If there’s blood in your tracks then let it lead you back
An air of cant-be-bothered-itis surrounds the band’s second compilation, the singles collection “National Treasures”. The collection itself is a good idea – gathering all the singles after 10 albums inside one set of covers is a pretty nifty thing, but there’s quite a lot of little things surrounding the compilation that make you realise that this is a band who are about to take a few year break and who aren’t really going to pull out any major effort from their sleeves just before they’re about to begin it. The lack of any promotional tour or appearances (not that any is really needed tbh), the half-arsed singles boxset that’ll forever be known as a pile of wasted potential (by only including a small fraction of the b-sides that came with the singles), the fact that the token new song for the compilation is a very b-side-y cover and that the b-side for that new cover is a yet another acoustic James solo b-side.
By now, it’s started to get really hard to actually come up with anything new and interesting to say about James’ acoustic solo spots. The very first thing I ever wrote for this project was entry for “1404” and already there I lamented how these days the concept of a solo acoustic b-side reeks a bit of laziness and a way to make a token b-side really easily and quickly. During the 90s and early 00s the band didn’t really practice it all that much which ensured that each one was clearly distinctive. Ever since the mid-00s however, and especially during the Postcards-era, they’ve been churning them out with such pace that they’ve all began to sound the same. James sounds fine, he knows how to write a decent enough melody that ensures some memorability and most of the time there’s at least some tiny element that makes it diminishingly different to the others of its kin, but they still sound like they’ve been written in about five minutes and then thrown out into the wild just to bulk up the single tracklist. It’s the Manics equivalent of elevator music.
So I suppose it’s fitting enough that even I’m acting lazy and moaning more about things I’ve mentioned before in these articles rather than actually tackling the song itself. The proper reason for that though is that there’s very little to mention. James sings nicely enough, he strums his guitar pleasantly enough, there’s enough of a tiny hook to make you remember the song five minutes after it’s finished, and that’s it. This time there’s not even a special element involved, unless you count some faint backing vocals by someone not-James in the chorus (which we don’t because that’d be silly). To quote TV Tropes, it’s so ok it’s average.