Forever, Ever Pastiche
I’ve explained on this blog before how music journalism is absolute bollocks. A person’s response to music is a primal and unconscious reaction that simply can’t be described in words. Because of this paradox 99% of music reviews are the writer vainly attempting to explain why he or she likes or hates a song and twisting themselves into utter bollocks. You like a song because it sparks an unnamed fuse in your belly and twists your stomach in a knot*. You like a song because it reminds you of a time you were happier. You like a song because it reminds you of someone you love. You like a song because it soundtracked the sex scene in Trainspotting. You like a song because you really want to fuck the singer. You like a song because you did fuck the singer. All music journalism assumes an objective truth that can never be, and supposes there is any use in a larger knowledge of context. Just because you’ve religiously listened to all of Avril Lavigne’s records in the past doesn’t make your opinion on Hello Kitty any more valid. No matter the circumstances, no matter the knowledge, no matter the context, you can never force yourself to either like or hate a song. These things are primeval and undefinable.
(*Evidently, reactions to music are primarily based in the digestive organs)
Music journalism could never hope to describe- or even comprehend- that dizzy and nauseous feeling you get when you fall in love with a song. This series isn’t a ‘review’ of the greatest songs ever, it’s simply aiming to be a practically collated list of all the songs that electrify your innards.
Hey, hey, hey! Before you nod your head in appreciation of how self-aware and freaking meta I’m being by deconstructing the very form that I’m partaking in, I’d like to remind you that this blog is not music journalism. You would only call it music journalism if you’d never read it. I prefer to think of it as a previously unrealised combination of scathing social satire and sophisticated philosophy. Calling it ‘music journalism’ would be like calling The Bible a travel guide to the Middle East- it’s much, much more than that. It’s also, if we’re being honest, nearly 100% bullshit.
One reason you can’t explain why some music makes you cry with joy is that it’s completely illogical. You don’t love and/or hate music because of reasons, you love/hate music because you’re a fucking weirdo and your genes are absolutely fuuuuuuuuuucked. Someone else telling you that you should love a song is like when someone sets you up on a date with someone because they think they’re ‘your type’. I mean, yeah, sometimes they’re right, but far more often it’s a hideous glimpse into how lowly they regard you.
To illustrate this, here are two of my core beliefs:
- Music, like all art, should always be looking forward and evolving. By all means it should be influenced by the achievements of the past, but it should be about ripping it down and starting again. A terrible piece of art that’s attempting to do something new or different is a million times more worthwhile than a decent piece of art that offers nothing unfamiliar. Nostalgia is at the core of all the world’s problems for reasons I really don’t have time to explain here.
- I. Fucking. Hate… and I realise that this is a slightly more niche issue… I really fucking hate… OK, deep breath… I really, really, absolutely hate it when bands say ‘Rudi’ in songs. Now, this is a problem primarily infesting awful American ‘punk’ bands (I’m going to talk about ‘punk’ in this year’s Necessary Evil countdown, oh boy am I going to talk about ‘punk’) mostly those who came to prominence in the 90s. Your Rancids, your Dropkick Murphys, your NOFX… Y’know- the worst fucking* bands in the world. They seem to believe that nonsensically shouting ‘RUDI RUDI RUDI!’ in the middle of a song will demonstrate some affinity with The Clash, despite the fact that the band are all trust funded twats who bought their first guitar with Daddy’s HSBC bonus (so, erm, quite similar to The Clash…). Inserting a pointless ‘Rudi!’ into a song is, without exaggeration, the absolute worst thing in the world. Apart from Hitler
(*Lot of swearing on this entry. Now I’ve just used the C word! What do you think this means? Y’know, psychologically?)
Based on these two accepted truths, Roses in the Hospital should logically be regarded as one of the worst songs ever.
Every sane person born after about 1970 loves Roses in the Hospital when they first hear it. It’s infectious, it’s catchy, it’s full of dark humour (‘Nothing really makes me happy/Heroin is just too trendy’), and it’s anchored by an absolutely belting guitar line. Some older people, however, may not be quite as moved.
