Suicide Alley

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

The first official single released by the band when they were still unsigned shows them as a rampant punk force set on a oath to glory and self-destruction. It’s played at top speed and the vocals leap around in such away that the lyrics are indecipherable on the first few listens. It still sounds fresh and relevant today, in a world where angry, guitar based music doesn’t appear on TV, radio, charts, or magazines. It’s a much more catchy and well written song than the early demos and finds the band securing the sound they wanted to be known for at the time and probably their first important song.

Suicide Alley: 4/Great

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Destroy The Dancefloor

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

It’s another very early demo, this time opening with some inaudible chatter followed by what seems to be James saying ‘I can’t sing this one’ before starting to sing it. It has a pretty strong lead riff and exuberant guitar intro before launching into high pitched vocals. It’s another one which might have sounded stronger if they’d recorded a proper demo later – it’s not complex but does show a wider range of ideas regarding the song’s construction, multi-layered and thoughtful. Some of the melodies sound similar to pieces of later songs, James showcases his guitar skills with some fine twiddling and although the vocals demand a lot James does a good job, at least from what we can make out from the crappy recording. The three people in the crowd seem to appreciate the song though, as it ends with a handful of claps and more chatter.

Destroy The Dancefloor: 2/Ok

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England Is A Bitch

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

Another early demo where the band showcase a fuzzy, frantic delivery. Although the lyrics are mostly indecipherable, you can tell from the title and some snippets that the band’s political sensibilities were already at the forefront of their minds – this was a band who had something to say aside and who wanted to be known for their brains, their viewpoints, as much as their sound and look. Opening with a militaristic drum beat the song is a fast-paced, riff-driven basic song, heavy, but light on the melodic side. The song comes to a stuttering end with bits of the guitars fading out and returning as if James walked out of the room for a few moments and knocked the amp over, or maybe someone was twiddling knobs afterwards.

England Is A Bitch: 1/Crap

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Just Can’t Be Happy

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

Similar to Faceless Sense Of Void, this feels like something which would be used to build Love’s Sweet Exile, although it is only in some of the melodies that this comparison is made. The verse vocals are almost spoken, the chorus is a simplistic recital of the song’s title, there are chords and twiddly guitar bits, but the song doesn’t do much to excite or hold interest. As if you couldn’t guess, this one isn’t available on YouTube, so click below for some inspiring words.

Just Can’t Be Happy: 1/Crap

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Sunglass Aesthetic

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

This early demo is one of the first two I ever heard from the band when I first started tracking down their rarities back in the late 90s. Subsequently, those two same songs are the ones I remember most fondly and the ones which I think are most memorable. I can recall the feeling of shock and joy hearing this the first time, enjoying how young the band sounded, asking myself if that was really James playing and singing, wondering what the hell band looked like when they recorded the demo, and simply appreciating the energy and fun that comes off the song. James has a good riff to lead the song, muting it at some points, letting rip at others, while there is a terrific early solo and some other catastrophic noise-oriented playing later. I’ve no idea what most of the lyrics are, what the song is about, but at this point such matters are pretty irrelevant – it’s the sound of a band filled with hope and spunk and simply writing and enjoying whatever rubbish pops into their heads – as all great bands must do. Unsurprisingly I can’f find this on Youtube, so click below for a bonus video!

Sunglass Aesthetic: 2/Ok

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Go Buzz Baby Go

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

Another early demo which acts as the roots to a later officially released track, this one has pieces which would make their way into the classic Motorcycle Emptiness. The pre-chorus of Go Buzz Baby Go has the same basic melody has the same part in that later epic, and although it would be reworked it’s impossible to miss. The rest of the song is on the crappy side of fine, shows that the band were not, even at this period, all about weapons of punk destruction, angry, shouting, vocal graffiti artists, but that they had a softer side too. The vocals are weird and weak, the playing is better, and the actual chorus is actually catchy in spite of how silly it sounds. The lyrics again are difficult to catch, but if you listen carefully you can hear them mention ‘Baby Blue’ which was of course their original name, named after the excellent French film. And of course, the final bonus for those fans hearing this for the first time is that they actually sing the words ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ in the final pre-chorus.

Go Buzz Baby Go: 1/Crap (but interesting)

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Behave Yourself, Baby

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

This early demo sounds an awful lot like some around the campfire hippy dross, with some sort of trumpet, tambourine, and hand clapping intro. We then get Beatles/Beach Boys/Monkees melodies and ‘baa ba baa’ harmonies which are fairly amusing. The vocals aren’t great, the melodies are passable, the playing is ok. Naturally, aficionados will recognise the middle section which features the lyrics ‘all we want from you is the skin you live within’ which would later be updated to ‘all we want from you are the kicks you’ve given us’ in Motorcycle Emptiness with the same melody.  Again it’s really only worth listening to for those interested in seeing how the band developed in the early days.

Behave Yourself Baby: 2: Ok

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Faceless Sense Of Void

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

The only interesting thing to say about this one (which anyone reading this may already know) is that this is essentially an early version of Love’s Sweet Exile – a song which would appear on the band’s first album. Being a much earlier live version, this of course has all the weird charm of those other early tracks. It has a faux-epic opening similar to a later version of Spectators Of Suicide, but once the verses start it moves at a ridiculous breakneck pace with James screaming the lyrics at Rap God pace. I’m not a big fan of Love’s Sweet Exile and I think that if this was cleaned up, or had been recorded in a studio with proper production I would prefer this to what it would later become. Click below for a very early live version.

Faceless Sense Of Void: 2/Ok

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New Art Riot

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

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The lead song from the band’s first official signed release is a delicious slice of latter day punk. The first thing to notice is the sudden leap in quality between the early demos and singles and what we have here. The production is limitlessly better obviously, but the songwriting on display is much more mature to the point that the band actually sound marketable here, and both the vocals and playing sound professional – it sounds like The Manics in other words.

The punchy song is a stuttering attack on the spiritless music of the time, harmful politics, stuttering musically as drums and guitars form a dual attack which pounces and retreats like a military skirmish. Both drums and guitars are superb, metal style machine gun thumps and frenetic soloing, the lyrics are the angry sloganeering which caught the attention of the press with most lines hitting the mark. The vocals are a little too soft and mellow compared with later, live versions of the song (which of course I listen to more so the original always sounds a bit odd to me – can’t find any on Youtube though), but again that adds a different charm. It’s a superb introduction to the world, and a fine starting place for anyone interested in learning more about the band.

Misheard Lyrics: 1. Your futuramas! And your future ideas!

2. Running From A Nutter

3. Nude scenes ovens Tripoli wash their hands!

Actual Lyrics: 1. Vintage aromas and vintage ideals.

2. Waiting For A Knighthood

3. Museums are dead take a new art stance

New Art Riot: 4/Great

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This Girl’s Got Nothing

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

I couldn’t find an upload of this song, but click the link below for a bonus video!

This is the other ‘first song’ I encountered when I started to hunt down the early Manics demos, and it may have the best melodies and most memorable sound of the lot. Opening with a jangled US beach rock riff, James proceeds to belt out hilarious anti-Manics lyrics over perfectly catchy melodies. There are moments when the vocals collapse and sound either awful or incredibly funny – same goes for the playing for the most part.

Again, for massive Manics fans this one is a real delight and is bound to put a smile on your face – another song which shows a very young band in search of the sound that would define them and not giving two shits what they sounded like in the moment, or what anyone thought. For everyone outside of that niche group, this is slightly less unlistenable when compared with the other early demos.

Misheard Lyric: The lyrics here are pretty basic so I can’t see anyone getting them wrong.

This Girl’s Got Nothing: 3/Good

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