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
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.
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: 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!
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!
Engage With Your Shadow: 1/Crap
Another experiment and another failure. How exactly to a judge whether something like this is a success or a failure? No, I’m not getting into that, it’s shite. We can see what the band are trying to do here, but that doesn’t stop it from being a complete mess. There are not many great B-Sides from the Postcards era, but there aren’t many efforts as bad as this. Nicky basically recites (badly) a poem, throws in the odd bit of German, while a coughing industrial beat wafts along and Bradfield interrupts with sudden bursts of nonsensical guitar. On repeated listens, some of those guitar parts are pretty tasty, but as a whole? It’s as if the band heard Pulk/Push revolving doors by Radiohead and thought ‘now there’s a great idea for a song!’ Wire rants about something, but after about thirty seconds we’ve given up caring. Credit for giving it a full fisted go lads.
The Story Behind The Song: Nicky was probably pissed and decided to rant about how disconnected he is from the modern world. I bet he was wearing a beret.
Bored Out Of My Mind: 3/Good
An unusual B-Side to go along with the anthem of Motorcycle Emptiness, but an interesting counterpoint. The title says it all, as this mainly acoustic cut discusses boredom, failure, lethargy in typical Manics phrasing, and with a lazy tone of procrastination. The music still manages to be interesting, and the melodies are engaging from start to finish, while the atmosphere created does achieve that dull sense of lying in a heap on the floor without being arsed to do or see anything. There’s a neat little guitar outro, overall a good B-side but not one I can imagine having too many fans.
Misheard Lyrics: I tried everything to get alone with you
2: The night’s too long son when he doesn’t care.
Actual Lyrics: I tried everything to get along with you
2: The nights too lonesome when the heat doesn’t care
Locust Valley: 4/Great
With an experimental sound that would return on 4ever Delayed, Locust Valley is a significantly better song than many which made it onto Know Your Enemy. It’s easily one of their best rock songs of the period, with emotive melodies, a fantastic chorus, and swirling broken up riffs which are pulled away, sucked up, and spat out again in whirlpool of distorted noise. There’s also an excellent guitar solo, suitably strange and flying all over the place, but one which builds and crackles and leads expertly up to the final chorus in a glorious peak. The outro also feels fresh and interesting rather than a simple re-tread or fade out.
Mishead Lyrics: Elusive and de-smiled
2: Art correspondent school behind
3: Long item blues
4: Too shy to portrait stand
5: I feel I want some company name
6: My first attempt’s an empty fail
Actual Lyrics: Elusive and dismantled
2: Our colours form the truth behind… or A correspondence school behind – no-one seems to know
3: Long Island Blues
4: The shattered portrait’s frame
5: I feel the words and Company names
6: Of his attempts at empty fame
Askew Road: 1/Crap
One of the weakest Lifeblood era songs, it is too sleepy and uneventful to mention. It has the weak lyrics and lack of inspiration which often cropped up around this era, a weird vocal delivery, and is melodically-lite. The only notable thing to say about it is that Richey audio clip at the end, but even that doesn’t add anything. It’s not completely crap, but it is totally, tonally barren, doesn’t have anything to say, and drifts around aimlessly as if they let a child into the studio to press a few notes on a keyboard and say ‘job done’. Arguably the most dull Manics song of them all, though weirdly it does have a lot of fans.
This Is The Day: 2/Okay
In honour of the release of their latest Greatest Hits compilation National Treasures the band recorded this authentic, yet humdrum cover of a song by The The. It’s telling when the video of a song gets more interest, given that it has many shots of the band’s younger days and acts as a nice visual representation of the lyrics and where the band was at the time. The song is a bit of a non-event though, a mixture of bland synth and light guitars. Bradfield does an okay job with the vocal, and while the song feels apt and while the chorus tries to be an anthem, it all feels far too plain and average. Its sound doesn’t hint at what was to come next, nor does it recall a particular sound in the band’s past. I’ve listened to it many times now, but I still struggle to remember much about it a few minutes later. Oh yes – the original is terrible.