Review Summary: Under Neon Loneliness, EPILOGUE: "I Fucked God Up the Ass..."
Through musical renascence brought on by the Smiths and Marc Bolan infatuation in the '90s, many British bands took to back loading their single releases with gems that would have been more suited to their studio releases. Suede and Oasis are the most obvious examples of this, with B-Sides providing both with some of their most essential and thoroughly realized pieces. The Manic's could have done the same- throughout their shifting styles, the band had become adept at writing classic B-Sides, with the likes of brilliant Metallica-esque anthem "Patrick Bateman" and Richey Edwards Farewell note "Too Cold Here" relegated to the flip side of the single. Unfortunately, they decided not to do that.
Instead, what we get is this. A 2-disc cluster of good intentions made horribly inconsistent by merit of appropriation. Instead of capturing a band in the throws of genre shifting and turmoil, Lipstick Traces
is an all-together meek airbrush over the Manic's career, creating less a snapshot but a portrait of what the band wishes people saw. So, instead of getting cult classics such as "R.P. McMurphy", "The Ballad of the Bangkok Novotel" and "Black Garden", we get a stifling and crude mix of the bands favorites and not necessarily their best. Arguably their greatest B-Side in "Prologue to History" thankfully appears, but it's a dime in a dozen; the Manic's choose to make themselves appear as they want from there on in. So, never you mind the fact that the band were doing some of their best experiments on B-Sides such as "Automatik Technikolor", just be placid and listen in to some of the bands most dull tunes, namely a dull live version of "Strip it Down" ("New Art Riot" doesn't appear), an inordinate amount of singles from the Everything Must Go
-period (greatest B-Side "Black Garden" is skipped though) and an almost complete ignorance of the best B-Sides from their GT/GATS-era. All this would be (somewhat) forgivable if the band came down to time restrictions, meaning quality selection had to be considered.
Unfortunately though, this is not the case. Instead of being complete in terms of B-Side representation, it's followed up with a CD of covers which range from curiosity to just plain boring. Numerous McCarthy covers are well-meaning and enjoyable, but it's hardly the sort of stuff you will want to go back to- the same can be said for their takes on tracks by The Clash, Guns N' Roses, Wham!, Happy Mondays and Frankie Valli, which are more than worth the time if you're a fan. However words can't describe how useless they at times appear; "Rock & Roll Music" might be a fine glossy rendition, but when it's stuck in at the expense of original B-Side brilliance it's seriously difficult to actually enjoy the content.
The problem isn't with the material within but instead how the band have chosen to deliver this content. With the marked ability to document a band coming from "Tennessee (I Get Low)", "UK Channel Boredom" and "We Her Majesty's Prisoners" (which, thankfully, does appear) all the way through until "Happy Ending" and "Locust Valley", it's bewildering the band have skimmed their history so poorly and inconsistently. Sure, you can't please everyone, but to offer up a back catalogue of brilliant B-Sides like this is so inherently lazy it contradicts everything the Manic's stood for.
But still, if you are willing to go and wade through a B-Side history of the Manic's- which I doubt many do- there's a genuine albums worth of classics to be found, with the second disc a redundant retread of covers that could have been used to make the collection more expansive and valuable. It's a shame the band couldn't be more convenient in delivering their secret history to you.