‘This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours’ was originally released back in September 1998. It was the last time that The Manics could justifiably be considered one of the biggest acts in Britain and also the last time there was any sort of wider debate around- or even proper acknowledgement of- the band. It won the Brit Award for best album back when Brit Awards seemed in any way significant (probably because I was 14* at the time and so right in their target audience), as well as best British group. so if you want an easy comparison, based on 2019’s winners, they were very much the 1998/9 version of
(*or possibly 8 going on 9, depending on whether you’re going off my kayfabe age or my shoot age)
It was by quite a distance their most commercially successful album. To date it has sold more than five million copies, which is just fucking unbelievable to think in 2019. If Beyoncé made an album with Rihanna and Taylor Swift that featured Rock “The Dwayne” Johnson and Cristiano Ronaldo frolicking naked around various Chinese landmarks in videos for every song, it might break four million sales in the current market. Yet in 1998, The Manics were big enough and album sales were vibrant enough that they could still sell five million records despite literally not a single American person literally ever buying a literal single record literally ever. Napster would be launched in June 1999, setting off a chain of events that would pretty much lead to no artist not called Adele ever selling as many as five million physical records ever again. Of course, The Manics would never sell close to that number ever again even if Napster, file sharing or the internet had never been invented, but we’ll get to that later. It also contained their first number one single, with the 156’000 copies (!!) If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next sold in its first week meaning for a wonderful week in August 1998 the biggest song in the country contained the lyric “If I can shoot rabbits then I can shoot fascists”, which, y’know, we could definitely do with that sentiment now*. It’s also recognised by Guinness World Records as the longest number one single title without parenthesis. Which is something.
(*or maybe the number one single right now does contain that line, or something even more stirring and politically engaged. I don’t know, you don’t know, nobody knows. I think it’s always fair to assume that Old Town Road is number one, which doesn’t contain any such lyrics, but does contain the line ‘Ridin’ on a tractor/Lean all in my bladder’, which is pretty close)
It’s also an album that Manics fans hated.
The success and prominence of the album inspired such a heated reaction that it split a whole fanbase. Suddenly, there were the ‘Old Manics Fans’- who would argue that Damn Dog is actually one of their best songs and would spend most evenings debating whether the Heavenly or Universal version of You Love Us is superior*- and the ‘New Manics Fans’- who were, in the words of the Irish Times in 1999, “BMW-driving, Ralph Lauren-dressed hordes who only jumped on the band after Everything Must Go, and seemingly don’t have the right intellectual credentials (or right poetry collection) to appreciate the Manic’s finer nuances”. Yep, that about covers it. They are also likely to really enjoy You Stole the Sun From My Heart, which is just perverse. People these days are shocked and disheartened by the rifts that have been created and the societies divided by Donald Trump and Brexit, but to a Manics’ fan this segregation is nothing compared to what they were forced to lived through in the late 90s. To call them ‘Old/New’ Manics fans to begin with was a bit of a misnomer- the vast majority of ‘Old’ fans got into the Manics after ‘Everything Must Go’ just like the ‘New’ fans, they just went back and learned to appreciate the back catalogue, especially when it became clear that being a Manics’ fan meant you could wear some spectacular clothes. I don’t want to generalise, but a 13 year old girl calling herself an ‘Old’ fan in 1998 probably wasn’t in the front row at the Bull & Gate in 1990. A more accurate way to describe the divide would be between ‘Casual’ and ‘Dedicated’ fans. And the ‘Dedicated’ fans fucking hated the ‘Casual’ fans for not liking the band enough. When ‘Everything Must Go’ was released in 1996- the first album since the disappearance of ‘guitarist’ and lyricist Richey Edwards, when they first started to tone down their appearance to ‘H&M catalogue’ levels and when they first started selling all the records and winning all the Brit Awards– the dreaded Casuals were first awakened, which caused some expected minor grumblings from the Dedicateds about their band becoming a little too mainstream, but the music was still so fucking good that people generally let it slide. Especially because, at this point, almost all of the fanbase had never heard them before ‘Everything Must Go’. Then ‘TIMTTMY’ was released. And shit blew up.
(*they would often also have ‘4 REAL’ scrawled across their arm in lipstick, which… no… it’s not the same, guys. As Jürgen Habermas said, ‘Bleed or Leave’)
‘This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours’ was looked and shat upon immediately after its released by the Dedicated fans. It was viewed as a pathetic and dire attempt to ‘mature’ the music and ‘grow’ as artists, that seemed to at once reject their past and feebly grasp at mainstream acceptance. It was the first album to not feature any lyrics written by Richey Edwards, and with that it seemed the band’s last link to their passionate and rabble rousing past was severed. The Manics were a fucking dull band now that only dull people liked. The Casuals said ‘Hey, cool’ and bought five million copies of it.
Twenty years later, I couldn’t help but feel that the record couldn’t possibly be that bad. I remember around the time my official stance on the record was that it was ‘underrated’, and while I wouldn’t (and didn’t) rank it among the band’s best I thought it was an interesting and bold entry into their canon. I thought the hostile reaction to it was more because ‘TIMTTMY’ was a victim of circumstance. ‘Everything Must Go’ had brought in a lot of fans, and a large amount of them soon realised that the old Manics was what they wanted, and were dismayed to find that the next album wouldn’t see them break out the fatigues and feather boas again and knock out a 1998 version of Nostalgic Pushead. The actual old Manics fans were willing to forgive them for toning down their image and the accommodation of dreaded Casual fans on ‘Everything Must Go’, because the story of their comeback after Richey’s disappearance was kinda inspirational, the songs are banging, and the band are in mourning, allow them to play it down for an album before getting back to business. Both sets of Dedicateds were convinced that ‘Everything Must Go’ was a phase, and were horrified when normal service wasn’t resumed. Maybe- oh Jesus!- this is normal service now?!
