generic Ratings: 1: Crap. 2: Okay. 3: Good. 4: Great

Ostensibly where it all began, the song where the band truly announced itself to the world, looking every inch like a band nobody wanted and instead claiming to be the band everyone needed, the band to save the world or implode trying. Hated by other artists, feeding off the finger-pointing and setting themselves clearly apart from every other act in the world, they unleashed this torrent of seductive, caressing hatred, mocking fans, mocking themselves, and looking like they were having the most fun in the world, living the rock and roll dream while admonishing it for the nightmare it truly was. It’s a fast paced, chugging rock behemoth that didn’t sound like anything on the airwaves, Bradfield’s sneering vocals and lightning fast guitars, Edwards and Wire’s luscious stares and snarling wit, and Moore’s marching band percussive attack, it’s one of the classic statements in all of rock music. Looking at it as a song on its own merits, it is fairly simple stuff with a plain verse chorus attack, but there is such joy in the melody, in the unashamedly big chorus, and such brilliance in the final, Paradise City style instrumental blow out, that it can’t be avoided, or disliked.

The first link below is the album version – in my opinion the best version. There have been multiple versions of the song, each one with slight notable variances, so try all the links below and find your favourite. There was also a ‘new’ version a few years back but I can’t find a good link to it.

You Love Us: 4/Great

Video

Heavenly version

Stars N Stripes Mix

Misheard Lyrics:

  1. Our voices are furry
  2. Realize and won’t be bought
  3. Honestly we can never be loved
  4. Throw some mess into your face
  5. Your lessons drill in heaven instead
  6. Parliament you flick like C4 (?)
  7. Your life a cycle holocaust/you love a psycho holocaust

Actual Lyrics:

  1. Our voices are 4Real
  2. We realised and won’t be mourned
  3. Understand we can never belong
  4. Throw some acid onto your face
  5. Your lessons drill inherited sin
  6. Parliament’s a fake life saver
  7. Your life is like a holocaust

 

Little Baby Nothing

Generic Ratings: 1: Crap. 2: Okay. 3: Good. 4: Great

The band may have been seen as cross-dressing, eye-liner and lipstick wearing freaks in their early days, spouting political sleaze and dirty little punk songs, but it wasn’t until Little Baby Nothing that many of the reasons behind the sleaze and the look became clear. This was a feminist band, almost in militant fashion, not a band who simply dressed that way because they were hot enough to pull it off, not simply espousing and waxing lyrical on the struggles of women due to some designed outsider chic. This was a band who thoroughly despised male dominated culture and called it out for the systematic destruction and whoring of species that it was. Musically and lyrically one of the finest, and most pure in terms of its targeting from any Manics album, it’s clearly a high mark.

The band’s first duet, bringing on board ex Porn Star Traci Lords (after they couldn’t get Kylie Minogue) to perform vocal duties, the lyrics are poignant and potent and merge perfectly with the glossy 80s sheen of the sound. Bradfield tugs at all the strings with his performance, the melodies are gold throughout, and I adore the shift from the verse and chorus to the final section. It certainly comes across as cheesy in its sound now, but it doesn’t take long to look past that to find the honesty of the intent and the power of the music. For my money, it’s also (easily) the best video the band has ever made.

Misheard Lyrics (it feels somehow wrong doing this to what is one of the most gorgeous lyrics of all time, but there you go):

  1. Not allowed to connect you
  2. To steal frequent love
  3. Need to do long (?)
  4. Orderly behind his money
  5. Asking for condolerijusive (??) flowers
  6. Loveless labour
  7. Dress your life in loving
  8. Breaking your mind with Bobby Dom fertility (?)
  9. Mouths broken up, quenched to the last

Actual Lyrics:

  1. No-one likes looking at you
  2. To steal vacant love
  3. Need to belong
  4. All they leave behind is money
  5. Eyes, skin, bone, contour, language as a flower
  6. Loveless slavery
  7. Dress your life in loathing
  8. Breaking your mind with Barbie Doll futility
  9. Moths broken up, quenched at last

Little Baby Nothing: 4/Great (Album version)

Found That Soul

Generic Ratings: 1: Crap. 2: Okay. 3: Good. 4: Great

I remember shortly before the release of Know Your Enemy that James did an interview for some music magazine – it could even have been a guitar magazine, where he proclaimed that the band were ‘ready for war’. It was typical Manics sloganeering and bravado but it symbolized some of the thoughts they were sharing at the time – that perhaps the success of their last two albums had taken them too far from their musical, political, and lyrical roots, that they had accumulated a host of new fans who knew nothing of their past, and that they had spent too long being shoe-horned into a movement to which they never belonged. The net result was supposed to be a return to a more fierce, polemic sound and everything about this first single and opening track Found That Soul was geared towards those thoughts. It has a fast, traditional, punk sound, the production is pulled waaay back, and the video is a bunch of books being dropped onto a table. James whips out a solo and has a bit of a snarl to his vocals again, yet the constant clatter of the piano gives it a grounded rock’n’roll vibe.

Found That Soul: 3/Good

Misheard Lyrics: 1. Show me or wander you can’t piss you off

2. A band still stranded here

3. So clean so rusk (?)/Soaking so rust

4. Sick and fail but/Sickened feel but

Actual Lyrics: 1. Show me a wonder you can’t be sure of

2. But still stranded here

3. So clean so lost

4. Sick and pale but

The Girl Who Wanted To Be God

Generic Ratings: 1: Crap. 2: Okay. 3: Good. 4: Great

Perhaps the most Britpop of all of Everything Must Go, in terms of music at least, this jangling, chiming guitar based soft rock anthem isn’t plain enough to be boring, nor grand enough to be great. The production does its best to make us feel that this is something more special than it actually is, with grand sweeping strings blasting the chorus to the heavens, but the Happy Mondays drumming and the not quite powerful enough chorus keep it from reaching the highest heights. My favourite moment is middle line of ‘hold me  she said, love me to death’ as it breaks up the central melody. It is a good song, with typically strong lyrics, but looking at the album as a whole it feels like one that could have been replaced with one of the era’s stronger B Sides.

The Girl Who Wanted To Be God: 3/Good