Your memory is still mine
In my opinion, one of the biggest problems with Manics is the ever-present ghost of Richey hanging over the band. His disappearance is the only thing that non-fans remember from the band, the cult-deification the buggering off did to his legacy has caused him to remembered as a godlike genius that some equal to be the only source of inspiration in the band, the reviews on more recent Manics albums like to focus more on him than the actual music present, and so forth. This includes the band – sometimes you get the feeling the band keeps being overshadowed by the man’s ghost.
Lifeblood is one of the band’s most personal albums, musically the most independent and free from any sort of external pressure. It’s one of the few moments in their history where they were free of any non-musical chains that haunt them. Yet the final moment of the album is a song about Richey, the one big chain.
Cardiff Afterlife is a special kind of Richey song. It’s a goodbye, a farewell, or at least was meant to be so when it was recorded. It’s very open about its source of inspiration and it’s very direct, and at the same time it’s aimed as a farewell to the ghost from the afterlife that’s continued to be present – a step towards being free from it. The abrupt ending signals this the most – the song ends like on a brickwall. Full stop. Case dismissed and over with. Everyone’s free to go on.
I’m not basing this on mad guesswork by the way, the band’s actually talked about this in interviews during the Lifeblood era.
Musically it’s sweet and soft. A very warm song driven by acoustic guitar, glockenspiel and violin. There’s a certain fragility to it. It’s never tearjerking or trying to tug one’s heartstrings – it’s simply a sweet pop song with an aching, bittersweet feel to it. The chorus sounds rather off tangent at first but as you get used to it, it’s abrupt swift in style sounds appropriate. And if you listen carefully in it, you can hear Sean doing backing vocals.
I’m not much too keen on the band constantly writing songs about Richey but for some reason they (nearly) always manage to make the music in them sound brilliant. Cardiff Afterlife isn’t an exception.
A random anecdote related to Cardiff Afterlife: it’s the only survivor from the otherwise abandoned “city album” project. Before Lifeblood existed as it is, the band had an idea of building a concept album inspired by cities (“Stockholm Alone” et cetera). All the other tracks got scrapped except this one.