Another track that should by rights vanish into obscurity within the thousand other songs on Know Your Enemy, and for most fans that probably is the case. But I’ve always ranked it as my favourite non-single from the album, mini-epic that it is. The lyrics are more simple, personal, and poetic than the more overt political stuff elsewhere on the album, and the sound is cleaner and mature. A blend of piano and acoustic guitar verse and a slightly heavier chorus, it is once again the melodies that make this most memorable for me, with Bradfield providing a fine range of singalong moments. Nothing about the song is huge or immediately catchy, but the building of the simplicity has a hypnotic quality so that every subsequent time the ‘feels like’ line comes around it is more powerful. We don’t really need the addition of the swirling part of Masking Tape added at the end, but it doesn’t hurt the song.
Misheard Lyrics: 1. I’m slipping myself away, into the gridlock of yesterday
2. A love song destroyed
Actual Lyrics: 1. I’m sleeping myself away into the blurred life of yesterday
2. My nerves are destroyed
The Story Of The Song: I don’t have a lot of info on this one, rather than being about ‘a thing’, it seems to be a collection of Nicky’s feelings about himself. And he showcases himself as a bit of a mess – trembling, tired, ambivalent, numb, but lucid enough to mock himself and his foibles.
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
All Is Vanity: 4/Great
One of the heavier songs from Journal For Plague Lovers, in an album filled with guitars, foreboding, and dark moments, it is notable in that many of its lyrics popped up earlier on the song Picturesque from the God Save The Manics EP. That song is vastly different from what we have here, and indeed this song feels like the distilled version of what Richey was saying when he left behind his folder of lyrics. It starts in sinister fashion with a driving, ominous drum and bass combo, but it isn’t until the guitar takes over that driving bass riff that the song truly takes hold. There’s the sense of routine, an inevitable, unstoppable march in the music, a sound which breaks free in the wonderful chorus with Bradfield unleashing a furious barrage of vocals and guitars. And that’s really it, the second half of the song is simply a repetition of the verse and chorus, no changes lyrically or musically. But it manages to be powerful and sinister nonetheless in barely three and a half minutes.
Misheard Lyrics: Heaven shape for days
2: My luxury of one war died
Actual Lyrics: Haven’t shaved for days
2: The luxury of one more dye
Bored Out Of My Mind: 3/Good
An unusual B-Side to go along with the anthem of Motorcycle Emptiness, but an interesting counterpoint. The title says it all, as this mainly acoustic cut discusses boredom, failure, lethargy in typical Manics phrasing, and with a lazy tone of procrastination. The music still manages to be interesting, and the melodies are engaging from start to finish, while the atmosphere created does achieve that dull sense of lying in a heap on the floor without being arsed to do or see anything. There’s a neat little guitar outro, overall a good B-side but not one I can imagine having too many fans.
Misheard Lyrics: I tried everything to get alone with you
2: The night’s too long son when he doesn’t care.
Actual Lyrics: I tried everything to get along with you
2: The nights too lonesome when the heat doesn’t care
Locust Valley: 4/Great
With an experimental sound that would return on 4ever Delayed, Locust Valley is a significantly better song than many which made it onto Know Your Enemy. It’s easily one of their best rock songs of the period, with emotive melodies, a fantastic chorus, and swirling broken up riffs which are pulled away, sucked up, and spat out again in whirlpool of distorted noise. There’s also an excellent guitar solo, suitably strange and flying all over the place, but one which builds and crackles and leads expertly up to the final chorus in a glorious peak. The outro also feels fresh and interesting rather than a simple re-tread or fade out.
Mishead Lyrics: Elusive and de-smiled
2: Art correspondent school behind
3: Long item blues
4: Too shy to portrait stand
5: I feel I want some company name
6: My first attempt’s an empty fail
Actual Lyrics: Elusive and dismantled
2: Our colours form the truth behind… or A correspondence school behind – no-one seems to know
3: Long Island Blues
4: The shattered portrait’s frame
5: I feel the words and Company names
6: Of his attempts at empty fame
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