If you want to be a hero then just follow me
I admit I’m somewhat unfairly biased towards this song. I can hardly stand the John Lennon original, it’s a song that’s meant to sound really bitter and angry but comes off as somewhat of a tantrum. There’s never been a good cover of it either, part of the reason there being that most cover artists want to emphasise the bitter angriness of the song and end up just sounding like tits on a tantrum bravado, acting all tough but sounding cringy. It’s long been a subject of debate whether Lennon was sarcastic or serious with it but neither interpretation really does the song any extra favours.
Now would be a perfect time to start a sentence with “but…” and defend our protagonists but Manics have also ended up falling in the foxhole around the song. The MSP arrangement is gruff and angry, distorted guitars and fuzzed up production. Stompy and ragey. It too sounds daft and cringy. This time it’s not really the band’s fault though – sure the arrangement falls into the usual trap where a lot of the covers of this song trip on but in the end it’s the weakness of the original song that’s at fault. The only thing we can properly blame the band for is the small lapse of judgement that made them cover the song in the first place but it’s not the end of the world.
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All fucked up and nowhere to go
Somewhat of a stadium rock anthem that falls in the middle of things.
It’s perfectly enjoyable, sounds nicely crunchy and large, has power to it and such. I really like the verses me, especially the ones after the first chorus. It’s not just the weak synth string, it’s the way James sings the latter verses.
But despite being perfectly enjoyable, it’s not perfectly great or anything. On the album it does its job fine but there’s not much reason to raise it out in any sort of positive or negative discussion about the songs of the album. It does sport one of the more quality-consistent lyrics on Send Away the Tigers although the repetition of the title (I can’t help it but “patsy” is just such a damn silly word) and the cliché critter “I need an angel from above” dampen things around and about.
I prefer the original live premiere (during XFM’s Winter Wonderland thing in 2006) over the studio version personally, simply because the “I’m just a patsy” speech quote sampling on the album version wasn’t in use yet and instead you had a raunchy “ONE, TWO, THREE, FOURRRRRRRRR” from James. Sounds better.
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Remember the reasons that made us be
I guess this is where the band’s desire to get back in the public spotlight with Send Away the Tigers comes in form the closest. Indian Summer is practically a rewrite of their biggest hit A Design for Life and the band themselves have acknowledged the similarities. The single (relatively, as collector fans naturally bought loads of copies) flopped ironically enough: a combination of weak promotion, the band not really playing the song much at all during their live appearances, the fact that it was the final single of the album and that it simply didn’t strike the public nerve as much as A Design for Life did.
Lyrically it’s one of Tigers’ better moments: once again reliving the past, making a toast to nostalgia and (according to Wire himself) celebrating friendship. They’re not cringeworthy like almost anything else on the album. The tune itself is nice as well – I used to like it quite a bit but further listens haven’t really done it any good. It’s got its moments of brilliance too: the second verse is even blissful as the synth strings enter the scene. Then the chorus comes and let’s down everyone, being a sudden switch from the “reaching far and high in a melodic ring” to sudden stay-on-ground downbeat mood. The chorus ends up sounding like a bridge without a real chorus to accompany it.
For the video the band decided to just stick to a friend after the clusterfuckery of Autumnsong videos and got Patrick Jones to direct the video. It’s not that bad but it’s archetypal Patrick Jones – some band shots, some grainy old footage (you can spot the little band members from The Holy Bible’s booklet!), some shots of people just standing and looking bored. Somewhat amateurish, but it’s got shots of the band eating chips and at least it’s not the Autumnsong videos.
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Remember the best times are yet to come
Autumnsong is cheese. The moon kind: a gigantic ball of it that you cannot help but see. It screams cheese, all the way from the lyrics to the stadium sized chorus, from the strings to the echoed vocals before the chorus. Lyrically it’s absolutely ridiculous and “baby what you done to your hair” is a classic lyric for all the wrong reason. Overall, it’s the single most corniest song the band has done.
And you know what? It doesn’t only admit it, it’s proud of it.
