Can’t you hear me howl
A 1980 film Times Square was a story about two young girls with different backgrounds, running away from their parents in New York, forming a punk band called Sleez Sisters and randomly becoming popular. The whole “from underdogs to gigantic success while defying every rule in the book” aesthetic of the film probably resonated quite a bit in the young Manics, or at least the Wire/Edwards part of the equation, and thus the band covered the Sleez Sisters song “Damn Dog” on Generation Terrorists.
The original version is a bit twee, as funny as it is to say that from a punk rock song, and it goes without saying that the Manics version is – like the rest of Generation Terrorists – a beefed up, big rock song. More guitar revving, more general in-your-face attitude. It’s catchy as hell and ridiculous in an enjoyable way like much of the band’s work at the time, but ultimately not the most rewarding song on the album or anything that really adds to the song collection. Outside its general aesthetic and context, of course. Which could just as well be a good enough reason for inclusion for a band who was more about The Message and style than purely music in those days.
It’s rather pointless to call a two minute song filler but it still is.
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You love us like a holocaust
The band’s early signature tune and long-time set closer, a bitter ‘anti-Valentine’ song that’s somewhere between egomaniac and self-loathing. Like many Generation Terrorists tracks, it sacrifices intelligence and seriousness for pure ridiculous beefed-up fun, but unlike so many other Generation Terrorists songs, it’s also genuinely great instead of having its weaknesses masked by the youthful vigour and fun feeling.
It was in fact such of a signature tune that it got two official recordings. The original Heavenly Recordings version is a more whimsical one, covered in all sorts of backing vocal yelps, Nicky’s “Control!” cameo and it’s got the apocalyptic sing-along outro. For Generation Terrorists, now on Sony, the band re-recorded the song and beefed it up: instead of a whimsiness it got an “fuck you, we’re here, we’re awesome and you WILL love us” in-your-face attitude and turned the song into a fierce belter, even replacing the sing-along outro with some storming guitar masturbation from James.
I really wish there was some sort of a mixture between the Sony and Heavenly versions of You Love Us though, even when performed live. The Sony version’s got proper kick to it, the sort of attitude a song of this caliber should have. But I miss the liveliness and slightly goof-off feeling of the Heavenly version. The original outro is also miles better than the boring guitar wankery ending. The band’s occasionally performed the original outro as an intro to the song live but dammit, they should do it more often.
Both singles also got videos. The Heavenly version video is a bit more DIY, composed of random live clips and some studio playing (featuring an adoooorably young band). The Sony version follows the remake’s buffed up nature and is the more iconic one, presenting the band as something more glamorously dangerous. Both are good, though I prefer the Sony version. Both singles also had different sleeve quotes: Heavenly was graced with a Marilyn Monroe quote “I knew I belonged to the public and to the world not because I was talented or even beautiful but because I had never belonged to anyone or anything else”, while the Sony version got a bit more to-the-point quote of “False media – we don’t need it do we” from Chuck D.
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Don’t fall in love cause we hate you still
The quintessential Generation Terrorists track in some respect. I mean sure, You Love Us is a classic and Motorcycle Emptiness is golden (and they’re both better songs than this), but for some reason Stay Beautiful has managed to become some sort of a legend amongst the fanbase, a song that nutshells the band’s early days to a t. Probably because it was the first Generation Terrorists single. And the lyrics + title.
Don’t get me wrong, it is a really fun track and for an early Manics song the lyrics are actually somewhat readable – arrogant youth without political idiocy (most of the time). The production saps it all down though, it would really raise to be a big classic if it sounded better but the flaccid and weak production Generation Terrorists suffers in the first place really bites Stay Beautiful and cripples it. It’s still fun and good, just a bit… lacking in the drive.
The song was originally called Generation Terrorists and the original demo contains the swear in the “why don’t you just -” chorus peak (a song moment inspired by Guns n Roses’ It’s So Easy). The album version has the ‘fuck off’ replaced with a cheeky guitar lick for whatever reason, but the live version of this song is always miles of fun considering how the audience has taken shouting the said two words from the top of their lungs with this song.
The video sees the band play the song in a weird house, first covered by paint and later on bothered by earthquakes and a giant spider. It’s a pretty daft mess of ideas and the ending result is slightly cringy. It’s not on Youtube so this article will be followed by a hyperspeed live version from 1994.
Stay Beautiful hits the jackpot when it comes to sleeve quotes, having a grand total of five. All of them bar one are also really long, so enjoy my handy hyperlinks to Manics.nl.
One of my favourite misheard Manics moments comes from this song (not by the courtesy of yours truly though): the closing “destroyed by madness” misheard as “destroyed by Manics”. You gotta admit, it fits with the song and the band at the time.
