We pull the blind down to keep the world away
I know I sometimes quip about how you can easily predict what a song will be like because of the simple fact that it’s an acoustic James solo moment and I’ve gone to record saying that when they appear as b-sides they’re the ones I tend to be the least excited about. However, they also show just how good a songwriter Bradders is. There’s plenty of songs in the Manics catalogue that are essentially just James and his guitar (give or take an additional instrument) and yet they each have their own feel to them.
As does I Know the Numbers. To my ears it doesn’t actually resemble the typical Manics acoustic b-side at all, but it’s more akin to what a stripped down song from James’ solo album period would sound like. It has a similar weary and inviting warmth to it, a pleasantness that has no hurry to go anywhere. It’s not a complicated song compositionally and in some ways feels even sparser than James’ acoustic moments usually do, yet it actually fares better than most of its kind because of its gentle, friendly atmosphere. Much credit to the vocal delivery here – it’s soft, intimate and yet very clear.
The lyrics are fairly interesting as well. Whilst Manics have begun to slip from their early decision of not writing love songs in the recent years, I Know the Numbers is another big milestone in that. You can’t really even interpret it as anything else than a fluttered little note of newfound happiness in one’s heart (and the difficulties of oneself clashing with it). It’s still far from a direct love song but “I thought my heart would never speak this way again” is pretty much the closest we’ve got so far. And you know, it sounds really natural coming from James.