It’s a big goofy stupid song and that’s why I find it to be one of Send Away the Tigers’ highlights. Unlike a lot of Tigers era tracks that sound cheesy, corny or just plain awkward but try to act like they’re serious, Autumnsong knows it’s a huge ham. It has its tongue lodged safely in the cheek all the time. In the end, its heart is in the right place. It doesn’t pretend to be anything, it’s blatantly made to be a crowd singalong moment at gigs and it doesn’t try to be anything else. Even the lyrics are easily relatable nostalgia stuff, repeated throughout for maximum effect (or because Wire was lazy/uninspired).
It’s good cheese. A lot of people take this one too seriously.
The two videos made for it aren’t, however. There was some minor hulabaloo when the band announced they really hated the record label video that had been made for the song and they had decided to make their own. The label version really is quite dreadfully corny, lots of teenagers in teenager situation and lots of dramatic slow-motion, even some corny random lyric flashes (not helped by the godhorrid font with the Russian reverse-R the band used during the era). Then you see the band’s own version and it’s even worse. The two girls from the album’s ugly cover mime to the song in front of a blank white background. What might have been good as an idea completely clusterfucks when neither girl has any sort of enthusiasm, energy or idea to do anything. So they just stand, half-arsedly moving their mouths in front of a mic.
I suppose even the label and the band in the end took the song too seriously.
P.S. I can’t find the sleeve quotes for this.
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When you and me did nothing but smile
Send Away the Tigers’ halfway climax comes in the form of a big, epic ballad anthem about emotional lows and nostalgic memories. Calm verses, giant choruses, it’s all quite the familiar territory. But it is good however. It kinda highlights one of Tigers’ saving throws that even when the band is on auto-drive, the band we are talking about are still Manic Street Preachers.
A lot of the reason why it works so well is all the little instrumental nifty things: the echoing guitar line, the cold and rigid drumbeat during the verses and, you know, I do love a well-done big epic anthem chorus. Music blasts high, James puts on his “gorgeous loud bastard” style and so forth. For some reason whenever I listen to the full album it doesn’t work on me as well but whenever I happen to give it a separate listen I’m reminded how good it really is. Go figure.
Primarily written by Sean.
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Nothing’s finished it just fades away
Aside from the obvious musical comparisons, Imperial Bodybags really takes cue from the band’s early days with its lyrics and their unintentional hilarity due to their badness. Just like in the old days! I mean they’ve got a reasonable idea behind them and all, even if a really worn idea, but oh man the words…
The music saves though. It’s not so bad it’s good either, it’s genuinely good. Mean little energetic bastard rockshuffle, complete with a one hell of a banger of a chorus. It’s an example that emulation of the past can work when wanted, but the key is to still bring forth the lessons you’ve learned over the years with you. The bass riff or drum beat in this song couldn’t have been found from the band back in the early 90’s. And it sounds fun. Regardless of the subject matter of how soldiers are ordinary people too, the song sounds almost jubilant. Among all the rather plastic guitar rock on the album, this sort of genuine sunshine is a welcome surprise. It’s refreshing.
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I was born to underachieve
Manics albums tend to open with big rockers that often nutshell or hint towards the album’s lyrical themes and general direction. Such is with the title track of Send Away the Tigers. The church organ intro is a brief false lead before a familiar rock tune starts up. Much like the album it’s named after, Send Away the Tigers is a look to the band’s past. The lyrical flow triest to slightly emulate the big lines of the earlier days, James shooting syllables off his mouth. The music is Everything Must Go -lite. But it’s all slightly and it’s all lite. And just like that it also manages to nutshell Tigers’ general problem: all surface no feeling.
Tigers is a thoroughly alright song that in the end doesn’t really leave you with much afterwards. It sure as hell manages to lodge itself into your head with its BIG chorus and the vocal rhythm of the verses but it never really feels particularly worth remembering for. It’s an earworm but it’s not a song that would ever demand any sort of a special mention. And if I were in a really cruel mood, I’d say it sounds like the first original song of a Manics cover band.
I was born to underachieve indeed.
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