Build more jails, fill more graves
Who would’ve thought that a ditty about capital punishment would be so fun?
Voodoo Polaroids is the other gritty, heavily rocking Lifeblood b-side alongside Quarantine. Terms like ‘gritty’ and ‘heavy’ shouldn’t be applied to its mood though – just the general sound as opposed to Lifeblood’s calmer, clearer and more melodic sound – because it’s actually a pretty jubilant song. Very rolling, very fun. I wasn’t overly charmed with it at first until I found myself singing it aloud constantly and just having great fun crafting lyrics of my own wherever I couldn’t remember how the real ones went (which was pretty much most of the song). That pretty much alerted me to that there’s something worth savouring in the song and, well, it’s a damn great ditty.
The whole capital punishment stance on this song is the complete opposite to Archives of Pain’s pro-stance. Voodoo Polaroids takes a more of an anti-position to the whole thing, bit by bit going through execution methods and occasionally quipping something about them (“vengeance is good” and so forth. Or “vengeance is God”, I can’t tell which). Mostly just listing, letting the rather simple chorus spell the main point. Dripping with sarcasm, this one. I’ve no idea what the titular voodoo polaroids are and the otherwise pretty handy Manics.nl is stifled about that particular info snippet as well. My guess it’s some obscure literary reference that Nicky nicked when he thought it sounded cool. It does sound cool.
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Forever hoping we’ll all make our way back
The thing everyone mentions first from Askew Road is that it’s got a Richey voiceclip in it. I still don’t know myself if it fits the lyrics that reminisce the band’s earlier days or if it’s completely out of place because the quote relates to the subject matter very, very vaguely. Gives a chance to hear the man’s voice, at the least.
Askew Road in general is brilliant, however. It’s almost ambient: driven pretty much only by keyboard chords and the occasional deep bass. On the single it continues the rather lovely progression the other two songs on it have – from Nixon’s beat-heavy groove to the subtler, more atmospheric Everything Will Be and finally everything else is left out but the atmosphere on Askew Road. It’s a very melancholy song, wonderfully backing the lyrics.
Speaking of the lyrics, it’s one of those instances during Lifeblood era where Nicky’s constantly worsening writer’s block takes effect as the words consists of a singular verse repeated twice (with very minor changes). The same happens on a lot of Lifeblood b-sides but on Askew it’s not as ear-jarring. Askew’s all about atmosphere and all you need is James’ hushed vocal to make it work beautifully.
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God save all the people whose lives we have betrayed
See, Send Away the Tigers? This is how you do a throwback to your past. A Secret Society is the first example of the band’s desire to rock a bit more and bit more youthfully again after the solemn Lifeblood era.
Each line is a sloganeering punchline, the chorus is a 1-2 punch of shouty shoutalong jumpalong goodness. The music’s very, very simple and guitar-heavy but doesn’t abandon what the band has learned during its years of activity – nice little details spark up here and there (man I love those handclaps) and James uses his mature charm to sound charismatic. Add some epic climaxing and the three-minute punk rock party anthem is ready to be enjoyed thoroughly.
Love the double-tracking of vocals throughout the song, love the chorus in all its silly simplistic rage. Lolrandom Libertines reference is random. It’s not the sort of song that’s gonna change the world but it’s a good nearly three minutes of fun bouncy rock done in a really good manner.
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Tonight we watch the burning cars shining bright
I’m positive that the entirety of God Save the Manics EP are songs that were intended to be b-sides for Lifeblood’s third single but when that didn’t happen, they were released as an EP of their own. All the signs are there: the Japanese LB bonus tracks counted with the offerings of this EP total five tracks, just like all the Lifeblood singles had five different b-sides (the Japan tracks are counted because Japanese bonus tracks have always been released on the later singles of the album by the band). One song from each b-sides group got a Patrick Jones directed video for itself. Firefight got one, released shortly after the EP.
The Firefight video is pretty pish, by the way. The not so exciting adventures of a snare drum across the landscapes. Woo.
