Review Summary: Although not a great album overall, Know Your Enemy conatins some forgotten gems that ultimately make the album worthwile.
Coming to think of it, it's amazing how many bands that were hugely popular in the early nineties suffered a slump towards the end of that decade and into the new millennium, shortly after achieving their greatest critical and commercial success. One band that instantly comes to mind is Metallica, who lost much of their fanbase and never again reached the critical or commercial heights of the black album with the release of the Loads
. Green Day are another who suffered from waning popularity after the release of Dookie
, though they have since recovered and become arguably even larger. Manic Street Preachers are another popular nineties band who suffered in this way, and although they remain one of Britain's best loved bands, one cannot imagine them matching the success of their mid-nineties peak in the future.
Guitarist Richey Edwards antics, as well as the attitude of the band and some fantastic tunes got the Manic Street Preachers noticed in the early nineties. 1994's Edwards dominated The Holy Bible
is generally regarded as their masterpiece, but it was after the guitarists disappearance that the Manics achieved their greatest commercial success, with 1996's Everything Must Go
. Unfortunately, things only went downhill from there, and although 1998's This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours
is rarely mentioned in the same sentence as its two predecessors, Know Your Enemy
is generally viewed by both fans and critics as the beginning of the rot.
However, totally dismissing this album as a throwaway lowlight of the bands career would be wrong, as it is certainly not without merit. Although never really reaching the heights of their glory days, Know Your Enemy
does contain a number of gems that are all too often forgotten behind the albums bad reputation. Opener Found That Soul
is one of these, with a strong chorus and aggressive guitars making it an early highlight. These guitar driven songs really stand out among the more laid back ballads, especially as the bands last two albums were made largely of these slower numbers. Although not all of these guitar driven rockers are outstanding, they are refreshing among the slower material, and provide an enjoyable throwback to the bands earlier work. Particularly impressive is Intravenous Agnostic
, a wonderful song characterized by an energetic main riff, and possibly the albums strongest moment.
There are great moments amongst the ballads as well, with the singles Let Robeson Sing
and So Why So Sad
displaying wonderful melodies, as well as choruses up there with the Manics best. It is largely believed that the Manics lyrics have gone downhill since Edwards disappearance, but lyrically Let Robeson Sing
is one of their most powerful, being a tribute to black American actor, singer and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson. Unfortunately many of the others don't share these qualities, and can become boring as a result. This tediousness is not helped by the albums excessive length, over seventy-five minutes, which can become as much of an obstacle as the poor filler on it. The band also tried a few experiments on this album, most likely in an attempt to diversify their sound. The most obvious of these, Miss Europa Disco Dancer
is as the title may suggest a funky disco song, very different from anything the band had tried before and since. Although this individual song is not terrible, it does not compliment the flow of the album at all, and is one of the reasons why Know Your Enemy
has gained such negative feedback.
Despite its flaws, of which there are plenty, Know Your Enemy
is a very adequate album, though it's easy to see why it's so often hated upon. It's not their best album, and is certainly not essential, but should not be totally ignored because of this. For those looking to get into the band, there are far better places to start, but for existing fans this album is well worth a look, as amongst the average filler and ill-advised experiments lies some of the Manic Street Preachers most underrated work.
Let Robeson Sing
So Why So Sad
Found That Soul