This Is The Day

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.

Litany

Litany: 3/Good

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

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

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

Never Want Again

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

Heydey Of The Blood

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.

Red Sleeping Beauty

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

Morning Comrades

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

Yet another fantastic acoustic solo effort from James, this time a B-Side of Autumnsong. This one follows the same format as all the others but is a nice breather from all of the noise on Send Away The Tigers. The vocals follow the central riff, a sad line which echos the sparkling lyrics concerning, again, the battle between accepting defeat and struggling on regardless. Obviously the ‘comrades’ of the title evokes both Socialist feelings and thoughts of the band as a group of friends. Anyone with more than a base awareness of the group will be aware of both their political leanings and their closeness as people. It feels incredibly lonely with an us against them vibe, except the ‘us’ is maybe three people and the ‘them’ is the rest of the world. Easily one of band’s best acoustic efforts and certainly the best in the post TIMTTMY era.

Morning Comrades: 4/Great

Ostpolitik

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

Ostpolitik – the process of West Germany getting cool again with the rest of the world. What does this have to do with the song though? Not a lot I can only assume, this being another instrumental – something the band have been increasingly fond of in recent outings. I’m not sure why though as most of their efforts have been crap or average, but then I’m not a fan of bands doing instrumentals in general. Appearing as a B-Side to It’s Not War, this features mostly scratchy guitar, a simple beat, some piano – and it’s the same couple of riffs over again for about three minutes, aside from a minor diversion near the end. Another oddity then, not as bad as some, but really only worth listening to once unless you’re into that sort of thing.

Ostpolitik – 2/Okay

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