Glasnost

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

My favourite song from Lifeblood is unquestionably the warmest in terms of sound; that main riff is just so joyous that you’d expect this to be some triumphant song of rebellion, but lyrically it treads similar ground to much of the rest of the album, with admissions of defeat, of the mysterious passage of time sweeping so much away. It’s always lovely to hear the band at least sound so happy, and maybe there is hope and joy in the ’embrace with us, make your own glasnost’.

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Glasnost: 4/Great

Misheard Lyrics: How many ancients not easily understood?

Actual Lyrics: Humiliation’s not easily understood

The Everlasting

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

I’ve never understood the hate this one gets, particularly from longstanding fans of the band. Perhaps it’s because it’s so overtly a ballad in sound, perhaps it’s because it revels in its own defeatism, perhaps its because there isn’t a trace of punk either in sound or attitude. What it is though is one of the most beautiful, tortured ballads ever written, the admission of a band who set out to conquer the world that they failed utterly (at least they believed they did) and that they lost so much along the way. It’s the most honest 6 minutes of tragedy you’re ever likely to hear, all played to gorgeous strings, broken up guitars, gut-wrenching melodies, and one of my all time favourite guitar solos – the stretched, extended notes fish-hooking into your soul and tearing for all they’re worth. A brutal and brilliant way to open the album.

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The Everlasting: 4/Great

Misheard Lyrics: All you are old I hear you say

Actual Lyrics: Oh you’re old I hear you say

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

If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next

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

How to follow up the mammoth unexpected success of your last album? Release your biggest song? This single became the band’s first UK number 1, and remains their only single released in the US. Based around the idealism of young (Welsh) volunteers who signed up to fight with the rebels in the Spanish Civil War, the song has since been used for any number of causes, ironic, apt, or otherwise. With powerful, poetic, literary lyrics it is one of those songs it was always amusing to see people with barely a thought in their head singing along too, especially when it was released. The song is so effortlessly catchy that everyone gets swept along with it’s melancholy verse, string-drenched chorus, and it still holds probably the finest example of the Manics ‘ooh and aahs’ trademark thanks to that extended ending.

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If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next: 4/Great

Misheard Lyric: Hosing your hair today/but I am past a feast

Actual Lyric: Holes in your today/but I’m a pacifist

Cardiff Afterlife

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

The oft-forgotten Lifeblood ends in fantastic form with this dedication to Richey. Unlike almost all of the album, the lyrics do not feel like something rubbed out inside thirty seconds on the condensation of a windowpane, and the coldness which is the main feature of the album becomes a cloak to wrap around oneself. Musically we have the powerful and emotional melodies that we love, and mix that with superb harmonica work and tumbling, confused harps, along with a very sudden hard stop, and it’s one of the best album closer’s the band has written.

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Cardiff Afterlife: 4/Great

 

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?)