A mostly pseudo Glam-Metal song packed with crushing guitars and little flourishes and riffs as the band takes apart the evils of Consumerism and banking. The lyrics are exactly as you expect from the young band for a song with this name – shouty slogans such as ‘death sanitized through credit’ and ‘the more you own the more you are’, though the ‘blackhorse apocalypse I’ve always found particularly apt and descriptive, comparing one of the bank’s mascots to Biblical imagery. The music is hardly innovative, but I do have a nostalgic fondness for much of Generation Terrorists which allows me to ignore what is otherwise a very plain song. The best moment though comes right at the end, with a fantastically creepy piano and guitar piece that doesn’t feel like anything else on the song, or on the album, a moment which (looking back) is filled with eerie, prophetic tones of doom, hinting at a future which has already passed us by.
Nat West – Barclays – Midlands – Lloyds: 3/good
The Story Of The Song: The song takes its title from four major British banks and discusses how much power they wield in society – it doesn’t really matter which one you turn to and as an individual you’re beholden to them from birth. There’s maybe something in there about how financial institutions have become the new religion, the single authority governing society and individuals, though that may be me reaching. Many have suggested the song was written because Nicky was refused a loan – way to get one back!
Misheard Lyrics: Economic fuckers
2. Oh to beat in Asia
3. Apathy is secrecy (I like this one better)
4. Lifeless automatons
Actual Lyrics: Economic forecast.
2. Words of Euthenasia
3. Apathy of sick routine.
4. Life as automatons
Love’s Sweet Exile: 2/Okay
Another song which I’ve always felt could have been cut from Generation Terrorists, even though it’s a clear centrepiece and a distillation of what the band was all about at the time. The lyrics are fine, the spitting slogans about alienation, angst, the video provocative in its sexuality. The music is certainly heavy enough and there are hundreds of different guitar parts zooming around, including a singularly brilliant solo – it just feels too chaotic and in the end becomes boring – none of the melodies speak to me, I don’t particularly enjoy the vocals, and the drums feel too static.
Misheard Lyrics: We buried the woman, it’s a faker world too.
2: Classify machines that were understood
3: City reflections for our misery
4: Rain down any nation
5: You no factor love of everything inside
6: Everything immediate becomes destroyed
7: These two moons can’t wait for us to breathe.
Actual Lyrics: We blur into images of state coercion.
2: Classified machines die misunderstood
3: City reflections pour out misery
4: Rain down alienation
5: Unified collapse of everything inside
6: Everything of meaning becomes destroyed
7: There’s too much concrete for us to breathe.
Spectators Of Suicide: 3/Good (Heavenly Version)
I’ve always been torn between which version I prefer – the album or the heavenly version. I love the build up in the Heavenly version, but the vocals are tripe, whereas the album version has a drugged, dreamlike quality, the sound of bleeding out in a bathtub. The difference in tone between the two songs is vast, and if they ever recorded an updated studio version of the Heavenly one where James actually sings throughout, then I suspect it would be a big favourite of mine. The album version is still a highlight, a poignant, soft, overly produced moment in an album not known for subtlety or strong production values. The shimmering electric guitars, the phasing, the soft acoustic backing and harmonies which make it sound like Nicky can actually sing, the beautiful chorus and thoughtful lyrics all merge well – it’s just a little overlong.
Misheard Lyrics: Obedience to love is free desire
2: Free heroin drugs for those who never beg
3: Exporting in society’s eyes
4: Sick around a lifeline/sits around a lifetime
5: It’s safety in bed
6: Advertised and dead/Advertising death
7: Under curfew from beyond barb wire
8: Spitting ass from our mouths
Actual Lyrics: Obedience to the law is free desire
2: Free heroin shots for those who never beg
3: Exploding in society’s eye
4: Cigarettes a lifeline
5: It’s safety in death
6: Advertised and fed
7: Under curfew from neon barbed wire
8: Spitting glass from out mouths
One of several tracks from Generation Terrorists which could easily have been cut or replaced. This one simply feels like another directionless rock song, and while there are plenty of good lyrical moments, the only truly worthwhile moment is the great ‘his pain forgets her agony’ middle section. Everything else feels too basic and lacks the emotion, invention, and raw power of the better tracks. The band recorded this as a B-Side to Suicide Alley long before Generation Terrorists, a more loose and punky version but still not very interesting.
Misheard Lyrics: Tennesse not some zip code law
Actual Lyrics: Tennessee nights just zip-code love
Generic Ratings: 1: Crap. 2: Okay. 3: Good. 4: Great
Ostensibly where it all began, the song where the band truly announced itself to the world, looking every inch like a band nobody wanted and instead claiming to be the band everyone needed, the band to save the world or implode trying. Hated by other artists, feeding off the finger-pointing and setting themselves clearly apart from every other act in the world, they unleashed this torrent of seductive, caressing hatred, mocking fans, mocking themselves, and looking like they were having the most fun in the world, living the rock and roll dream while admonishing it for the nightmare it truly was. It’s a fast paced, chugging rock behemoth that didn’t sound like anything on the airwaves, Bradfield’s sneering vocals and lightning fast guitars, Edwards and Wire’s luscious stares and snarling wit, and Moore’s marching band percussive attack, it’s one of the classic statements in all of rock music. Looking at it as a song on its own merits, it is fairly simple stuff with a plain verse chorus attack, but there is such joy in the melody, in the unashamedly big chorus, and such brilliance in the final, Paradise City style instrumental blow out, that it can’t be avoided, or disliked.
