The future teaches you to be alone
If I had to say what I thought was my favourite song ever made, I’d answer Tolerate without hesitation.
It’s what introduced me to Manics in the first place. I heard it way back in 1998 (fuck, a decade ago already) and was mesmerised instantly. I wasn’t really into slower songs at the time, I liked my music high-tempo and energetic, but Tolerate hypnotised me. I didn’t really become a fan until much later after I had a few more of their albums in their collection, but the spark began from Tolerate.
It’s been a decade, I’ve heard the song thousands of times by now, and it still manages to make my hair stand with each and every listen. It’s James’ greatest vocal, Nicky’s greatest lyric – political in nature, but so vague you can easily interpret it as something far more personal and introspective. It’s got the best guitar solo ever made and that’s a lot from a guy who rarely rates them insanely high. The whole latter half of the song starting from that guitar solo gives me shivers down my spine. Each and every time. The band’s greatest song, in this writer’s opinion.
I had lost of a lot of my fan aspects after Send Away the Tigers’ massive disappointment immediately after its release and it took me quite a while to completely recover, so to say. The very final push that turned me back into the deep fanboy mode that I was before was watching the Leaving the 20th Century DVD. It was something I watched countless times when I was younger and seeing it again after so much time just filled me with nostalgy and renewed love towards the band. The final nail in the coffin on that was the performance of Tolerate which actually made me softly weep.
If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next is the greatest song made and it still manages to shock me with its sheer beauty.
And to think that it was originally intended to be a throwaway b-side. It wasn’t until the creation of that signature swooooossshhh sound (a filtered and feedbacked organ note, by the way) that the band started to pay more attention to the song, eventually raising it to be the lead single from their new album. And their first #1 hit single, sporting a rather creepy video that combines enprisonment, a faceless family, Nicky throwing up water and sterile surroundings. Sadly that video doesn’t seem to be anywhere on Youtube for some reason.
This also sports one of the very best Manics remixes: check out the David Holmes mix, 10 minutes of sheer atmospheric brilliance that lingers in its beauty. On the other hand, the Massive Attack reworking of Tolerate is quite forgettable. And being their big hit, there’s also some covers lying around. One worth mentioning is a downright brilliant version of the song sung by a guy called David Usher who works the song (alongside an artist/group called My Beloved Monster I believe) into an ambienty electronic track. It’s lovely, at the same time stripping down the song from its grand climax but keeping all the emotional intensity in the restrained form. As a curio, Thom Yorke’s also done a quick cover of it during a Radiohead live concert, mainly just quickly strumming and singing the chorus. But hey, it’s Radiohead so boom – it’s one of the more famous versions.
Two single sleeve quotes: “Great artists have no country” by Alfred de Musset and “Painting is stronger than I am – it makes me do whatever it wants” by Pablo Picasso.
There is a brilliant and long article about the birth of the song here. Give it a read.