All we want from you are the kicks you’ve given us
I guess Motorcycle Emptiness could be called the definitive Manics track. A Design for Life is the grand hit that still lives on and Tolerate is the personal favourite, but Motorcyle Emptiness has managed to burn into the collective fan consciousness from the very beginning and still rings with an unique sound in the band’s catalogue. It’s their signature tune.
It’s pretty fascinating how you can find this, a blissful and serene as well as highly atmospheric anthem, in the middle of a bunch of heywire glam rock riffsalads. It’s completely out of the place and completely out of style. I assume it was quite wild for anyone to hear this back in the Generation Terrorists days. In fact, it’s even earlier than that. You can hear an embryonic version of this if you track down the early demos and find a song called Go Buzz Baby Go: the lyrics and chorus are different and the signature guitar riff (inspired by Abba’s Dancing Queen) is missing, but otherwise the demo is clearly recognisable as the song we all love today.
A sign of things to come, really. And I guess that’s one reason why it’s such a classic track – it was there from the beginning, a blossom of greatness already in full bloom. A timeless song in the band’s catalogue.
I agree on its classic status. It is an absolutely fantastic track. The lyrics border somewhere between harmless yet catchy sloganeering nonsense and somewhat cringy in their nonsensibility sloganeering nonsense, but the music is utterly beautiful. The riff is of course marvelous but my very favourite moment on the song is slower, calmer middle moment as the strings swoop down and things calm down slightly before rising again. Gives me shivers. There’s also the matter that this one is always, always amazing live. And the Ruisrock 2003 rendition of it will always stay in my memories, starting up the gig in the sunny grass field with this…
The band remixed the song in 2002, around the same time as the Forever Delayed compilation. The original vocals were kept but the music was completely re-recorded, reflecting more of the song’s live rendition (and which now has completed a full circle as the song’s newest live versions contain the single guitar intro of the re-recording) as well as finally giving the tune the glorious production it deserves instead of the awkward GT cheapo drum-machine fare. Something clusterfucked somewhere and the ME 2002 single ended up in some sort of development/release hell when the single contained the original instead, and I’m still confused whether or not the re-recording ever did get an official release anywhere, but it’s on promos anyway and found circulating on the net. I’d go so far as to say that it’s vastly superior to the original version, BUT contains a couple of ridiculous flaws thanks to absurd decisions. The re-recording is based on the radio edit of the song so we get two whole minutes chomped away which is pretty painful (especially during that even-more-gorgeous-than-ever middle bit), and James’ old vocals sound a bit weird in the brand new music. Should’ve re-recorded his vocals too.
There’s also one of those Stealth Sonic Orchestra remixes made of this one. It starts out a bit dodgy but as it builds up and grows, it turns into a jubilant, triumphant parade. A very nice interpretation.
Two sleeve quotes. “I talk to the God but the sky is empty” from Sylvia Plath is the more associated quote, but there’s also the Marlon Brando quotation “The more sensitive you are, the more certain you are to be brutalized, develop scabs, never evolve. Never allow yourself to feel anything because you always feel too much.”
The video sees the band walk around Japan. It’s pretty alright. Youtube of course doesn’t have it so have a live version from 2003.