God knows what makes the comparison
When Empty Souls was first previewed on the 2003 Isle of Wight festival, it was a fast and powerful rocker. Its album version disappointed some as the speed was slowed down. But the album version has something the live version lacked completely: the gorgeous studio space.
It’s all in the atmosphere. I’m a sucker for atmosphere and Empty Souls reigns supreme in that respect. The spacey echoes create a dark stadium feel, accentuated by the ringing, ice-cold piano (reminiscent of U2’s New Years Day but Empty Souls is actually great as a whole). Then there’s the e-bowed guitar. I love the e-bow, it’s immense. Empty Souls is one of James’ very, very few e-bow moments and good god the constant guitar line throughout the song is so gorgeous and haunting.
I’ve also got nothing bad to say about the lyrics, outside the fact that they’ve got that lazy repetation going on that was happening during the Lifeblood era. I actually don’t mind the “collapsing like the twin towers” line at all – I don’t see anything controversial in it, it’s a historic event and that’s it. It’s a fitting comparison for something immensely large emotionally (and physically). Fits great with the rest of the lyrics about the eternally sorrowful titular ’empty souls’ facing something of immense and undescribed emotional effect. Not to mention the single edit, replacing the line with “collapsing like dying flowers”, just doesn’t have the same effect. Not to mention how the backing vocals still sing the original line.
But jesusfuckchrist the video. It’s easily one of the worst Manics videos. For all the gorgeous things you could get from the song and turn into a video format, we see the band being bored as fuck in a hotel and occasional clips of the band playing in what looks like a school gym, coupled with Wire’s clumsy movement and the sheer ugliness of James’ Flying V. At least Sean looks awesome as always during the era.
Empty Souls has about a billion single sleeve quotes. Okay, four: one for each format and one for the collectible slipcase to store them all. These are:
“The ceaseless labour of your life is to build the house of death”
-Michel de Montaigne
“After the first death there is not other”
“By the light of our insistent truths we wander into death”
“Death came and he looked like a rat with claws – I made him go into the wall”
Morbid. Guess we can safely assume it’s a song about death, among other things. Incidentally, if you arrange the three single sleeves into order you get another one of those “naked woman covered in blood” shots Lifeblood’s artwork consists of.
The official video’s not on Youtube. Guess we’re lucky in a way. Have a random live clip.