Give him some dignity
The Manics have never been afraid of using drum machines – outside the obvious examples like You Stole the Sun from My Heart and Automatik Teknicolour, the whole of Generation Terrorists’ drums were programmed because of budget restrictions. As such, it’s not necessarily surprising that they’d use them again. Marlon J.D. differs quite a bit from the past uses – they’re obviously synthesized unlike the GT drums which tried to imitate real ones (weakly, but still), but unlike the other cases where the drum machine’s simply amplified the real drum kit, Marlon J.D.’s ta-ta-tsush-ta-ta-ta-tsush beat dominates the song’s rhythm section.
At first it’s even slightly awkward. Marlon J.D. is a very high-speed, pumped-up post-punkish rock song that is pretty much the most aggressive of the whole bunch on Journal for Plague Lovers. But the drum machine of the intro never disappears, continuing to beat without a live drum section even as James begins his guitar soars and vocal delivery that’s oddly detached from the rest of the song’s melody. A song that sounds like a real goer doesn’t end up being one because the soft synthetic beat keeps it in chains – in an intriguing way, rather than bothersome way. It gives the song a weird edge.
Until the real drum section pops up and the chains break down. The verses throughout the song belong to the machine but as the song launches into the chorus they make way to Sean’s storming drum section, relentlessly pushing on with the great force that goes together with the rest of the song. The sudden push in intensity sounds fantastic.
Marlon J.D.’s one of my favourite songs on Journal simply because of the chorus. The additional rise in the song’s strength, the beat, the storming energy, the simple but oh so effective lyrical and vocal hook. Excellence. The fact that the verses are peppered with such a great vocal melody and sound plain intriguing is a plus.
Nicky wrote the music for this fully, which is a rather surprising reveal. The demo on the special edition of the album is also sung by the man. Gotta say, James’ performance really gives the song its edge, Nicky’s version is simply doesn’t have James’ oddball fixated tone that the album version’s got.
As to what the ‘JD’ means on the title, not even the band knows.
Regarding the NYPC remix of the song, I find it rather cool how they’ve taken some of the solo-Nicky vocals from the original demo. That’s about the only interesting thing in the otherwise rather stale, vaguely post-punky remix.