Review Summary: Under Neon Loneliness, CHAPTER 2: “A Memory Fades to a Pale Landscape…”
By all definitions of the words ‘titanic failure’, Manic Street Preachers’ Generation Terrorists
fit the bill. Not even by fractions of their own ***ed up standards did the band succeed, even worse too was that the style of music they performed was becoming painfully out-dated- the band were still attempting to subvert their lyricism with glam metal tendencies, and although the NME
made rash decisions to give it a perfect score (it was a damn site close to the score's merit), context-specific the album didn't feel intentionally bloated or sacrilegious. With their 1994 album, the band was undeniably confused about what they were supposed to do- they’d received perfect scores, but nobody was buying their albums.
Enter, ‘Sophomore Slump’.
The labels Gold Against the Soul
has afforded itself in the 20+ years since its release are quite unfit. Yes, context-specific the album failed and did little to articulate their visions. But taken simply as a piece of music, Gold Against the Soul
is a seriously adept and worthy follow-up to the bands overblown debut.
Smoothing out the bumps, the album opens on the insomniac biography “Sleepflower”. Charged by a filthy and jagged riff, the song runs along with careless abandon and furious gaze- nothing on Terrorists
quite matches the grooving riff and generally dirty atmosphere of the track. Singles “From Despair to Where” and “La Tristesse Durera (Scream to a Sigh)” are hard-hitting and perfectly designed for radio, proving more clever ways of subversion than the band were used to, matching lyrics of war and depression with string orchestrated rock tracks. Deeper album cuts provide similar cleverly done pieces- “Life Becoming a Landslide” is a careful and cathartic track by way of voyeurism and lack of Russian Formalist outlook. The provoking take on suicide that is “Roses In the Hospital” is one of the bands greatest ballad moments- even if its stadium-ready closing can take away from its general motivation.
And then that becomes the downfall that plagues Gold Against the Soul
. Even though it’s tighter and more focused than their debut, it’s worse for indulging in the more ridiculous aspects of heavy metal and the emerging grunge scene. Pity yourself to the dark lyrics of “Yourself” while you rock out with your cock out. Prance along to the arpeggio-riddled riff of “Drug Drug Druggy” while you try to absorb that superficial surface meaning. And if that hasn't drained you, tell the old folks to take a hike on “Nostalgic Pushead”, and wail on that air-guitar like the size of your willy is at stake- because nothing rocks quite
as hard as Duran Duran keyboards and Metallica-sized bridges.
With that being said though, painfully understated remains the albums final moments. “Symphony of Tourette” is the most misunderstood of the two tracks that close the album, as is any that tries to articulate the problems surrounding a Tourette’s sufferer. Inarticulate riffs and jarring sections are thrown out almost randomly, with expression faulting in the eyes of social anxiety- the very symptoms of Tourette’s. The final title-track mines the bands political side with U2-sized stadium ready riffs. Echoing with male harmonies ala-Def Leppard, the band squander some brilliantly iconic rhetoric in the skin of arena-meandering, cavernous ‘rawk’. Regardless, it pushes forward and entertains through the final overblown nature of the second-half.
And that, if anything, is the issue surrounding Gold Against the Soul
. Undeniably, all 10 tracks are in some way enjoyable if not for the employment of hooks and guitar-centric focus. The performances tight, the lyrical work intriguing, the only thing truly letting it down is the fact it really doesn't slide together. Guns N’ Roses might have never been politically minded, and The Clash may have never been interested in the synergy of guitar riffs and vocal hooks, but they matched their music and lyrics appropriately. Unfortunately, subversive or not, it doesn't work as well when it was already made perfect satire of on their debut.
Confusion leads Gold Against the Soul
into strange places and dead-ends, but thankfully it never stops being entertaining. Lacking intelligent prowess in favour of unintentional hard rock spoof, Gold Against the Soul
merely cowers in the shadow of its titan follow-up The Holy Bible
- regardless, this is hardly the disaster to prove your lack of Manic’s fandom like the NME
loves to tout. Concise and consistent if not lacking in brevity and too focused on rockism, Gold Against the Soul
is an interesting piece that unfortunately slides in awkwardly between two of the Manic’s crowning achievements.
NEXT: “I Know I Believe In Nothing But It Is My Nothing…”