Drinking Water To Stay Thin

I remember becoming obsessed with the Manics when ‘A Design For Life‘ was receiving its first plays on Radio 1. I’d followed the news about Richey‘s disappearance without really knowing anything much about the band. The subsequent enjoyment I derived from the parent album, ‘Everything Must Go‘ brought about my first ever ‘i love this – i must buy everything they’ve ever done’ moment, something which has plagued my record-buying ever since. I remember thinking ‘Generation Terrorists‘ was too long (it is), that ‘Gold Against The Soul‘ was beefy but a little uncool (yup) and that ‘The Holy Bible‘ was plain bloody scary (yes, although I’ve since realised it’s also an amazingly good record).
Buying the cardboard wallet, 2 CD sets for each single was a delight and the quality of the b-sides ensured that I was always there on release day, queuing up with more than one copy. I’m playing the Stealth Sonic Orchestra Instrumental version of ‘Motorcycle Emptiness‘ as I type this and it’s beautiful. It was released on the second CD for ‘Australia‘, the picture on the inner sleeve being a morose sheep, and proved that remixes can occasionally be good value.
This sense of good will was tested a little with ‘This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours‘, an album that needs three or four songs removing from it, and ‘Prologue To History’ adding into the mix. While well-meaning, ‘SYMM‘ is a truly appalling attempt at dealing with the Hillsborough disaster. In addition, the singles didn’t quite scale the heights of the EMG era, in particular ‘Tsunami‘, which remains one of the few Manics songs that actually make me want to detach my right foot with a rusty spatula, lightly saute it and attempt to eat it with chopsticks.
The Masses Against The Classes‘ seemed like a step in the right direction, with its ‘Motown Junk‘ for the noughties feel but what followed was a musical junkshop, ‘Know Your Enemy‘. There’s some great stuff in there if you’re willing to spend long enough searching, but to get to it you’ll have to wade through a pile of shit. There’s a good EP in there, waiting to be let out one day.
My enthusiasm began to falter, a situation not helped by the lacklustre new tracks for ‘Forever Delayed‘ the cash-cow greatest hits. However, a last-minute headline at V2002, replacing Travis, demonstrated to me that the band were finding their fire again. The b-sides set, ‘Lipstick Traces‘ has its moments, but it’s far from essential listening, and served as interim product before the next studio album, ‘Lifeblood‘ appeared in 2004.
Lots of people seem to think ‘Lifeblood‘ is shite. Even the band appear to be distancing themselves from it, despite the fact that it works superbly as a set of songs. Ok, so whoever picked ‘The Love Of Richard Nixon’ as the lead-off single needs shooting, but tracks like ‘1985‘, ‘Glasnost‘, ‘Empty Souls‘, ‘I Live To Fall Asleep‘ and ‘Cardiff Afterlife‘ deserve to be heard. Thankfully for those who haven’t yet had the pleasure most shops appear to be selling this album for £3 or less these days. Give it a good home.
Finally the critics are back on side with the new album, ‘Send Away The Tigers‘, and with good reason. It has the energy of the first couple of records, some of the spikey sound of ‘The Holy Bible‘ and the crowd-pleasing sweeping choruses of ‘Everything Must Go‘. It’s short, it’s powerful and it’s unashamed fun. If you can listen to ‘Autumnsong‘ or ‘Your Love Alone Is Not Enough’ without pogoing round the room then I expect you to have a bloody good reason why.
I’m off to see them very soon. Can’t wait.

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