The first link below is the album version – in my opinion the best version. There have been multiple versions of the song, each one with slight notable variances, so try all the links below and find your favourite. There was also a ‘new’ version a few years back but I can’t find a good link to it.
You Love Us: 4/Great
Stars N Stripes Mix
- Our voices are furry
- Realize and won’t be bought
- Honestly we can never be loved
- Throw some mess into your face
- Your lessons drill in heaven instead
- Parliament you flick like C4 (?)
- Your life a cycle holocaust/you love a psycho holocaust
- Our voices are 4Real
- We realised and won’t be mourned
- Understand we can never belong
- Throw some acid onto your face
- Your lessons drill inherited sin
- Parliament’s a fake life saver
- Your life is like a holocaust
Generic Ratings: 1: Crap. 2: Okay. 3: Good. 4: Great
The band may have been seen as cross-dressing, eye-liner and lipstick wearing freaks in their early days, spouting political sleaze and dirty little punk songs, but it wasn’t until Little Baby Nothing that many of the reasons behind the sleaze and the look became clear. This was a feminist band, almost in militant fashion, not a band who simply dressed that way because they were hot enough to pull it off, not simply espousing and waxing lyrical on the struggles of women due to some designed outsider chic. This was a band who thoroughly despised male dominated culture and called it out for the systematic destruction and whoring of species that it was. Musically and lyrically one of the finest, and most pure in terms of its targeting from any Manics album, it’s clearly a high mark.
The band’s first duet, bringing on board ex Porn Star Traci Lords (after they couldn’t get Kylie Minogue) to perform vocal duties, the lyrics are poignant and potent and merge perfectly with the glossy 80s sheen of the sound. Bradfield tugs at all the strings with his performance, the melodies are gold throughout, and I adore the shift from the verse and chorus to the final section. It certainly comes across as cheesy in its sound now, but it doesn’t take long to look past that to find the honesty of the intent and the power of the music. For my money, it’s also (easily) the best video the band has ever made.
Misheard Lyrics (it feels somehow wrong doing this to what is one of the most gorgeous lyrics of all time, but there you go):
- Not allowed to connect you
- To steal frequent love
- Need to do long (?)
- Orderly behind his money
- Asking for condolerijusive (??) flowers
- Loveless labour
- Dress your life in loving
- Breaking your mind with Bobby Dom fertility (?)
- Mouths broken up, quenched to the last
- No-one likes looking at you
- To steal vacant love
- Need to belong
- All they leave behind is money
- Eyes, skin, bone, contour, language as a flower
- Loveless slavery
- Dress your life in loathing
- Breaking your mind with Barbie Doll futility
- Moths broken up, quenched at last
Little Baby Nothing: 4/Great (Album version)
Generic Ratings: 1. Crap. 2: Ok. 3: Good. 4: Great
I can’t remember precisely the order in which I bought the Manics albums, but I have a strong feeling that Generation Terrorists was second after Everything Must Go. I do remember being surprised by its heaviness and rockness thanks to the opening moments of Slash ‘n’ Burn, which means I must have only been used to their EMG era sound. The song opens with a terrific muted riff which is then repeated at a more blaring volume before the drums and vocals kick in. Hello slogans, hello young Bradfield vocals. I still find it strange that this one was ever released as a single, but I suppose it was punchy and lyrical enough to grow interest in the band.
The opening track of the band’s first album sets the tone for the mammoth beast. Musically it’s an aggressive rock attack fused with punk pacing and layering riffs – we know from the outset that here is a band which knows how to play with the big boys, and are tipping their hats to the likes of G’n’R. James yells and howls and even does a funny little Axl Rose style orgasmic shriek at one point which you should always make sure to cough over any time you’re playing the song to someone else – it’s strictly for existing fans to appreciate.
The opening riff is great stuff, the rest of the song is standard rock stuff following a generic verse chorus format, but it’s the outlandish passion and lyrics which make the most impact, with the band covering a number of topics and making a comparison between US military strategy in Vietnam (wiping out swathes of land so nothing can live or grow) and British self-obsessed consumerist culture where we will do anything as long as someone famous says it’s okay too.
Misheard Lyric: Politics of defence got a C4 sense.
Actual Lyric: Politic’s her is death and God is safer sex.
Slash N Burn: 2/Okay
Generation Terrorists was released in a storm of publicity. With an Us Against Them attitude, it was a full blown, over the top epic meant to symbolize everything the band stood for. They were the only British band playing this style of music, metal stadium rock guitars, spit polished glamour and political rhetoric all vomitted forth with anger and energy. The band dreamt that it would be a Appetite For Destruction style monster, shaking up the dreadful music scene before they disbanded and vanished forever. The dream was never fulfilled and the band had to trawl through another 3 albums before getting the recognition they deserved. Looking back it is flawed, but packed with glorious moments; Overall it is the eternal symbol of youth, of fighting against the odds and surviving, of playing loud fast, clever music and still looking sexy through your exhaustion afterwards.