Archive for the ‘1986-1991’ Category

Teenage 20/20

We’re dead end dolls and nothing’s moving

It’s all about the chorus here. All the rest of the song? Pretty forgettable. The chorus? Sticks in your head like crazy. Such is the power of shout-along repetition, I suppose. Teenage 20/20 closes off the New Art Riot EP pretty nicely, works as a closing song. It shares all the cons and pros of the rest of the songs on the EP, all which you’ve probably understood by now as this is alphabetically the last one of the four tracks which means you’ve most likely read my previous rambles on the three other tracks. To nutshell: musically simple, lyrics that are so bad they’re funny, general comedic value moreso than real musical value.

But dammit that chorus stays in your head forever.


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Suicide Alley

You won’t eat away at my mind with your ideas of decency

God they’re so bloody young here.

Maybe Suicide Alley is more seriously appreciated by true punk afficiniados but to me it’s just hilarious. It’s good yeah, but moreso due to its humour value than actual musical value. The lyrics are absolutely ridiculous, the song itself is very very early Manics youthfully arrogant energy at its best, James sounds so unbelievably young and completely different for the angelic anthem belter he’s today, and the production’s just so hilariously poor (my favourite moment of the whole song actually is the sound clipping during one of the “it’s the air I BREATHE” bits).

Completely adolescent garage punk and bloody hilarious at that.

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Baby can’t have her little bit of love

The weakest track on the New Art Riot EP. While none of the songs on it are particularly good (outside their humour value), they’ve all got something memorable. All but Last Exit on Yesterday that is. This one just chugs along and not even the comedic value is here to save it when you can’t really remember much about it. Tiny bits and bobs but tiny bits and bobs just aren’t really enough.

Otherwise it’s pretty much the exact same as the EP and ye olde Manics in general. Only this time there’s no simple but surprisingly powerful hook to save it from complete disregard.

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No matter what we own we can’t buy freedom

More unintentional hilarity completely saved by the wonderful arrogance and energy of youth. This time offered in a hilariously amateurish way: notice the fantastic tempo drop with the drums sometime after the first chorus. You’ve come a long way, Sean.

Much like most other old Manics tracks, even this is genuinely catchy and good despite the overtly pretentious bullshit lyrics and general ridiculousness. The tune carries well, the chorus is damn catchy and there’s a small sense of epicness to the whole thing even. Sure it’s a bit long-stretched but hey, we’ll forgive that. It also makes a great closer on Lipstick Traces.

Originally titled Ceremony Rape Machine but the band was forced to change it by label’s orders. Gotta say I prefer the final title. Executive meddling done right.

Favourite moment: Nicky’s “bow down!”

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Sorrow 16

Oh the road is beautiful

The b-side to Motown Junk strongly rivals the key track in being the best song of the disc.

Much like Motown Junk, Sorrow 16 condenses teenage existentialism and arrogance in such a grandiose form that it overshadows most of the similar Manics songs. Both have a gigantic drive and immense passion in the sound. Just listen to the sheer vitriol in the song!

So many glorious moments. The choruses are brilliant and show how well-made some simple line repetition can be. Nicky’s fantastic “in hate!” cameo at the end of the second chorus is amazing – he sure loved doing those little vocal cameos at the start of the band. And the climax! The beautiful road part is pure genius, the way it just rises and finally ends in James’ spelling lesson is unbridled perfection.

It’s easy to say that the start of the band was somewhat embarrasing because, well, it was, but they really did know how to already write a song by then.

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Motown Junk

Twenty-one years of living and nothing means anything to me

The band’s first genuinely good song turns out to be their first absolutely great song as well. The world is shocked, the haywire punk band’s managed to create something that’s not just amusing but genuinely amazing!

Motown Junk is amusing but not in the same so bad it’s great way as the other early songs. It’s full of sass and balls, it pulls off the na├»ve us-against-the-world angle with success. It’s four minutes of glorious rock life. The jubilant, youthful energy makes you jump along and shout out whatever lyrics you know.

Including some of the more controversial lyrics. James tends to skip the “I laughed when Lennon got shot” line these days which in my opinion is quite silly. Sure it’s got CONTROVERSIAL VALUE but not that much, really. Otherwise the lyrics are surprisingly nice for early Manics lyrics. Still some godawful cringe lines (“communal tyranny a jail that bleeds our wrists”, ouch) but overall they’re less cringe and more swell.

There’s an absolutely wonderful live version of this, from the 2005 tour, where Nicky storms in front of the mic halfway through the song and sings the lead vocals for the rest of the song. Hilarity. In general when live, James has a tendency to perform a verse or so of a non-Manics song as an intro leading up to the actual song – there’s been countless different songs but I’ve always been fond of the Baby Love intro. Yet more on the song’s importance live, the band had been saying for years that they know they’d be finished by the time they’d stop playing Motown Junk live. On the 2004 Lifeblood tour they didn’t air it, much to the shock and dismay of fans.

The music video’s just a live performance with the studio version on top. A good chance to see the band being all young though.

The sleeve quote for the single is a lengthy ramble by William S. Burroughs, transcribed here.

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I don’t need culture, I spit it out

I’ve always had a soft spot for Starlover. It fits as a You Love Us b-side, it’s practically its sibling. Same in-your-face rock and roll, same ridiculously arrogant lyrical matter (and this time with some added sarcasm and tongue in cheek). About two and a half minutes of fun little punky rock where it’s impossible to tell whether the song takes itself seriously or not. Trying to come up with anything deep about it is pretty hard because it’s just fun dammit, the sort of thing that makes you stand up and jump wildly around the room, singing along and airguitaring as it plays. The whole thing’s essentially done far better on You Love Us (the Heavenly version anyway, the Sony version’s a bit more serious sounding) but they’re different enough to work.

Hearing the band resurrect it for their six-track Heavenly anniversary gig was pretty fun. They said they found it the weakest of their Heavenly recordings though. Silly people.

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