Found That Soul

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

I remember shortly before the release of Know Your Enemy that James did an interview for some music magazine – it could even have been a guitar magazine, where he proclaimed that the band were ‘ready for war’. It was typical Manics sloganeering and bravado but it symbolized some of the thoughts they were sharing at the time – that perhaps the success of their last two albums had taken them too far from their musical, political, and lyrical roots, that they had accumulated a host of new fans who knew nothing of their past, and that they had spent too long being shoe-horned into a movement to which they never belonged. The net result was supposed to be a return to a more fierce, polemic sound and everything about this first single and opening track Found That Soul was geared towards those thoughts. It has a fast, traditional, punk sound, the production is pulled waaay back, and the video is a bunch of books being dropped onto a table. James whips out a solo and has a bit of a snarl to his vocals again, yet the constant clatter of the piano gives it a grounded rock’n’roll vibe.

Found That Soul: 3/Good

Misheard Lyrics: 1. Show me or wander you can’t piss you off

2. A band still stranded here

3. So clean so rusk (?)/Soaking so rust

4. Sick and fail but/Sickened feel but

Actual Lyrics: 1. Show me a wonder you can’t be sure of

2. But still stranded here

3. So clean so lost

4. Sick and pale but

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Ocean Spray

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

It takes a lot for a song to remain unique given the vastness of Know Your Enemy, but this one works and was strong enough to be a single too. Bradfield writes the lyrics to this one (for those who don’t know the band – 98% of the time Wire and Edwards write the lyrics and Bradfield and Moore write the music), a dedication to his mother who had just died, and ironically a more simple, more potent lyric than much of what Wire was able to write at the time. In the midst of all the political pissing and name-checking elsewhere on the album, this one reads like a very simple poem, rhyming words and all! Musically, it is terribly sad thanks to Bradfield’s tearjerking melodies plastered and drifting over easy listening acoustic guitars, Moore’s lonesome horn, and the occasional blast of electric in the chorus. There is anger and sadness here, regret and turmoil, and even some Japanese.

Misheard Lyrics: Oh, please stay away

Actual Lyrics: Oh, please stay awake

Ocean Spray: 4/Great

My Guernica

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

One of the better songs of its ilk on Know Your Enemy. The lyrics have a clearer target and the results are better. The music isn’t great, the mixture of organ and dissonant guitars manages to work against the odds, the vocals follow the scratchy low-fi nature of the sound to create an overall mess of distortion – I think it’s the melodies that save the day once more as the chorus feels jubilant and defiant. The song’s final minute is questionable, as we get a little vocal interlude followed by strange additional guitar piece – I’ll let you decide if it works or not.

My Guernica: 3/Good

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Misheard Lyrics: 1. I fear and hear more repeats

2. I’m going on to happy toast/toes

Actual Lyrics: 1. Appearing in more repeats.

2. Going on so happy and so loose.

Dead Martyrs

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

So many of the songs on Know Your Enemy are in danger of getting lost because they don’t stand out from the other 15 tracks. That’s the main problem with Dead Martyrs – it just feels like another album track similar to many others; scratchy guitars, basic hook, simple lyrics. As you’ll see on these posts I have favourites from that album with others will probably overlook for the same reasons I overlook this one – there isn’t anything tangible I can say to describe why I feel this one is inferior to others – it simply doesn’t resonate with me.

Dead Martyrs: 2/Okay

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Know Your Enemy: An Introduction

The Manics’  6th album is complicated and complex- they were under pressure to continue their strong commercial run after the last two albums, but perhaps under even more pressure from their most hardcore fans to return to a heavier, more raw sound. From the outset the group were proclaiming in interviews that they were ‘Ready For War’, and were done with the inward looking, sombre attitude from the prvious album. They promised guitars, anger, and politics. The problem was that they were older, wiser, and had always relied on both the rage of youth and the power of Richey’s lyrics. What they delivered was an epic 16 song mess, heavier than the last couple of albums but lacking in their quality. For the most part the songs are heavy and have a rough punk edge, but melodically and lyrically too many songs are forgettable. Having said that there are still plenty of great moments- they were experimenting further with different styles, Nicky sings one while James writes one, and it all led to a brilliant concert in Cuba. Castro may not have loved them, but he sure as hell loved having them, and the whole effort seemed to give the band renewed vigour. Probably the least recommended album, but not without goodness.

Songs coming soon…