There are two things I know about Manic Street Preachers:
1) 1537 loves ‘em.
2) 1537 has one of their LPs on the Master Grail List.
So actually, 1537 is the only reason I know anything about them. I’ve never owned an album of theirs before this… When I found this disc for cheap, I emailed him and asked if it was worth getting. He said “Like all the later LPs it has 2 or 3 really good tracks and a chunk of well-intentioned stodge. If you’re talking vinyl, it’s worth a bit now. Any help?”
Definitely a help, dude! I bought it. Even though I didn’t know what ‘stodge’ was, until I looked it up (”noun BRITISH informal noun: stodge 1. food that is heavy, filling, and high in carbohydrates.”she ate her way through a plateful of stodge” 2. dull and uninspired material or work.” I’m assuming he meant option 2).
Right, let’s dig in, shall we? Yes we shall!
Send Away The Tigers is a big riffy guitar rocker that sounds straight outta 1994. That’s not a knock, I liked it! Underdogs shows its punk leanings while it goes huge and full-on pop rock bliss.
You’re Love Alone Is Not Enough features Nina Persson (of the Cardigans) on vocals, and it’s another big beautiful riffy rock tune that floats along gloriously on waves and washes of sound. Indian Summer swings, and the vocals get a bit buried in the chorus bits when the guitars and strings come in louder, but it’s all a big happy pile anyway.
The Second Great Depression finally slows things a bit, though it still swings. It sashays and swoops and still crushes on the heavier chorus bits. Great tune! Up next is Rendition, which ramps us back up with chuggy pop-punk riffing. The tambourine makes the chorus part.
Autumnsong dials it back to a big, super-smart, hand-clapping mid-tempo rocker, and it’s glorious. An album highlight. I’m Just A Patsy bulds quickly, adding as it goes, until it’s another big guitar rocker. “I’m just a patsy for your love…” Hooboy haha!
Imperial Bodybags kicks us up into a super-fun rockabilly Brian Setzer-ish rocker. This one makes you wanna drive really fast down a night-time highway. The big swishy chorus helps the whole thing achieve bloody lift off… OK, yup, this is another album highlight track! Possibly the best track here!
And finally, it’s Winterlovers / Working Class Hero. Winterlovers sounds like it might not have any teeth… untl it actually does! More huge guitars and lots of “na-na-nas” help this one along over it’s simple chording. The song crashes to a close and, after 1:25 of silence, we rip away into a rocking, swaggering, menacing cover of John Lennon’s Working Class Hero. It throbs and shakes its fist at you. Cool!
This album has huge everything, instruments and vocals and songs… You know, these songs would sound so great in a live setting. I’m picturing a small-ish club, packed with people, it’s hot, everyone’s jumping in time to the music, the lights are flashing, the volume’s cranked… Hells yes.
I don’t know who the angel and devil girls on the cover are, or where they’re going, but they look like they’re up to no good and that could be a whole lotta fun.
As for the album itself? Two thumbs waaaay up. What a stellar introduction to Manic Street Preachers, for me! Maybe my not knowing anything about these guys helped me enjoy this album because I had nothing else of theirs to which I could compare it. But I loved the whole thing! 100% stodge-free!
PS: I didn’t say anything throughout the review, but sometimes (especially on a track like I’m Just A Patsy), I caught whiffs of Oasis here and there in this music. I don’t like Oasis. At all. Maybe it’s just the feel, sometimes. But don’t worry: It wasn’t overwhelming. I didn’t find it too distracting because they also sound very much like themselves and for that I thank them profusely.