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

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

Wrote For Luck

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

A pretty straight cover with decent guitars and a storming Bradfield vocal performance, this manages to blend the Happy Mondays pop rhythms with the more forceful Manics approach, complete with ‘ooh and ahhs’. In another interesting example of the band’s ambiguity – it was acts such as the Happy Mondays that the Manics railed against in their early days yet here they are doing a cover of something they claimed to despise.

Misheard Lyrics: I’m wrote for luck/yes Samael/Samuel

2. Run up and hide/there’s nothing else you can do

3. I used to try/but you can’t tame me

4. I can step, bend, stand, and bend the mole off

Actual Lyrics: I’m wrote for luck/they sent me you

2. Try anything hard/is there anything else you can do?

3. Oh you can try/but you can’t chain me

4. I can slip and stand and bend and roll over

Wrote For Luck: 2/Okay

It’s All Gone

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

Another B-side from the There By The Grace of God release, this one continues in the light electronica vein. Opening with a whispering drum loop, a phat guitar riff joins in and throughout the song it returns here and there, replaced by subtle organ notes. It’s groovy, but it’s just a little boring – too much reverb on the vocals, too static and sleepy, and while the melodies are fine and the solo is okay, there isn’t a lot here to get me going.

Misheard Lyrics: Sleep the only thing to fill these holes/even if that Venus hasn’t told

Actual Lyrics: Sleep the only thing to fill these holes/even if that demon sells its soul

It’s All Gone: 2/Okay

Groundhog Days

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

This is another one of those songs which I forget over the years – not because I don’t like it, just because it never seems to do enough to latch on to my psyche. In that way it’s always a treat to hear it again after a year or more as it instantly rushes back to me, but still is hidden enough that it’s a charming surprise. It follows a simple quiet verse, loud chorus format, melodies are fine throughout, but it’s most notable for that Nicky Wire ‘rap’ at the end followed by Bradfield solo. It’s a B-side from Ocean Spray and offers a more caustic sound than the single and given the experimental shown on the album this is the sort of song which easily have made the cut.

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Groundhog Days: 3/Good

Misheard Lyric: Chocolate or cum/my knees are artificial

Actual Lyric: Chocolate or coke/my needs are artificial

Midnight Sun

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

Another acoustic song which feels like a Bradfield solo number, this time from the Postcards From A Young Man B-Sides. We do get drums and other sounds, but this one is primarily an excuse for another lonesome Bradfield melody – gripping verses which remind us what a great singer he is, and a chorus with another fine Manics lead hook backed by organ and slightly heavier guitars. It won’t change anyone’s world, but it’s another poignant entry into the softer canon.

Midnight Sun: 3/Good

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Misheard Lyric: Wants a rental sunrise/wants some gasoline

Actual Lyric: Warm Sorrento sunrise/White Sargasso Sea (or is it ‘Wide’ as you would expect?)

Inertia Creeps

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

Almost any time the band works with a DJ or dance artist for remix purposes or otherwise, the results are horrible, and this is no exception. This is the band’s remix of a marginally better Massive Attack original, and you’d only know the Manics were involved thanks to some Bradfield ‘aahs and oohs’ at various points. Listen once then forget all about it.

Inertia Creeps: 1/Crap

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