Time keeps us beneath while autumn sheds its leaves
There is an element of unearthing a treasure from underneath the sands of history with Midnight Sun. It may have been released as a single b-side in early 2011, but its origin is ten years before that – written and recorded during the Know Your Enemy sessions or ones succeeding it for its single b-sides, but then lost in the archives for whatever reason. The KYE sessions were a hotbed of mad creativity with no idea left unused and being a bit of a fanboy for that era, excitement for it was rife. Especially when it was found out that the version of Midnight Sun on the b-side of the Postcards single is the original 2001 recording rather than a remake.
The thing is, we’re dealing with a band who rarely leaves anything to the archives. The Manics are workaholics and love to release what they record, filling each of their singles with several b-sides even during a time when most bands have abandoned the entire concept of a single altogether. The KYE era especially was a time of the ‘anything goes’ ideology, as witnessed by the… eclectic nature of the songs recorded during that era. Unlike a lot of acts who make it clear that not everything survives through the recording sessions, Manics have been a very open band about what they’re doing and while the fans know of a lot of songs that only exist as names, we also know those never made it past the demo stage. So how come Midnight Sun was simply ‘lost’?
Listening to the track, it’s fairly obvious – Midnight Sun sounds unfinished. It’s a fully-fledged and fully-formed song in its own right, but lacks the finishing touch. Its recording is somewhat stuffy and muddled. It’s not a demo but it also sounds like the band stopped working on it before the process was finished and in the aftermath, the song was shelved. Why it got resurrected now, who knows.
That said, it still has an element of the magic of its era. The band sounds more relaxed, James’ vocal delivery is more effortless rather than rock-shouty even during the song’s calmly high-reaching chorus and, as a meaner point, it’s actually a finished song with a full lyric and musical progression rather than the repeated verses and abrupt endings of a lot of modern Manics b-sides. And it’s not a bad song in general – it has a nicely weary atmosphere, the organ of the choruses is genuinely fantastic and overall it’s an enjoyable song, albeit far from the general high quality of the era it belongs to. It carries the feeling of lacking the final touch, that extra polish that would take it one step further. It’s a bit of an odd one – and maybe it being a bit of an odd one was the reason it got initially shelved.