You might not believe this- considering it sounds so much like a slogan that would have been scrawled over the shirt of an awkward looking Sean Moore in 1991*- but the Manic Street Preachers haven’t actually released an album (or even song) called ‘resistance is futile’ before!
(*some classic Manic Street Preachers t-shirt slogans from the early 90s:
- Bon Apetit Benito!
- Pol Pot Luck!
- Atrophy is Ecstacy!
- She Had a Honky-Tonk Badonkadonk!
- Burn Your Kindling!
- You’re the Spitting Image of Your Father When You Make That Face!
- (poo emoji)!
- Mao That’s What Zedong Music!
- Rick and Morty Reference That I Honestly Believe Makes Me Smarter Than You! Seriously, What The Fuck Is Up With That Shit?! It Makes Me Want To Hate the Show Because Its Fans Are Such Cunts!
- USSR! Fuck Yeah!
OK, we’re done here…)
‘Resistance is Futile’ is absolutely a treading water, ticking boxes, Manic Street Preachers album. And that’s absolutely fine, not just because the absolute riproaring success of ‘Futurology‘ means the band are allowed to put their feet up for an album or two (you Millennials don’t appreciate how much doing something decent really takes it out of you at a certain age), but also because the lack of talking points means it’s given me a chance to finally rate all the Manics albums!!
Sigh… when there were only 20 albums on this fucking list…
‘Postcards…’ is an incredibly depressing record. It was the Manics desperately trying to regain, not necessarily the vim and passion, but the commercial success of their 90s peak. Even Ian McCulluch is thrown at the wall, as nothing screams relevancy than the lead singer of the Echo and the Bunnymen who was 12 years removed from even singing the England World Cup song. Every track is overlaid with a ridiculous excess of strings, as the band was obviously convinced that it was that which made ‘Everything Must Go’ one of the biggest records of the 90s. The fact that it followed ‘Journal for Plague Lovers’s (mostly successful) update of ‘The Holy Bible’ made it seem like the Manics were completely out of new ideas. I was convinced that The Manics were a busted flush. Eight years ago.
Fuck, their next album was maybe even more depressing! Intentionally depressing this time, at least, hence its higher placing. The general message seems to be “Pffff, what’s the point? Everything’s shit and we’re all going to die”, which is fine, but very few artists can pull off a somber “Oh God, even Curly Wurlys are smaller these days” album, and ‘Rewind the Film’ is only really notable for the band at least trying. Manics are maybe the world’s greatest ever band at expressing ludicrous and impassioned anger, but them attempting morose rejection just sounds- get this- morosely… rejected…? rejectful…? So I guess as a meta expression, it’s entirely successful. It’s further testament to what a shock the quality of ‘Futurology’ was considering it followed the two (comfortably) weakest albums of the band’s career. Show Me the Wonder, though? I’m havin’ that.
Many people would seemingly automatically place ‘Lifeblood’ at the bottom of this list. Many people are wrong, stupid and, when you think about it, probably a bit racist. For a start, it opens with 1985, which is- don’t bother arguing- the greatest Manics opening track ever. Fight me. That career high point is followed by ‘The Love of Richard Nixon‘, which isn’t just one of the most laughably Manics song titles ever (especially for a freaking comeback single), but also one of their most undervalued songs. That ‘Love build around the sandy beaches/Love rains down like Vietnam’s leeches’ but after the first chorus? Mmmm! Feed me more! The third track is the pretty glorious Empty Souls and the fourth track is… Hmmm… Then the fifth track is the not bad I Live to Fall Asleep, and the sixth track is… shudder… then the seventh tra… eesh…
OK, so the album careers off the rails pretty hideously, but so what? You think you’re so perfect?? Get fucked.
