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Archive for the ‘1991-1992’ Category

Killed off literature for sex and violence

It’s hilarious that while the other b-side of the Little Baby Nothing single, Never Want Again, shows some sort of maturement and added finesse in the band’s stylistic approach, Dead Yankee Drawl is bang-on typical Generation Terrorists era style.

The less said about the lyrics the better – it’s the ridiculously worn and tired “America sucks, their culture is taking over, it’s the apocalypse y’all” ranting and knowing how awkward our favourite band was with their slogan-filled ranting back in their early days, Dead Yankee Drawl is pretty much a parade of clichés. It’s not even humourous like a lot of their other political rantings back in the early days because the subject is simply so overused and overdone. Musically, it peaks at its chorus where the bog-standard GT phase glam cock rock strut is switched to a militaristic march beat and some nice backing vocals.

Actually, the singing in general is pretty much the high point of the song. James sounds really good in this for his early days. The lyrics may be bollocks but the vocal melodies work really well and you can tell that he’s switching from the GT-style belting to the more RRRRRAWWWWKING Gold Against the Soul -style singing.

Essentially, James’ voice saves the track from being typical early Manics b-side filler.

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That game of life is hard to play

The band’s first top ten hit. The fact that it was a cover song pissed off the band quite a bit.

The music rag NME celebrated its 40 years of existence in 1992 with the compilation album Ruby Trax, a three disc mammoth of contemporary acts covering classic songs from the said 40 year period. Our heroes, after long and considerate thinking session involving obscure punk songs and fluffy pop, finally decided to cover the theme song from the classic drama/comedy M.A.S.H. It also ended up being a double a-side single (together with Fatima Mansions’ version of Everything I Do (I Do It For You)) for the purpose of promoting the compilation – their first in a long line of compilation covers and their only non-original single release.

The original version is a gentle, soft tune with lots of acoustic guitar and pleasant strings, its nice and upbeat folk pop singalong nature contrasting the rather dark, hopeless and bleak lyrics. Manics, at this point moving on towards the stadium-filling, crunch-rocking Gold Against the Soul era, turned it into a thundering rock beast that they’ve later described as their Metallica moment. James roars, guitar soars, drums storm – a gallant piano in the background keeps a hint of the original’s melodic prettiness but even it gets drowned under the rock sound as the final climax enters the scene and creates another Manics rock-out ending.

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No more pills and no more drugs

Hearing R.P. McMurphy for the first time was pretty jawdropping. The Manics during their Generation Terrorists phase were a bunch of glammed up 80’s hard rock fans and both the songs before it and during Generation Terrorists are pretty glammy rocking stuff. R.P., that appeared on one of their earliest singles, is an acoustic little frolic with a hilariously awesome “na na na na” chorus. It sounds like a completely different band from a completely different era. But I guess that’s nice little proof that this band had it from the beginning. It’s a fun listen in general, one of the more standing out Manics acoustic tracks.

What’s even more curious that this used to be one of those goofy rock tracks. The early demos, as well as the live performances, have a full band electric backing that transforms it into a more usual Manics fare. I suppose the band just wanted to try something new with the studio version.

As to whether the song actually is about the One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest character is arguable. When you read through the lyrics, very little seems to actually go on about the story or a character and instead the song seems to just use McMurphy as an anchor point or something to some bigger point. God knows about these early Manics lyrics.

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We’ll go down together and meet a few of you in hell

An example of the band’s growth. There’s a lot of anthemic songs with a defiant attitude in the Generation Terrorists era archives but Never Want Again doesn’t replace “defiant” with “arrogant” and generally stays more stylish and ‘mature’ throughout its length. It sounds joyous, it’s clearly got a subtle “fuck you” message to it but this time it sounds liberated and celebratory. There’s no riff salads here or messy lyrics, everything’s played and written very clearly. It’s basically a more grown-up version of what the band were expert at doing back then. It sounds like a single, to be honest. Could have been one I suppose.

Personal anecdote time!

I finished my mandatory school on a sunny late spring / early summer day. It was early morning, as the final days of the school year tend to be. It had felt pretty normal until the very last moments when I realised that this would be the last time I’d see my class teacher or be with this exact same class. Things got a bit nostalgic. I never hated school outside PE lessons yet all that nostalgy still got drowned under a sudden burst of joy as I realised that school was about to end (until I’d start college in the autumn but still). As I walked from my school to my home wearing my fancy clothes and my final report cards in my hand, this song suddenly started playing in my head. It was the heydays of my MSP fanboyism. I almost started singing along but stopped myself so I wouldn’t seem like a tit in public. When I got home, I of course played the song out loud and sang along with my shitty voice. Always such a song of joy for me, this one.

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Spitting out a language I don’t wanna talk

What’s odd to me that Generation Terrorists itself has a bunch of tracks that sound very novice and very amateurish, yet some of the b-sides from the era show immense growth in songwriting and a certain type of sophistication not found in many of the parent album songs. Very quick learning? Who knows.

Democracy Coma is one of the tracks that really should have been on Generation Terrorists if it wasn’t for the fact that it would have sounded completely out of place there (then again, the same album contains things like Motorcycle Emptiness as well). The music is downright brilliant, sticking close to the style of early Manics but having much more effort put into it and sounding like a much more mature take on the style. The lyrics similarly continue on the “against everything” line of Generation Terrorists but instead of sounding ridiculous and sometimes downright stupid, they’re not bad at all. In fact, they’re quite good (with the exception of the whole “in Walkman sounds hear Sony control” thing but we can forgive that now). Part of what makes them so good is James’ delivery – just listen to that fantastic vocal melody on the verse.

Maybe if the band had waited for a bit before beginning the construction of Terrorists we might have something resembling more of a classic than the good-but-clusterfucky mess we have now. Judging by Democracy Coma at least, the band grew in songwriting pretty quickly and the result’s brilliant. Lipstick Traces place definitely justified.

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The night’s too lonesome when the heat doesn’t care

Sounds exactly like the title implies. Those boring, lazy days when you have absolutely nothing to do and even if you did, you simply cannot be arsed. So, you just sit or lie and fiddle about with petty crap, push things back, procrastinate and just wallow in your boredom and moan how bored you are.

The song on the other hand is not boring. It’s a Manics acoustic number which somehow got a backing to itself. Some minimal, but heavily pounding drums, some bass, a tad of electric guitar and spice it up with bongocongawhateverongas – probably the only time in MSP history those things have appeared. The chorus is the moment you stand up and promise yourself to straighten up and start actually doing something, in other words takes a bit of melody in the mix and raises it. And then you flop down again.

It’s a nifty song but I really need to question why this in particular was chosen for Lipstick Traces over the band’s many great and fantastic b-sides. This one sounds like it was always doomed to be a b-side and nothing more ever since its birth.

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Poverty expressed in your heart

God what a dull song.

I used to call Soul Contamination my least favourite Manics song. Nowadays I wouldn’t say that. It’s not because the song’s got any better, it’s moreso because it’s not so shit it’s annoying, it’s just plain bloody dull. Uninteresting. Uneventful.

So it’s a very early Manics b-side. That’s what it sounds like too. It’s got all the youthful naïvety of early Manics but this time there’s not enough vigour, unintentional humour or genuinely good songwriting to save it. It just beats along. Tra-la-la-la.

And good fucking god the lyrics. They’re not even so bad they’re funny, they’re just downright bad.

Put this at the bottom of your priority list when b-side hunting.

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