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Kill to live, kill for kicks
Good openers open the album in a convincing way and pave way for the tone set for the album. Great openers do the same but they grab you by the balls, sell you the tone and you can’t help but love it because the salesman is so goddamn amazing and really pumps you up for the rest of the album.
Slash n Burn is one of those great openers. Every single trademark of Generation Terrorists is clear from the very first minute. Roaring guitar, grand 80’s stadium rock vibe, ridiculously over the top pretentious guffaw lyrics, unashamedly poppy hooks and tongue in cheek underneath all the supposed seriousness. And then Slash n Burn double strikes by being damn awesome in itself. From the guitar intro to the soaring chorus and the brilliant build-up break, Slash n Burn is a jubilantly great crowd pleaser that was made to soar in giant stadiums.
It’s in this writer’s opinion the best single from Generation Terrorists, alongside Motorcycle Emptiness, but easily the most underspoken because all the others have some sort of a special fan love affair. Manics have always been a band who knows how to start an album and Generation Terrorists is no exception. Sadly, despite its quality as a great opener, even a fantastic opener can’t really save the rest of the album from being a bit too flakey and thus building up a bit too much anticipation for the whole thing. But let’s not hold that against the song.
The music video is pretty forgettable live clip with the studio song playing over the top. But I suppose it gives a nice view on the band’s early life.
Herman Melville’s “Only the man who says no is free” was used as the sleeve quote.
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I am nothing and should be everything
One of my very favourites from Generation Terrorists. Youthful existential angst bravado without sounding ridiculous? It’s a miracle on Generation Terrorists but hell yes it’s real.
The whole song’s just a big rollercoaster of fun, full of sloganeering lyrics, glam riffage and pumped-up choruses, from the instant start to the downright brilliant “I accuse history” middle bit and ending the song on a high note with a mini-solo. It’s joyous and jubilant, it’s what a lot of moments on Generation Terrorists aspire to be but end up being tripped by being too ridiculous. Sure Methadone Pretty’s silly like everything else on the album, but it’s one of the moments where you can ignore how daft the Manics were during their early days and just enjoy a very well crafted rock song.
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Our lives drift into a faceless sense of void
Pure comedy gold meets awesome mad and frantic rockout. Machine gun fire sloganeering lyrics, relentless chugga-chugga from James’ electric guitar, bat shit insane guitar solo that’s probably James’ most masturbatory guitar moment ever, oh my. The gentle acoustic intro with soft oooohs and Patrick Jones’ poetry lulls you into false thoughts about the track before the whole thing just explodes into the 3-minute hyperactive glorious mess it is.
Love’s Sweet Exile was originally called Faceless Sense of Void and while there’s some minor differences (the usual non-beefed up sound of demo recordings, some structural differences) the demo isn’t massively different from the album version. The album version got a single release, a double a-side together with Repeat which I assume never got any sort of airplay thanks to its lyrics, and the accompanying video is probably the closest thing to gay soft porn the band’s ever done. Which is why it’s a fan favourite.
2010 saw an incredibly random and bizarre release of a whole new reinterpretation of the song, released free as a download. This “Acoustic Blue” version is a fully fleshed-out re-recording of the song (not a remix!) that turns the song into a dreamy, slightly alt-country tinged float, removing the rock n roll energy (and guitar solo) and replacing it with soft, hazy atmosphere. No one knows why it was made as the band hasn’t said a single word about it, the release was too smalltime for it to be a promotion for anything and overall, it makes absolutely zero sense. But it’s actually surprisingly really, really good and makes one wish they’d try this style with another song.
“Then came human beings, they wanted to cling but there was nothing to cling to”
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I need to feel alone amongst the weeds
Yet one more of the Generation Terrorists underdogs, the ones that rarely get a mention. Which is odd in the case of Another Invented Disease because it practically screams attention with all of its silly gimmicks. The punk rock bridge, the overly 80’s drum production (the song where the synthetic drums that are all over Terrorists are the most prominently heard), the sing-along group choir chorus made for gig participation and of course the infamous way James mangles up “disease”. God knows why it’s now a die-sease, I can only guess it’s some sort of spur-of-the-moment desire to highlight the whole AIDS pun of the title. It’s silly, whatever the case.
And the silliness of the whole song is exactly why it’s one of my most liked tracks on Generation Terrorists. It’s one of the few songs where it sounds as if the band itself realised how ridiculous they sound and completely enjoy it. It’s a stadium sized punk song straight from the 80’s, the band realises the absurdity of the whole thing and love every moment of it. And yeah the lyrics are your usual “society sux” crap Terrorists is full of but one can’t help but find the song so utterly uplifting in a dim simple way.
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