Review Summary: A series of images against you and me
The Manics are one of those bands where their history threatens to overshadow the actual music. Bursting onto the British music scene at the very start of the 90s in a blaze of glitter and spray paint, they became legend before they even released their debut album. Yet despite the spitting venom, mindless arrogance, and impossible intelligence, personal issues raged, especially in Britrock icon Richey James Edwards, lyricist and “guitarist”. It was only until 1994’s The Holy Bible
that their music was finally taken seriously, the impossibly dark and bleak record becoming the closest anyone has got to finding out the true mechanics of Edward’s troubled mind. A year later, he was gone.
Success quickly (and sadly) followed, with the Manics becoming a far more radio-friendly prospect, Everything Must Go
and This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours
going double and triple Platinum respectively. After that came an almost decade-long commercial and artistic slump, only to be revived with 2007’s Send Away The Tigers
. But that album may as well not exist with this. Journal for Plague Lovers
It’s certainly a daring as hell album. The most talked about part is the lyrics, all taken from a booklet Richey left the band before his disappearance. Only the Manics could have gotten away with this. Yet do not be mistaken, this is not The Holy Bible 2
. Peeled Apples
may make you think that as soon as you turn the album on. Much like The Holy Bible
, it starts off with a quote, an excerpt by Christian Bale from The Machinist
, before an ominous bass emerges, only to be overthrown by shockingly loud snare drums, dirty guitars and James Dean Bradfield’s determined shout. As soon as the poisonous yet anthemic chorus kicks in, one thing is made for certain. Few bands in recent years, let alone the Manics, have sounded so confident and determined as Peeled Apples
makes out. Yet when Jackie Collins Existential Question Time
, the album’s “single”, kicks in, it is clear that the band never wanted to make a second The Holy Bible
. The song is rather light and poppy (that is, until the last 40 seconds, when the song bursts into raging hard rock), much as the majority of the album. The upbeat-ness more recalls critic-favourite Everything Must Go
Yet the production again contradicts that statement. Richey-favourite Steve Albini is behind the desk, famed for his work on such classic records like Nirvana
’s In Utero
’ Surfer Rosa
and PJ Harvey
’s Rid Of Me
. And it shows. Though not recalling the crushing density of The Holy Bible
, the album is certainly claustrophobic, featuring the classic Albini sound of loud drums, dirty-as-*** guitar feedback and raw vocals. Yet still the album manages to sound radio-friendly and accessible, only helped by the four acoustic songs of This Joke Sport Severed
, Facing Page: Top Left
, Doors Closing Slowly
and William’s Last Words
, the former being one of haunting orchestration, the latter, sung by bassist Nicky Wire, being Richey’s final lyric. Despite being drastically cut down from the original lyric, it still sounds like a suicide note, Wire’s tuneless voice still sounding close to tears.
However, despite the acoustic songs and the upbeat pop rock, there still lies a dark atmosphere lurking behind. There are still fearless hard rockers, such as Peeled Apples
and All Is Vanity
. And of course, there are still the infamous lyrics of Edwards, the familiar disjointed, poetry-like one-liners, still ragingly political, still terrifyingly personal. As the lyrics were written over fourteen years ago, they’re obviously “out of date” (cultural references such as Marlon Brando and Giant Haystacks), yet that’s the beauty of this album.
It’s an album without time. The lyrics are out of date, the sound is one of a time long gone. Yet it still sounds modern. It’s one final look back to the past, a tribute to a burnt out star, a “spiritual successor” of a classic album no one can ever replicate. And the band knows this. That’s why it never tries to be The Holy Bible 2
. Yet it’s in full knowing of that album’s classic status. Through the murky guitar feedback and Jenny Saville artwork, it’s an album for the fans. It’s an album that can stand on it’s own. It’s a look over the shoulder, and it’s a look into the distance. It’s an album that doesn’t give a ***. It’s an album of 1994 and 2009.
And THAT, my friends, is why THIS is their comeback.
All Is Vanity
This Joke Sport Severed
William's Last Words
She Bathed Herself In A Bath Of Bleach