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Archive for the ‘1996-1997’ Category

(instrumental)

The original Manics instrumental. The band wouldn’t start doing these again until after a decade starting with Send Away the Tigers’ b-sides.

Horses Under Starlight is the best one of the Manics instrumentals though. Sean’s trumpet plays gloriously while the band takes the chilled way around and about this time, subtly grooving in a suave fashion. Like a lounge song with an attitude. James ba-ba-baaas in the chorus but those are the only vocals. And those keyboards, mmmm.

Sadly the calmness is ruined slightly at the end when the band decides it’s time to stop being cool and kicks up a notch, finishing the song with a fast-rocking finale. It’s not honestly bad or anything but oooooh, that chilled groove is just so awesome and sexy that the song should have finished with it as well.

Amusing musical detail: the random drum roll at the very end when all the instruments bar the guitar’s feedback have quieted down.

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This purgatory for beginners

I originally wanted to mainly talk about how lovely the sound is in this one: a very rich, orchestral and harmonic prettiness covers the whole track that never sounds fierce or rocking despite its rather aggressive backbeat. But then I decided to check upon the lyrics while deciding which part of them would go well as a lyric quote and I was hit by a revelation that I’ve never really come about thinking while listening to the song. James’ unclear falsetto vocals during the verses cover it up pretty well – just what the hell is going on lyrically in this song?

It’s like Nicky trying to imitate Richey. For one moment you’ve got perfectly clear existential angst that Wire specialises in, the next you hit completely random sounding lines like “clandestine brain finished period” and “yellow moral unclean decay”. While I’m sure in the big sense of things it does all tie down back into the whole existential depression thing, reading through the lyrics just leaves you baffled. Not just because of the meaning but the utterly random stylistic structure it’s got. Like I said, in a lot of places it’s like Nicky’s trying to imitate Richey’s style now that he’s gone.

What you can get out of the lyrics though is a slightly sinister mood that they’ve got. Which plays along rather well to the orchestral bliss, flute and all, that the rest of the track has.

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All this whiteness blinds

A small atmospheric remnant The Holy Bible era. Unlike the anthemic bittersweet rock anthems that otherwise dominate Everything Must Go and its b-sides, Black Garden is a gloomy drone with a rather… dark set of lyrics. Stylistically this is the big departure point of Everything Must Go era.

It’s a rather damn good song though. The creepiness of it all, caused by all the tiny little sound elements. The “swing, swing” in the beginning and the end, the fading snippet of “Glory, Glory” played in the intro, the filtered guitars that sound like they’re coming from a whole different dimension. But despite the dominance of those ravaging guitar lines, Black Garden in its heart is a pure bass song – just listen to the lively bass fills and the dominance the bass lines have throughout the song – hell, the bass is the most prominent instrument volume-wise in the whole song. My favourite parts of the song are actually the intro and outro where it’s mainly just bass and a simple drum line.

Shame the Everything Must Go re-release botched this up by doing the completely random deed of removing the intro and putting it as its own separate track. Why?

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Let’s fall asleep to a plastic lullaby

One can quite easily say that there’s no other song like Dead Passive in Manics’ catalogue.

An acoustic march for verses (with drums coming in on later verses) with a whimsical frolic full of name-checking for a chorus. Strangely jubilant despite the rather scathing lyrics. It’s a song that could have probably been released at any time in the band’s career with only minor changes (it’s got such a weird timeless quality to it) but the Everything Must Go -era and its rich, orchestra-filled sound claimed it as its own and thus the weird jangle’s accompanied by… a flute. And big orchestra drums in the chorus too. So not only is it jubilant, it’s now also elegant.

And thus the song turns into an odd waltz/march where people dance for the hedonistic world full of superficial relationships. Not one of my very favourites but it certainly stands out.

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Cynicism is the only thing that keeps me sane

Along with Miss Europa Disco Dancer, I like to think of this as the best proof of the band’s occasionally surfacing sense of humour. Nicky Wire’s autobiographical “I’m fucking boring and proud of it” tale wraps itself in tongue-in-cheek self-slapping and laughing at oneself. Full of glorious lines (“they call me a boring fuckhead / say I might as well work in a bank” being my personal favourite) too.

Musically it’s pretty much the best accompaniment to the song you could get. It’s some more guitar rock to the Everything Must Go vein, not much different from what was going on on the album. The tone however is different, more careless and similarly tongue-in-cheek as the lyrics are. The best moment comes right at the end as the song climaxes into a high energy acoustic frolicabout. I love the little backing vocal yelps in it as well.

It’s not really immensely high on my Manics b-sides list however, more along the middle with slightly upward turn. The lyrics might be great but the verse and in particular the chorus aren’t musically that great. Sure they’re fun but they’re not fun enough to break free from the rather b-sidey ordinary guitar rock mold. The outro frolic is fabulous, one of the few finalĂ© mood-switch rockouts that actually improve on the song in the Manics catalogue, but by that time it’s a bit too late for the song to catch up fully.

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Sepia

For the first time ever I don’t understand my television

And here you go. Part godknowswhat in our continuing series on why Manic Street Preachers are one of the best b-sides bands ever and my personal favourite in that respect.

This beautiful acoustic-driven pseudo-ballad is definitely one of the highlights of the entire Everything Must Go era. Musically by itself it’s not so special as the verses are slightly plain – it’s the choruses where things really kick off in that respect – but Sepia is all about performance, delivery and meaning. In other words, what Nicky has written and how James sings it. The lyrics are downright brilliant in their wistful and defeated melancholy. Yes it’s another Richey song but instead of harping on about it ages after he’s gone, Sepia’s a lyric borne relatively close to the disappearance event and catches Nicky during a very fragile moment. James interprets this perfectly, with just the right emotional charge that aches but never lets it overflow melodramatically. It’s a calm song and so’s the delivery fittingly. I especially love the way James sings the bridges as well as the rapid pace he shoots out the first line of the chorus, referencing the ambiguous ending of Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid – an unclear ending much like Richey’s.

One of the most emotionally naked Manics songs that shows us that at his best Wire’s brilliant and that James is the best possible person to interpret his lyrics.

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I’m not real but I’d like to have a chance to feel

Sharing its single with another simple rocker (No One Knows What It’s Like to Be Me), Hanging On essentially threads the same area as the other song. They even follow eachother. Both are simple, three minute rockers – the major difference being that Hanging On keeps its fast pace throughout the song.

In quick comparison Hanging On is the better one, partly because of the reasons we talk about in the entry for No One Knows itself. However, this doesn’t mean that Hanging On is a particularly great track. It’s a nice track, a swell b-side, but that’s about it. It rocks well and I do like the more emphasised acoustic guitar under the electric one but it’s still the sort of song that tends to end up as a b-side. It has some nice quirks like the use of backing vocals on the verse but in the end it’s your more typical b-side material.

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