Click click click click click click himself under
The glorious debut of the equally glorious Sean’s Trumpet. The man can play an instrument that sounds brilliant, why his skill’s not used beyond two songs in the entire discography is completely beyond me. I don’t want the band to start relying on it as a gimmick but you know, it could wonderfully spice up the occasional tune.
Lessee, what else do we have here. Funked up feeling caused by the thick bassline and the disco drum beat. Angular, disjointed atmosphere thanks to James’ quick guitar stabs. Grim, incoherent feel thanks to Richey’s nigh-stream of consciousness lyrics about the photographer who offed himself because of his pictures (one of my very favourite Richey lyrics actually; it does cross the silly border a bit but manages to wave it into cool instead of dim). Ragy, shouty choruses and a harmonic, pretty middle bit with some glorious “oo-oooh” action from Jamesy.
So a pretty brilliant track then.
Also has one of the best Manics videos. So stylish, so entertaining. And the death scenes are always hilarious to watch.
The remixes for this one are pretty nifty. The Stealth Sonic Orchestra remix sounds like an instrumental Bond theme tune or something out of a Bond tribute rather, while Jon Carter’s Busts Loose remix is about 8 minutes of funked-out didgeridoo & trumpet jam. The latter well worth a check.
Sleeve quotes: “When I was a kid I used to get fun out of my horrors” -Eugene O’Neill, “Words themselves – the very material of our discourse increasingly take on masks or disguises” -Dennis Potter.
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There are no sunsets, just silence
Hate to disappoint those who haven’t yet got the Everything Must Go 10th anniversary box, but the Stephen Hague mix of this song doesn’t offer any sort of absurdly hilarious moments like the Australia one did. No handclaps or horn sections, it’s more or less the same song but with different sounds. It’s got synth-strings though which really lack the power of the real ones in the final release.
The Girl Who Wanted to Be God is Everything Must Go’s poppiest moment. Sweet, sugary (almost disco-y) strings back the sunny, rolling pop of the song with somewhat melancholy yet starry-eyedly romantic lyrics. I don’t know how much Richey was involved this one (credited to both Nicky and Richey) but it’s one of the very best lyrics he’s worked with.
I really cannot praise those strings enough though. I love them so much. Instrumentally in general this song’s pure bliss, with what James’ subtle guitar licks and so forth. But mmm, those strings. And I’ve always loved that hi-hat heavy beat too.
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Conscience binds you in chains
I bronze my thighs easily. Wait, no.
Removables has never been one of my favourite Manics tracks or an Everything Must Go cut I’d particularly cherish. The chorus is amazing, I give it that. It sounds threatening and quietly aggressive (and later on downright ragey when James gets on the crazy mood) before turning suddenly somewhat uplifting. That guitar line is murder, in good sense.
It’s those verses. They sound lacking, limp and Everything Must Go’s weak production in the rhythm section doesn’t help things at all – it’s here where Sean’s drumset seems to have been replaced with cardboard boxes. They sound like an afterthought. James’ singing has seen better days as well.
Richey’s pish “ooh I suffer soooo much here” lyrics do not really help.
It’s got the reputation as the most misheard Manics song in the fandom though, which is pretty hilarious. I kinda wish the band would perform a version with all the misheard lyrics. Would be pretty awesome to hear a version with “I bronze my thighs easily”, “I’ll remove a bus”, “all trains are tory”, “for foxes to tell me”/”for fuck’s sake just tell me”, et cetera.
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I walk on the beach and for once I feel some ease
Realisation of loss, the following sadness and the final decision to try and start to move on and live life again. Enola/Alone, born out of Wire looking at his wedding photographs and coming across a picture where he stood along with Richey and Philip Hall, the bandmate and manager who had both left this plane of existence a while before.
Enola/Alone is a bittersweet ode to life: “All I want to do is live/no matter how miserable it is”. It’s one of Everything Must Go’s more lyrically personal moments and musically it takes the rather typical rock anthem approach that EMG favours. For a long time it was one of the not-so-standout moments for me on the album till it all finally clicked. James’ vocal mannerisms (love the constant “aaah!” yelps in the back), the fantastic lyrics (outside the rather clumsy “100%” bit which sounds pretty clumsy as it’s being crammed into the song) and the larger than life chorus that’s both crushingly melancholy and warily optimistic and determined about life. It’s just such an emotionally naked and honest song with the whole band being in on the theme.
One of the band’s genuinely most humane and personal moments. And as such, one of Everything Must Go’s key tracks.
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20ft high on Blackpool promenade
When I bought Everything Must Go, my dad thought I had just bought an Elvis record because the car CD player’s tiny screen only showed the Elvis part of the track name.
