The pictures on my wall are fading
The recording of this most likely had something to do with the band looking into their past, caving into fan wishes and playing some Lifeblood in the form of Empty Souls on a handful of their Postcards tour gigs (until apparently Sean had a stroppy and refused to play it any longer). The two songs share definite similarities: the stomping beat isn’t unique to the two songs in the Manics catalogue, but its crisp and clear sounds of Broken Up Again’s drums are a surefire flashback to the Lifeblood standout, and the atmospheric keyboard part accompanying it is a sound unlike anything the band’s used in their songs since, well, Lifeblood era (bar a few high-caliber rarities like Untitled Instrumental).
That said, Empty Souls #2 it isn’t. Outside its verses it’s a wistful rock belter, loaded with Wire’s introspectivity and some impressively good instrumental parts throughout. I say impressively because Broken Up Again doesn’t sound like a b-side, it could belong on an album of its own. The band keeps saying that they’re bringing back their anthemic rock side but occupies itself with all sorts of garnish and extra mass-pleasing tools on their album (to a mostly good effect, mind you) and sometimes forgets the direct life-filled, heartfelt power in favour of pretty pop hooks. Not to dismiss those but it’s songs like these that really make the band sound invigorated. That chorus, guitar riff and all, is classic Manics.
I can’t stress this enough that I really do like Postcards and modern Manics in general (the other entries here can prove to that), but probably the best thing in the Postcards era is hearing b-sides like this again – strong, memorable tracks that sound like A-sides, just like the band used to churn out all the time as single bonuses.