I hear you’ve got something to say
The world’s first sampling of solo James. Those who were expecting more of Manics melancholia, with what James being the lead songwriter, were in for a little surprise when the perky handclaps and bright keyboards kicked in. And then there’s the sha-la-la-las of the middle eight…
For me, The Great Western is one of those albums where I rarely listen to it but whenever I decide to it’s always a fresh surprise as to how great the songs sound after all. That’s No Way to Tell a Lie is a prime example of that. That guitar intro is always a bit of a “oh here we go again, familiar tune” moment but the rest of the song always ends up surprising me: age has done nothing but improve it and it sounds fresher nowadays than it ever did. It’s pretty much a perfect example of how to pull off an upbeat guitar pop song and it’s infectiously joyous and bright: the pristine production is nothing but perfectly fitting and really brings out the nuances of those shiny keyboards and powerful drums in the chorus, James’ guitar soars between the verses and those ever-wonderful hand-claps. It’s a proper pop tune, in all the best ways you can mean it.
Although it is one of those songs where the perkiness hides some seriousness as the lyrics are a bit of a stab against organised religion. James attacking the big things right from the start.
If the song was unexpectedly upbeat, the video is a real hoot. Taking inspiration from a Japanese gangster film, James double-stars as the leader of a crime gang as well as his poor victim who gets to take several dips in the ocean while being interrogated. James’ tongue-in-cheek acting, the random Japanese subtitles that pop up from time to time and the wonderful sight of a gang of hardened, tough criminals emotionlessly singing sha-la-las is something to marvel. More of this in the Manics catalogue please!
Guy Massey, the album’s mixer and eventual Manics tour guitarist, did his own mix of the song that was released through a rare promo. It’s faithful to the original version but emphasises the role of the keyboards in the song, layering them all over the song from the very beginning and adding several new parts. It sounds a bit odd to someone’s who loves the original as much as I do but it’s definitely a worthwhile version that I could easily see someone preferring.