As an opener, it’s one of the band’s best and one of my very best openers in general. Pleasant ocean waves pierced by a gentle harp, some atmospheric acoustic strum and then a blast-off to a quick rock anthem-like (with a rather fun “oh well…” to wave it off). It’s like Everything Must Go in miniature size, but most importantly it just starts the album in such a strong fashion.
Always been one of my favourites this. While the song’s main foothold is its rock section – the atmosphere/dynamics clash between the serene, quiet part and the frustrated rock part is the song’s backbone and lifeblood – I’ve always loved the first half of the song the most. It’s like a calm before the storm moment. It starts so peacefully but when James breaks through with his acoustic guitar, you know there’s something big about to happen. It has a nice air of change around it. And when the change finally hits, well, it’s as strong every single listening time.
The American Trilogy referenced in the lyrics is a part of Elvis’ song cavalcade which pops up throughout the Everything Must Go era. Elvis Impersonator ends up in an ethereal, washed out rendition of “Dixie” and Black Garden starts with a similarly ethereal “Glory, Glory”. The third song never shows up anywhere though I remember reading they meant to but axed it/never got around to it.
The Leaving the 20th Century gig version of this is somewhat amusing, all thanks to completely drunk Mr Wire.
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Once you roared now you just grunt lame
Richey’s depressed zoo animal lament (that probably extends as a metaphore for his own mental wellbeing, as thought by everyone) is at the same time the most off-kilter moment of Everything Must Go as it is its emotional heart. Obviously the album was largely inspired by Richey’s disappearance and while several songs reference it in various ways, Small Black Flowers is the only one which feels like its commenting on the scenario and written by the man himself. It’s a song about desperation and mental agony over the horrible feelings one goes through every day in his miserable life, the feeling of imprisonment in a mockery life – somewhat of an epitaph, I suppose.
Small Black Flowers is a gorgeous acoustic moment and a sure-fire hit at gigs but I’ve always felt it loses much of its power when the serene harp isn’t playing in the background. The beauty and gentle touch of the harp contrasts greatly with the hopeless, gloomy lyrics and together with James’ performance turns it into something much more touching than the rather morbid lyrics initially make it out to be – or making the morbid nature of the song eerily beautiful, perhaps. It’s a very, very sad song and the harp adds to it – while at the same time bringing it more in touch with the orchestral touches elsewhere on the album.
There’s one fantastic solo acoustic performance of this though, the Manic Millennium concert one. After the joyous singalong of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” where the whole gigantic crowd participate in the song, the subsequent performance of Small Black Flowers sees the whole stadium go completely silent outside James. It’s a very, very touching moment, the biggest tearjerker in the Manics history. Shame it’s slightly ruined in the end as James turns the closing “here chewing your tail is joy” line into an extended shouty vocal performance rather than keeping the calm, fragile tone of the original. It breaks the mood. Ah well.
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We don’t talk about love
One of the greatest rebirths of a band that almost keeled over in musical history.
You’d be daft not to acknowledge the qualities Design has. It’s a grand anthem, meant to unify us all into a legendary good time together even if its lyrics are quite harsh and critical of a certain way of life or lifestyle prominent in the music of its days. It’s the band’s greatest live song and the traditional set closer, it’s the highlight of Everything Must Go, it’s their biggest hit (even if it charted ‘only’ as #2, its the song whose reputation lives on) and really, it’s just bleeding great. Grand swooping strings
Sadly my pet peeve with EMG, the rather weak production, buggers up Design slightly as well. It could use a bit more kick to it. The 10th anniversary re-release remaster improved that quite a bit though.
Remix-wise it got the Stealth Sonic Orchestra treatment that a lot of songs got during the Everything Must Go era. A Design’s got the best one of the SSO mixes, giving a bit of loungeroom finesse to the anthem rocker. I actually sorta wish the piano from the remix’s drum outro would be in the actual song.
Two long sleeve quotes for a grand song: one by Antonio Gaudi and another by Le Corbusier.
Surprising for the fact that it’s such a big hit in its native country, there’s very little covers of it. The only one I know of is the one by Amy Wadge which isn’t really anything memorable but if you’re more fond of the whole “rock chick alone with a piano” thing, you’ll like it more than I do.
The video for the song is pretty much a perfect match of it, an anthemic video for an anthemic song. Also features the amazing scene of Sean accidentally throwing away his other drumstick in one of the circling sections. However, because of Youtube’s arsehole restrictions and no available video where embedding is allowed, enjoy this live version from Leaving the 20th Century where despite the utter clusterfuck of James breaking his guitar and causing a large part of the song to be without the said instrument, the song goes brilliantly. Even if James then proceeds to look like a tit when shadowboxing and such but hey, that’s why we love James. You can still check the official video here though.
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