Generic Ratings: 1. Crap. 2: Ok. 3: Good. 4: Great
I’ve never been confident in my feelings about this one, and on any given day it floats between that 2/3 rating. There are bits that I love about it – the main riff, the verse melodies, the vocals, and yet it feels too long, too airy. It does feel like an apt title track, and an apt closer of the hard rock album, but parts of it have never sat easily with me. I can’t quite say what those are – I want to say it’s repetitive but I don’t truly feel that it is, I do say it’s overlong, but it’s of similar length to many other songs on the other album. Maybe it’s that some of the beats are digital and that some parts don’t actually sound like the Manics. I don’t know. I think there is a better song here, but I don’t know what could be done to make me like it any more.
Misheard Lyrics: 1. Everybody feels sick by vodka – the sea of despair
2. Eat the cloth caps – a snack victim
Actual Lyrics: 1. Everybody feels sick by the courtesy of dismay
2. Either cloth caps or smack victims.
Gold Against The Soul: 2/Okay
Generic Ratings: 1: Crap. 2: Ok. 3: Good. 4: Great.
Opening with one of my favourite Manics riffs and one of my favourite Manics introductions, this opening track from the second album showcases better production, heightened writing skills (both lyrically and musically), more powerful vocals, and a harsher metallic sound. It also contains some of my favourite overall guitar work thanks to that riff and an immense middle section/solo. If you’re a regular here you’ll know how much I appreciate the guitar and as a player myself I’m always in awe of JDB’s skills while playing and singing together. Having said that, I’m not as wowed by million mile an hour solos for the sake of showing off speed – the solo has to at least feel unique and an important part of the song – for me guitar must follow the same rules that make me love any music – emotion, talent, honesty, intelligence, melody, come before speed, technique, ingenuity. But I’m getting off topic.
This album, and this song is not particularly beloved by the band, perhaps due to a sound deliberately pandering to a more straight, US oriented rock audience. Look beyond the music (which is excellent) and you get further insight into the developing psychosis of Richey and the group which is further uncovered in the rest of the album. Abandoning the politics entirely, this is an introspective poem with a spattering of self-mocking which fixates on the results of insomnia. I can think of few better album openers than this.
Misheard Lyrics: 1. The mattress arms I was meaning so alive.
2. A mammary flesh tour. A Patent skate.
Actual Lyrics: 1. Lament blossoms, hours, minutes of our lives.
2. A memory fades to a pale landscape.
The Manic Street Preachers’ second album tones down the scale of the original, but raises the anthem rock fists by giving us 10 riff heavy, big chorus songs. Richey and Nicky take a few steps back from politics and set their sights again on celebrity and consumer culture and most notably on themselves. We get the first clear signs of Richey’s tormented mind, the growing despair he felt and his inability to cope with it. We get songs about sacrifice, suicide, self harm, and lyrics concerning various mental conditions, self hate, and general social disability. Juxtaposed with this though is the arena rock of James, each song leading with a massive riff, distorted soloing, thumping drums from Sean, and a few big vocal ballads. On many songs there is good use of violins and other string instruments which would become the hallmark of the band’s later successes, the sound quality is higher, the playing is better, and James unleashes some impressively ferocious singing. Often forgotten (even by the band nowadays) Gold Against The Soul nevertheless contains some of the band’s best work; even if it is over top, crowd surfing fun.
Songs coming soon…