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.
Another sleepy, piano led B-side from the Lifeblood sessions, and another one which succeeds thanks to poignant melodies which catch hold and don’t let go. James is still singing in that careless manner where you don’t know if he is creating a genuine mood of disinterest for art’s sake, or if he seriously doesn’t want to be there. Even with that approach he still manages a few golden moments outside of the melodies – the high note in the chorus being particularly notable. Lyrically there is still a tonne of repetition but what remains careers between standard fare and the odd moment of clarity. There is a more guitar leaning sound as the song continues, becoming almost like something from U2 towards the end, moving away from the synthetic nature of the majority of the album tracks.
Everything Will Be: 4/Great
One of my very favourite Lifeblood era B-sides, Everything Will Be has all the hallmarks of the lack of inspiration which Wire was suffering at the time – childlike, basic lyrics spun on repeat, and a very simple musical approach that seems like it was thrown together in a few minutes. Why the love then? It’s the melodies again, and the emotion behind them – that coldness which permeates so much of the era is blown up to the max here, the scratching lead guitar riff sounds heavenly and pained, there is a lot of empty space between the notes and sections with jarring pauses and sudden interruptions. But it’s the vocals melodies that make this so strong for me, a glorious chorus that extends its reach far beyond what is expected, and served by a detached verse where Bradfield sighs his way through the silly lyrics as if he has given up completely.
Misheard Lyrics: Torn between walls/still makes us carry on
2. Your sleepy eyes can no longer care
Actual Lyrics: Torn between what still makes us carry on
2. Your sleepy head can no longer care
There By The Grace Of God: 3/Good
Between the release of Know Your Enemy and Lifeblood, the Manics were busy looking back and planning ahead, releasing two compilation albums – the greatest hits Forever Delayed and the collection of B-sides and rarities Lipstick Traces. Rather than simply chuck out these releases as a stop gap, the band recorded a number of new songs, led by this single which would hint at the sound of the coming album. While there had been dabbling of experimental electronic sounds previously, There By The Grace of God is the first true embracing of this glacial sound, a single which manages to keep a guitar riff but merge with the cold, detached electronic sound of Lifeblood. Building with digital, disturbed beats, a shimmering guitar riff emerges along with a restrained Bradfield vocal. The verses are ghostly, the chorus feels like it could be bigger thanks to a melody of anthem quality, but Bradfield sings in such a ‘can’t give a fuck’ way that it never becomes the singalong moment that it could be.
Misheard Lyrics: Victims with the saddest eyes/pacify the grace of God
Actual Lyrics: Victims with the saddest hearts
Passing by the grace of God
Generic Ratings: 1: Crap. 2: Okay. 3: Good. 4: Great
One of the earliest acoustic (semi) stylings from the band, this has always been a firm personal favourite, ever since I first stumbled upon it in my early downloading days. It’s one you’ll never hear any other fans talk about but I loved it from my first listen. Opening with a comedy mis-start, followed by lovely, tender guitar riff, it gives way to a stomping beat, and a simply extraordinary Bradfield vocal. It’s all about the melodies, the ability of Bradfield and possibly no other singer alive to sing them, and some quite lovely harmonies too. The lyrics are fine, taking a break from the politics, but they remain firmly in the style of anthems with a rebellious stance. It’s not too clear what the band are angry about, but they sound so happy and comfortable being angry that you get swept along with the emotion and feel free to use the chorus in your own personal tirade. The brilliant guitar solo at the end isn’t really necessary, but I’m never going to turn down a guitar solo.
Never Want Again: 4/Great
Misheard Lyrics: 1. Burn ’em by our side
2. I saw the rain bleaching my whale
3. My dog gets sick of all its lice
4. Thrown a bone way outside
Actual Lyrics: 1. Burn on by our side
2. I saw the rain bleaching my way
3. My gut gets sick of all its lies
4. Thrown all hope way outside
This B-Side from Indian Summer has some nice Beatles style call and repeat vocals, not something the band have really done before, but it’s all incredibly plain and plastic. Musically there is nothing of note in the first half and melodically it’s as uninspired as the band has ever been. There is an interesting, brief little guitar interlude in the second half, but rather than continue to something new, the song simply reverts to its original form and ends. Generic B Side pap.
Heyday Of The Blood: 2/Okay
Misheard Lyrics: Seek the opposition, for the misfits.
2. In armies they’re so time sure, they’re out in the end.
3. We built them all with fear.
Actual Lyrics: 1. Seek the opposition, for they are your best friends.
2. Enemies they sometimes go way out in the end.
3. We filled them all with fear.
Generic Ratings: 1: Crap. 2: Okay. 3: Good. 4: Great
Another McCarthy cover, and another case of me having not heard the original. There’s something boring or otherwise which doesn’t work for me – I don’t like the effects on Bradfield’s vocals, and I imagine had it been sung either more plainly, or with more venom or emotion I would like it more. As it stands it just feels very bland and unfeeling as if they knew they needed to add another B-Side and simply rambled this off in one take with little effort. I suppose the vocal melodies are dreamy and likable.
Red Sleeping Beauty: 2/Okay