100 Songs with One Word Titles (100 – 96)

I was going to count these down individually but when I broke this news to one member of the musical jury the other day, he told me to ‘not milk it’.  So in order to avoid over filling this particular musical bucket with cow juice, I will reveal five songs a day until I get to number 50 and then the bucket will overfloweth.  It also means that this series should be done and dusted before the start of September (hopefully).

It seems fitting and probably justified to start by planting a knee firmly in the balls of the establishment. 

100. Repeat – Manic Street Preachers (1991, Columbia Records, Taken from ‘Generation Terrorists’)

The Manics just about scraped into the Top 100, needing a last day shove in the back from the final jury member whose votes came in some 20 minutes before the deadline door slammed firmly shut.  ‘Repeat’ is classic Manics and they are at their most provocative as they yelp rudely about what they want the “Queen and Country” to do, as an electroclash backdrop bounces around your speakers.  It should have done better folks, maybe I chose the wrong song?

99. England – The National (2010, 4AD Records, Taken from ‘High Violet’)

The National started well but rather like Derek Redmond in the 1992 Olympics, they rather limped over the line, whilst sobbing into the arms of their loved ones. Although that maybe more to do with the fact that have rapidly turned into America’s version of Elbow.  Saying that ‘England’ is a marvellous track, easily a highlight of ‘High Violet’ especially the piano bit.

98. Stay – Shakespear’s Sister (1992, London Records Taken from ‘Hormonally Yours’)

I’d forgotten just how successful ‘Stay’ was.  In the UK it topped the charts for eight weeks.  Eight Weeks.  I would imagine that Ms’s Fahey and Detroit would gladly swap that for a slightly higher place in this rundown, but there you go. ‘Stay’ is extraordinarily good. A tale of two worlds, one all spooky and claustrophobic and full of danger, the other seemingly safe and full of flowers.  Also, Siobhan Fahey’s throaty growl as the chorus kicks in remains one of the finest moments in pop music.

97. Hoppipolla – Sigur Ros (2005, EMI Records, Taken from ‘Takk’)

‘Hoppipolla’ is a beautiful track, an ode to mucking around and “Hopping in Puddles”.  It was and remains Sigur Ros’ most identifiable song, largely because the BBC have had it written into its Charter that any programme that features ice, cold climates and anything resembling a tundra must be soundtracked by ‘Hoppipolla’.  Something that as it happens I would gladly pay an extra £2 a year on the licence fee to hear.

96. Deceptacon (DFA Mix) – Le Tigre (1999, Mr Lady Records, Taken from ‘Le Tigre’)

Or you can just have the normal version if you like.  Personally I much prefer the remix because it hits like a bomb and takes that line ripped from a novelty song and twists it inside out adds, a load of bleeps and yelps and squeaks and just drips adrenaline.  It’s also the best song in the world named after a bad robot from Transformers.  Until Jason Pierce writes a song called ‘Optimus Prime (in my heart)’ that is.

Music Found in Charity Shops – #8

Lipstick Traces – Manic Street Preachers (2003, Sony Records)

Bought Oxfam, Exeter for £2.49

Spectators of Suicide – Manic Street Preachers (2003, Sony Records)

There is only thing worse than the stench of a major label flogging a Greatest Hits Package to diehard fans of a particular band.  That is the stench of a major label flogging a B Sides and Rarities Package to diehard fans of a particular band.  There are very few compilation albums of this type that appear to be worth getting.  This one is no different.  Sort of. To misquote some pundit somewhere, its an album of two halves.  The first CD is excellent, the second is not.

The first CD of this album contains 20 songs that saw a release as a B Side to one of the singles that the Manic Street Preachers released from their first six albums.  Not taking away anything that the band have released since their sixth album, but that was pretty much the bands golden period, for the first four at least, the Manics mattered and I for one would have travelled a great distance to see them play.  Hell I would have stood outside with an ear trumpet if it mattered.  Like all great bands, Manics B-Sides were at times as good as the A -Sides and this collection of songs are just that.