Firefight is my least favourite of the three songs offered on the EP. It’s nothing bad musically – in fact it carries some lovely melodies and is thoroughly memorable. It’s actually quite a good song although more of a b-side than something you’d put on an album. It’s kinda like an uplifting rock anthem from the This Is My Truth era transferred into the Lifeblood world. The reason why it feels a bit wonky is because the production isn’t on par with the standards of Lifeblood. Instead it’s slightly gutless, lacking in impact somewhat. It effects this one more than it does the other tracks of the EP.
Of course, the blame could entirely be on my digital copy, perhaps the CD has a better sound quality. Wouldn’t know. These are CD rips though so eh.
An interesting bit of trivia comes in the fact that it’s a James song, as in he wrote the lyrics. Which would make this the second and so far the last Manics song with his lyrical input. Sod knows why he ended up doing the lyrics but they’re good. The chorus is a bit eh but I do like the verses.
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A damage fading, eternal to be
So Lifeblood’s all melodic and beautiful and subtle and clean in its sound et cetera. And The Love of Richard Nixon is almost synthpop and all the b-sides so far have continued in similar fashions. And then the TLORN DVD-single offers a few dirty, fuzzy guitar rockers with lo-fi production values that sound like KYE remnants.
Mostly, anyway. Quarantine might have a completely different sound to the rest of Lifeblood era but a certain melodiness and sophistication comes through its composition anyway. It might sound guttural and raw but the chorus soars majestically and the ever-present “woo-oooh” backing vocals give it a sort of… finer edge. Lifeblood’s soaring choruses and heavy backing vocal usage comes to mind.
Aside from the chorus’ heavy usage of Nicky’s favourite lyrical bit – “like a x” comparisons which rarely make any sense – there’s nothing to fault on the track. It’s raw and it’s got punch, and chances are that if you don’t like Lifeblood (you weird, weird person you) you might love this. It’s a great piece of latter-day Manics rock.
A mystery surrounds Quarantine, sorta – on the single release its accompanied by a short film of its own (it’s nice, contains some great shots of the band in the studio playing the song but nothing worth hunting the single for). On the same clip you can get a couple of brief glimpses of a woman, or a very feminine guy, singing on a microphone in a recording booth. No vocals like this can be found in any Lifeblood-era track and it would be very odd if the director (Nicky’s brother btw – one of his few better videos) decided to just shoot a random member of a whole different thing. The mysterious female singer continues to be mysterious.
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I listen to money singing
For such a short track buried in the hidden depths of a DVD version of a relatively unsuccessful single plagued with release problems, Failure Bound sure does attract a lot of attention.
For one, it’s a Nicky track. Nicky seems to be getting an increasing amount of free hands on the band’s b-sides these days and not many agree with his voice. I do. He can’t sing for shit, but I love the messiness of his voice. Failure Bound’s spoken word delivery is especially lovely and charming.
For two, a lot of people also dislike that Nicky’s practically just reciting someone else’s poetry (can’t remember the author’s name) without crediting. Understandable.
It also gets a lot of attention because it’s such an atypical Manics song. It’s not musically original at all: play the song backwards and you’ll hear another Empty Souls b-side, No Jubilees. Nicky speak-singing on top of a reversed song isn’t exactly a familiar thing in the Manics world.
It’s clear that it’s simply a piss-about Nicky did on a bored moment on a studio, it’s no big statement or anything, but I still count myself as one of the song’s very very few fans. The ‘music’ is enchanting and hypnotic and Nicky’s voice is soothing and just perfect on it.
It’s an oddball of a “song” but I love it.
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But in the excuse there lies the message
Suave pop pearl. One of the few Lifeblood b-sides that actually have finished lyrics instead of repeating the same verse ad infinitum. Musically it’s similarly more “organic” as the rest of the Empty Souls b-sides, keeping the same Lifeblood style and atmosphere but not relying on icecold production and high amounts of synthesisers. Contains some stylish guitar licks, chiming keyboards and, like its single counterpart Litany, is composed of a more slower and less jubilant verse and an uplifter chorus. Acoustic guitar glory in that chorus.
One tiny noteworthy mention that always enters my head when I hear the song is the drum sound. The groovy beat’s nicely partnered up with a lighter drum sound. Both together give this one a bit of an airy feel.
This is also the song that became Failure Bound once Nicky erased the vocal track and played it backwards.
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