The Manics have absolutely earned the right to release an album like this. It’s not attempting to make any huge strides musically (or any strides at all), it’s not trying to make any great statements, it’s just basking in the glory of being the Manic Street fucking Preachers motherfucker! It’s essentially just the band having fun playing in a rock band, and as a result is incredibly good fun to listen to. Every song is about being in the Manic Street Preachers (which, essentially, is what all the great Manics songs are about). Sure, you get Nicky taking another swing at writing a song about the Hillsborough Disaster (Liverpool Revisited probably being better than the meaningless dirge of SYMM by default), and a song about Bowie and Vivian Westwood, but that’s just because the Manics felt they had to include songs about David Bowie, Vivian Westwood and the Hillsborough Disaster in order for ‘RIF’ to even be a Manic Street Preachers record, so those songs are kinda about the Manics as well. A completely acceptable album.
Ripe for Re-Evaluation (another great early 90s Manics t-shirt slogan). I didn’t mind it at the time, but I soon learned that as a Manics fan I had to hate the disgusting betrayal of their fan base and abhorrent rejection of t-shirt sloganers and glitterers everywhere. Soon, the fans would soon learn that ‘sloganer’ and ‘glitterer’ weren’t even words, but the first time still hurt. I only just learned in 2018. Just now. Writing this entry.
Looking back, ‘TIMTTMY’ was actually a pretty brave move, hardly ‘Kid A’ but still an unexpected countermove to the epic passion of the commercial breakthrough of their previous record. It contains two of the greatest singles ever (yeah, ‘the’, not ‘their’, that ain’t no typo. Fight me), but also what I long considered their (not ‘the’) two absolute worst. Thing is, I used to hate The Everlasting because of its apparent disregard of everything they once stood for and how it bemoaned the fact that the band no longer cared, but all of their songs are about that now! Maybe it will actually seem extremely prescient now. And You Stole the Sun From My Heart is actually extremely… hmmm… OK, that songs a stinker, but My Little Empire is pretty great, no?? The 20th anniversary edition recently arrived through the post, and will be considered for the 2019 Necessary Evil list, and I’m watching them play the whole sodding thing live in May so I guess I’ll have to learn to love it.
I, along with many others I imagine, have always looked back on ‘TIMTTMY’ as the Manics attempting to embrace middle age and first thinking that they might be a little old for this ol’ rock and roll game.
Nicky and James Dean were twenty nine when it was released…
I’ve kind of bowed to the Court of Public Opinion by placing the band’s second album as low as eighth. ‘GATS’ is widely considered a tired and uninspired disappointment, lacking any of the rage and politics of the debut and an often embarrassing attempt at Metallica style Dad Metal. Even the fact the band paid £250’000 for the cover art is emblematic of the band not really knowing where they were going and just throwing money at it (Jenny Saville agreed to let the band have the ‘Holy Bible’ cover art for free after a telephone call with Richey Edwards). When considered next to the albums that preceded and followed it, ‘GOTS’ is certainly the ugly duckling of the Edwards trilogy of albums.
But I freaking love this record! I’m sorry, I know, but ‘GOTS’ is never less than nostalgic bliss for me, from the blistering rock of its opening track, through four of the band’s greatest ever singles, even through laughably bad moments like the ‘So cool the new sound of the decade!’ Max Hedroom break in Nostalgic Pusshead (yes, there’s a song called ‘nostalgic pusshead’, what’s your point?) I fucking love it all! Yeah, it’s technically terrible in places, absolutely not ten tracks worth of material and betrays a chronic lack of direction after expelling 20 years worth of pent up fury into an incendiary debut, but I don’t care, I keep this almost adorably crap album close to my heart. The only Manics album over which I’ll accept the accusation that I only love because it’s the Manic. All the other albums are legitimately brilliant, yeah?
“There is no true love/Just a finely tuned jealousy”. I’ve struggled with that line for years and honestly only just got it. This album keeps on giving!!
Hmmm, OK, so maybe not every album is ‘legitimately brilliant’…
‘Know Your Enemy’ is an absolute fucking mess. The Manics have about 564 ideas for a direction and genre to try on over the albums 74 tracks, and whenever someone claims that the band never did a Mark E Smith, disco or Phil Spector pastiche, as they are often want to do, or disputes the idea that anyone could ever name a song ‘intravenous agnostic‘ or (my God, they were way too ‘Manics’ on this album) ‘freedom of speech won’t feed my children’, then just show them this album. Don’t play it to them, they won’t ‘get’ it. It was apparently written and recorded in a blast of excitement after a legendary T in the Park performance that obviously reminded the band that they really enjoyed performing bonkers pop punk with absolutely indecipherable and ham fisted ‘political’ lyrics. It’s by far the band’s dumbest album. It is so much fun.