Hearing David Bowie’s Sound and Vision as a Manics fan is like that first time your pour some Bombay Sapphire and realise that only the bottle is that colour!! The world isn’t as magical as you’d been led to believe. There’s nothing unique or special about this thing you fell in love with. You’ve been lied to.
If that’s not unforgivable enough, as the song fades to an end James Dean Bradfield shouts some seemingly ad libbed lines over the ‘forever, ever delayed’ coda, including ‘Independence is everything’, ‘Credibility? I’m yawning’, and- my God this is hard to type- ‘Rudi, Rudi, Rudi, Rudi, Rudi, Rudi, Rudi, Rudi gonna fail!’. Eight whole ‘Rudis’ (plus another four later) and an even more explicit reference to that freaking Clash song. It’s absolutely and unforgivably disgusting.
Yet… somehow… despite all these atrocities… the song is still amazing… the magic manages to nullify the horror… It’s like admitting to yourself that, even after everything, Last Train Home is still a great tune…
I feel that not enough time has been spent in attempting to describe the majesty of the Manic Street Preachers. Like, we all accept that they’re the greatest band of all time, right? But have we ever really examined why?
I love the Manic Street Preachers. Their five entries in my albums of the year list is almost definitely a record*, and they topped the list with their last album in 2014. They released an album this year. It won’t be number one this year (spoiler). But it’ll be in the list somewhere. This is all despite the fact I started making the lists in 2007, long after the band’s commercial and artistic peak. But, much like you still make sure to visit your old Nan despite the dementia reducing much of her once great repartee to just occasionally complaining about some ‘African’ stealing her slippers, I will always keep in close contact with the Manics. I’m in love with the wrinkly old fools, and love demands dedication.
(*Almost definitely. Fucked if I’m checking.)
And I love the Manics because they’re capable of producing magic such as Roses in the Hospital. It isn’t their best song (because, obviously, that’s Faster). Christ, it’s probably not even in the top 20. It might struggle to make the top 50
Since you asked:
49. The Love of… No, Alex, for goodness sake stop! We’re already at 1206 words!
It is, however, a song that wonderfully illustrates the beauty of both the band and music itself. It shouldn’t work, it should be a laughable mimicry of one* of rock music’s most revered and respected icons. On paper it’s a hodgepodge creation of a band struggling to find inspiration for their second album. At best. At worst it’s a group of young Welsh nobodies insultingly making claims that they deserve to be thought of in the same bracket as Bowie. I mean, fuck, Manics! Did you think nobody would notice??
(*fuck, two, really. Jesus, that ‘Rudi, Rudi…’ line…)
But it’s not.
At their best the Manics have this ability. They could- and occasionally still can– take a mismatch of half ideas, shamelessly plundered concepts and wonderfully extravagant lyrical swishes like ‘Try to pull my fingernails out/I want to cling to something soft/Progressing like a constant war/There’s no one to feel ashamed for’ like they were just casual reflections.
Roses in the Hospital is also a wonderful example of what I believe 90s Manic Street Preachers did better than any other band in history: an infectiously buoyant song concealing relentlessly bleak and troubled lyrics. I don’t want to turn this (already far too long) post into another boring sermon on how amazing the Manics were when Richey Edwards was with them, but the combination of the beautifully wretched words of a extremely troubled young man and the pristine pop sensibilities of the other three members* led to some absolutely incredible music. It was lightning in a bottle, and Roses in the Hospital is just a four minutes fifty second example of what magic that produced.
(*Well, two. All us Manics fans are still waiting for that definitive breakdown of exactly which songs and lines were written by either Richey or Nicky Wire)
The song fades out over the wonderful coda of ‘Forever, ever delayed’. In 1992, Nicky Wire stated that ‘Forever Delayed’ would be a great name for the Manics’ best of compilation, back when the idea of the band even lasting for another year was laughable. So it was a shame what they ended up going with:
I mean, even in 2002 that seemed a bit of a dated reference.
No, of course it was called ‘Forever Delayed’, because life is perfect. Bombay Sapphire might not be blue, but it’ll get you good and drunk. And Roses in the Hospital may be a silly semi-cover of Sound and Vision but it still gets you right there.
‘Rudi, Rudi, Rudi…’ though, how did they ever let James Dean Bradfield write any lyrics ever again? Unforgivable…