With grace we will suffer
There By the Grace of God succeeds in so many levels. It’s a proper greatest hits fan grab – where most bands tend to toss a couple of outtakes they never found good enough to be on their last album or quickly scram some tunes together, Manics released two of their very best songs. It’s also one of their best singles, naturally. The singles themselves sport some of the band’s best b-sides. One of the remixes is one of the band’s best remixes. And the video is brilliant as well – it’s got some cryptic metaphorical characters going on about it but really, its main attraction is in the cool as fuck band shots. I miss Nicky’s long hair.
There By the Grace of God was a sign of things to come, a hint of Lifeblood’s direction but not quite. Whilst they both share a heavy emphasis on atmosphere (gotta love the hazy mood TBTGOG, as it is lovingly called, has) and synths/keyboards, Grace of God’s far more electronic than Lifeblood material (bar a few exceptions). Someone once described it as Manics going Depeche Mode and I suppose that’s as good overly exaggerating easy to connect comparison as ever. The mechanic drumbeat that runs throughout the song is fantastic, James’ subtle guitar works brilliantly (this really cannot be praised enough) and man those eery synths are beautiful. James sings so gorgeously as well, taking a tired, dreamy tone which he eventually breaks into one of his trademark soarings.
It’s also lyrically quite curious. Aside from the Marilyn Manson lyrical reference in the “all the drugs in the world” line, it also sheds some light on Wire’s spirituality. He’s claimed that as he’s aged, he’s become more spiritual while the rest of the band’s stayed fairly atheistic. It’s the band’s most religious song and while it never actually preaches in the way that it would actually take stance in anything, it regardless offers a glimpse on how Wire possibly views religion. The rather humane/spiritual base of the lyrics is of course then wonderfully married to a very synthetic, cold setting. An intentional clash?
Like I mentioned before, Grace of God’s also got some of the best alternative interpretations going on in the Manics world. Its live version boosted up the eery synths to the max and to the forefront, giving them additional emphasis and giving the whole song a new atmosphere – it’s a shame the band pretty much brushes the song off these days. There’s also another live version that was a one-off, James performing the song with acoustic guitar and backed by a string section. It’s absolutely gorgeous and definitely worth hunting down; at times it’s even positively haunting . Finally there’s the Saint Etienne remix, which has a gorgeous, calm and thick atmosphere and beautiful instrumentation of the sort that puts it in the very top of Manics remixes. In many ways, it enhances the song’s already-dreamy soundworld and turns it the focal point of everything.
On the other hand, there’s also the Starecase remix that tries to roughen up the song and which turns it into something quite forgettable in the process.
Grace of God got a whopping three single sleeve quotes. The DVD single was graced with “To see clearly is poetry, prophecy and religion all in one” by John Ruskin, CD2 had “We have just enough religion to make us hate but not enough to make us love one another” by Jonathan Swift and CD1 got some rather creepy poetry by (supposedly) Elvis Presley.