There’s beauty doing nothing at all
Man, Nicky sure has grown as a songwriter. From the ramshackle punk tracks that could fall to pieces at any time to something like Some Kind of Nothingness. It’s… bizarre. It’s also made him a genuine asset for the band these days.
Some Kind of Nothingness nutshells more or less every thematic that runs through Postcards’ veins. It’s heavily layered with the hyped strings and choirs, taking the best use of the latter on the whole album as the army of voices bellow out majestically in the back. It’s got the bittersweet nostalgia that shows up as a shared theme in many of the album’s moments, a reminiscence of the golden past and juxtaposing it with the present. It’s upbeat like most of the album, but mixes a hint of melancholy to make it really sound Manicsy. And for an album that actively and openly seeks a hit, Nothingness sounds most like it could be one. It’s catchy as hell, instantly recognisable and most of all, it’s so damn great it deserves to be recognised.
Now I love the band to bits (as you might have guessed) and I’ve stayed with them through thick and thin, and while Send Away the Tigers sunk my heart a bit Journal for Plague Lovers was a really, really good comeback that made me feel giddy as a fan again. Yet nothing on Plague Lovers, much less SATT, made me feel so insanely giddy like the first time I heard the studio version of Nothingness. It sounds warm and familiar from the listen and is loaded with so many Moments that my first listen of it was overjoyed with excitement and anticipation. And then the final chorus kicks in where they basically throw the kitchen sink meter to 11 and blasts the song out with every piece of sound the band and their additional companions can let out – it sounds so jubilant, so exciting, so [i]immense[/i]. It’s the first time I’ve had that sensation to that extent since after Lifeblood’s release, no matter how much I loved Plague Lovers.
The big talking point with this is the Ian McCullough (of Echo & The Bunnymen) feature, presenting the first male-male duet in Manics history. He does his job fantastically and arguably offers the best duet performance Manics have had. His rough, worn voice has a natural tone of sadness to it which suits the song’s tone excellently. It also meshes perfectly with James’ – one of the things I’ve always loved with Nicky’s voice is how it works so well with James because of the contrast, and McCullough offers a similar opposite to James’ clean-cut, loudly anthemic voice but in a more refined manner. Plus they both perform the song like it’s a dialogue – the first one of the band’s ever-growing list of duets to do that.
Unusually for such a big, bombastic song the official video is rather low-key and minimal. James walks through Cardiff, McCullough walks through Liverpool and then they both meet up for a split second before James isolates himself on a beach. Basically, nothing happens. But man, does it have some pretty visual shots in it. If anything, the video is a testament that if you’ve got the right eye, you can make a content devoid of anything to fit a tune as long as that content has some nifty visuals to it. The splitting screens are a nice touch and there’s a lot of nice standalone moments, especially the beach shots at the end. You could argue it doesn’t fit the song and to be honest, it’s not far from some of the band’s weaker video moments but I’m willing to admit you could probably make me sit through a terrible song as long as it was dressed up with some really nice visuals. The fact that Some Kind of Nothingness is fantastic makes viewing the video, as devoid of any actual content as it is, much more enjoyable.
I’m happy and content about Postcards but it deserved to be released if only just to bring this song into the wide world. Amazing.
The original demo on the Postcards bonus disc is Nicky’s home demo – his voice, drum machine, guitar and organ. It’s actually rather swell, even if obviously not the caliber of the album version. But it’s swell enough to wish the man would actually produce a new solo album in that style.
Single sleeve quotes: “The worst immorality is to give in, give up” (Andrea Dworkin) and “The middle class is a luxury capitalism can no longer afford” (John Gray)