Yeah, one of the songs is called ‘My Guernica‘. This album is way too Manicy…
OK, starting from now all the albums are legitimately brilliant:
‘Send Away the Tigers’ was shameless fan service, and fuck me if that servicing didn’t feel lovely. Probably the closest they ever came to repeating the joy, vitality and eagerness to please hidden under sneering cockiness of their debut album. The Manics never sounded happier to be making music, and the pleasure comes across in ten tracks of absolutely perfect pop rock. After the band exorcised some demons with ‘Journal for Plague Lovers’, the album was followed by two absolutely stinkers in ‘Postcards…’ and ‘Rewind…’, and for the longest time it seemed like ‘SATT’ was the joyous sound of a band giving their last gasp of creative excellence and (kinda) relevance. It was (seemingly) all downhill from here, but ‘SATT’ was a great curtain call. I don’t even have a joke to make about this record. It just makes me so happy
The band could definitely be proud of doing justice to Richey Edwards’s last lyrics, but considering the dross that immediately followed the album it really felt like the experience had broke the band
Until this freaking monster. I honestly don’t understand where this album came from. Just a year after the dreary shrug of the ‘Rewind the Film’ crap came the Manics’ most vital sounding album in more than a decade, and by far their most successfully experimental album since maybe ‘The Holy Bible’. The follow up, ‘Resistance is Futile’, took four years. I mean, it’s not a bad album, but… y’know…
In retrospect, it might not be the best album of 2014, and both Young Fathers and Sharon van Etten probably trump it quite comfortably, but it is an amazing record, and I think I subconsciously realised I might never have another chance to put the Manics at the top of my year end list.
And, guys, could you have not held off and released the album celebrating the power of a unified Europe maybe a couple of years later?
There might not have been a more astonishing debut rock album released in my lifetime. For years, the Manics said they were going to release an album like this, said that this band of young kids from rural Wales were going to release an double LP of politically charged hair metal and glam rock onto an indie scene more centred around shoegaze and cheap grunge imitations. They were saying it as they screamed “DEATH HORSE APOCALYPSE! DEATH SANITISED BY CREDIT!” while dressed in feather boas and glittered face paint, to crowds of a dozen bored students in the late 80s. They actually managed to stay together long enough to release the debut they promised would sell 16 million copies, after which they’d triumphantly retire (I guess they’re still waiting to sell that magic number). It almost doesn’t matter how good the album is, even getting it made in 1992 is achievement enough.
It’s fucking brilliant though. It may not be the greatest Manics album, but literally anything that anyone loves about the band leads back to it. And I’m not sure we’ve seen another album like it since
Yeah I’m doing it this way round. ‘Everything Must Go’ is simply a perfect pop/rock record, and the sound of the band condensing all their fury, politics, glamour and occasional bonkersness into 45 minutes of what has to be considered one of the most successful commercial rock albums of the 1990s. ‘EMG’ is only really talked about these days- and at the time- as one of the greatest comebacks of the 1990s (two million copies sold. Like, actual, physical copies of the album purchased by actual people in actual shops!), that I think the album’s influence is sometimes overlooked. The gorgeous use of strings on ‘EMG’, previously only utilised as a rare treat on one ‘epic’ track per majopr rock release, suddenly became the standard. It seemed that every song by a British indie band released between 1997 and maybe the Strokes arrival in 2001 had to come laden with strings and classical music motives to promote its ‘realness’ and try to siphon off some of that ‘EMG’ legitimacy. The Manics played their first gigs after Richey’s disappearance supporting Oasis in 1996. I don’t want to alarm you, but I feel they may have been partially responsible for All Around the World.
You knew this already. I’m sorry for not going more against the grain, but this may well be the greatest rock album recorded in my lifetime. Go on, name a better one