For starters, the opening track ‘Prologue to History’ is superb, a smashing slice of piano led punk pop.  The piano intro sounding uncannily like the opening to ‘Wrote for Luck’ but it hinted very early of what might be to come.

Prologue to History – Manic Street Preachers (2003, Sony Records)

There are other highlights too, ‘Dead Trees and Traffic Islands’ for one, which I think was the B Side on one of the ‘Design for Life’ singles, sounds like a track that should have perhaps made it on to an album because its great.

Dead Trees and Traffic Islands – Manic Street Preachers (2003, Sony Records)

Its when you get to the cover version CD that things go downhill very quickly.  Sure there is a rather lovely version of ‘Bright Eyes’ and the bands version of ‘Wrote For Luck’ is superb but the rest are either live versions that sound like they were recorded from the car park or just not very good. The version of Nirvana’s ‘Been A Son’ sounds flat and I rather wish that they hadn’t bothered.

Been A Son – Manic Street Preachers (2003, Sony Records)

Bright Eyes (Live) – Manic Street Preachers (2003, Sony Records)

If you see this in a charity, keep the first disc, ditch the second.

Nearly Perfect Albums – #21

The Holy Bible – Manic Street Preachers

For a band that once stated that they wanted to become the Welsh Guns ‘N’ Roses, ‘The Holy Bible’ is a world away from that.  In fact its two worlds away.  Its an album that is absolutely shaking with fury and rage at just about everything.  It’s also a record that the band could only make once, and in fact very little that the band recorded after this went anywhere close to it, both musically and lyrically.   It is a work of genius, albeit, a bleak and claustrophobic work of genius. 

Musically, ‘The Holy Bible’ is an incredible listen, it took the stadium dynamics of ‘Gold Against The Soul’ and hissy fit mock punk histrionics of ‘Generation Terrorists’ and ceremoniously chucked them in the nearest dustbin.   After doing that the band embraced, new wave, avantgarde art rock, industrial soundscapes, and most surprisingly, goth.  What they created bristled with energy, anger, and ferocity.

Faster – Manic Street Preachers (1994, Epic Records)

Yes – Manic Street Preachers (1994, Epic Records)

Of course, the dark heart that runs through this record is that of Richey Edwards.  Edwards was at the time, alongside Kurt Cobain, probably the most brilliant lyricist of his generation.  In 1994, whilst this record was being written and recorded Edwards was ravaged by depression, alcoholism, anorexia and self harm and ‘The Holy Bible’ is in some way his method of documenting his final breakdown. 

A key example of this is ‘Archives of Pain’, a song that is intended as a tribute to the victims of murder, which appears to request the return of the death penalty, lyrics are choked out about “redemption” and “regret”.  Elsewhere in the aforementioned ‘Faster’ James Dean Bradfield venomously spits out “I am an architect; they call me a butcher” as self harm is tackled amazingly.

Archives of Pain – Manic Street Preachers (1994, Epic Records)

Knowing what happened after this record was released, it seems almost ghoulish to revel in its brilliance, effectively we are applauding the misery of a breakdown.  It also feels weird to heap praise on a record that seems so intent to wallow it such bleakness, but its impossible to not do so. 

I sometimes find it difficult to talk about something that comes from genuine anguish, its easier, perhaps, to just leave it.  But, on occasion that anguish is so vividly described that portraying it as anything other than beautiful feels just wrong, but conversely saying its beautiful also feels wrong.  ‘4st 7lbs’, Richey Edwards’ own personal struggle with anorexic is exactly this. A song that is so harrowing and complex that it almost feels superior in its stark beauty, particularly when James Dean Bradfield sings “I want to walk in the snow and leave no footprint”.  I mean its such a beautiful line, but just so tragically sad at the time.

4st 7lbs – Manic Street Preachers (1994, Epic Records)