The origins of this song date back to all the way around somewhere around the Gold Against the Soul, intended to be on that album. It never did appear there and then all of a sudden it made a random appearance as one of the Japanese bonus tracks for Journal for Plague Lovers. T’was another previously mentioned Richey lyric and naturally there was some excitement in the air to ‘unearth’ something that was known before but never heard.
And then in a complete shock-twist, it turns out it’s an instrumental.
According to the band, the actual lyrics to Alien Orders/Invisible Armies are ridiculously short, almost like a haiku. Despite not being strangers to the tradition of repeating the same lyrics throughout the song (a sad trend even found in several places on Journal for Plague Lovers itself), for one reason or another the song was scrapped from the idea pile of what to include on the album. They decided to use the title however for one of their instrumental workouts.
Alien Orders/Invisible Armies is a different sort of instrumental to the Manics instrumental canon. All the previous ones have taken stylistic steps away from the band’s general style, be it the lounginess of Horses Under Starlight or ambientish Untitled Instrumental. At the same time, each song has sound like they were clearly designed to be instrumentals from the very start. Alien Orders differs on both accounts: it could stylistically easily fit on its parent album, and it’s the only Manics instrumental so far that desperately sounds like it needs lyrics. It doesn’t sound self-contained, it sounds like someone simply forgot to mix in the vocals. It’s more bothersome than you would think.
Ignoring that, Alien Orders is musically quite good. It’s got oddly bright and sharp, almost metallic, sounds in its percussion that lends it an odd tone – somewhere between synthetic and ‘organic’. The verse pushes on with force with a rather viciously nice guitar riff from James but oh man the chorus. Things calm down, keyboards flare up, James’ guitar starts doing this weird, heavily processed slow riff that sounds like heavily processed vocals in falsetto going “na na na na” which is awesome. The ending is a bit lackluster and sudden which is a bit meh but damn, there’s some nifty instrumental bits here.
Shame that it still sounds like half a song. There’s a weird emptiness to it because it sounds exactly like it should have singing to it but it was removed. It’s a damn good instrumental but that one thing never stops bothering the mind when listening to it.