But when I wrote my ranking of each Manics album last year, I declared that ‘TIMTTMY’ (ranked no.9) was ‘ripe for re-evaluation’. The 20th anniversary edition was released in, annoyingly, DECEMBER 2018 (so the ’20 Year and 3 Month Anniversary’) and it gave me an opportunity to revisit the most divisive and controversial Manics album, convinced that I’d be delighted by a subtle and brave piece of work once 20 years (and three months) removed from the maelstrom surrounding its release.
Shit, this album ain’t good, guys.
In a way, it is brave, and it is a commendable risk, but only in the same way ‘New Labour’ was a brave and commendable risk. It was a risk that was always likely to disengage and disenfranchise huge sections of their support in the hope of appealing to that larger demographic of people who don’t really care about grand political sloganeering and human rights. It’s an entirely successful rebrand in both cases, financially speaking, but both New Labour and New Manics do this by jettisoning much of what made them beloved in the first place. Because of this, you get tuition fees, illegal wars and I‘m Not Working, in order of hideousness.
On ‘TIMTTMY’, That Manics frequently go for a slow and synth-laden sound that might have ostensibly been influenced by Radiohead rewriting the idea of ‘post-rock’ on the previous year’s ‘OK Computer’ but instead too often sounds like a lifeless AOR dirge more reminiscent of Phil Collins/Genesis’s more bland 80’s songs that they (and the New Manics) likely consider ‘experimental’. It’s absolutely (and, perversely, commendably*) a sideways step from their previous work, and in a (very) small way it’s almost a proto-‘Kid A’ in how it’s a major band subverting what’s expected of them and releasing a record that’s often willfully uncommercial.
(*I studied English at university and I want you all to know it)
Except, it’s absolutely not like that at all. Sure, there might be songs here that might be considered ‘uncommercial’, but that’s only because they’re so fucking dull that their only hopes for ‘commercial’ success would be to get played on the hospital radio for sending people to sleep just before they enter surgery. And while these uncommercial songs exist, they are (cynically?) bolstered by some of the most blandly commercial songs the Manics have ever produced. Sorry to dump on You Stole the Sun From My Heart again, but fuck me, that dumbarse song!! The comparison would only really work if ‘Kid A’ was comprised of six versions of Treefingers and then just Anyone Can Play Guitar four times. And it starts with The Everlasting, which is like if ‘Kid A’ started with Adolf Hitler giving you AIDS (or perhaps ‘VIH’).
The Everlasting is a horrible, horrible way to start a record in any circumstances, but as a once beloved band releasing the first record not to feature their former spokesman and lead guitarist, it’s essentially starting an album by blowing raspberries while flinging excrement at the fans, before tripping and falling face first into the same shit you were trying to throw. It’s bad, is what I’m saying.
Structured on a piss weak and cheap sounding drum machine beat, creating a middle aged man’s idea of a ‘dance beat’ that may well have been solely responsible for David Grey’s career taking off the next year, it was the most pathetic and least engaging Manic Street Preachers song ever heard *until people heard the last song on ‘TIMTTMY’, of course). And that’s just musically, wait until we get to the fucking lyrics. Nicky Wire chooses the first track off the first album where he was unequivocally the head lyricist to quickly announce that whatever the band had achieved at that point was just nonsense. ‘I don’t believe in it any more/Pathetic acts for a worthless cause’. On top of that, the chorus of ‘In the beginning/When we were winning/When our smiles were genuine’ suggests that now, rather than being a pathetic band aiming for worthless things, they were going to be one of those bands that complained about how awful being successful was. Whoopee. Not enough of that bollocks around, is there?
In other ways, this could have actually been a pretty ambitious and punk rock statement- kill the past, destroy your heroes, down with this sort of thing, etc- if it was delivered with the ferocity of Slash and Burn or From Despair to Where or, fuck, even the song Everything Must Go, which was essentially saying similar things at a similar tempo just with actual passion. But the fact that it’s delivered in such an anemic and browbeaten fashion suggests that, rather than destroy the past, you should just shrug at it, then shrug at the future, then just go to bed because, really, what’s the fucking point? On top of all this, this song about Nicky Wire stating that everything in the past was worthless and is now finished and that this is how things are going to be now, the introduction to his ascending to the band’s sole lyricist, includes the line ‘The world is full of refugees/they’re just like you and just like me’.
Yep, looking forward to you as the main lyricist, Nicky.
The Everlasting is probably what somebody’s brain initially goes to when they picture everything that’s hideously wrong about ‘TIMTTMY’, but even though it might be the dumbest choice of an opening track on album since Chocolate Cake by Crowded House (just me?) it’s not actually entirely representative of the whole album. And, thankfully, not entirely representative of Nicky Wire’s skill as a lyricist*. The second track is If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next which, come on, is an absolute freaking classic. Not only is getting a 47 character titled song about the Spanish civil war to number one a very Manics thing to do, it’s the only properly successful example of the style they were playing with on ‘TIMTTMY’- synth laden tunes that might have been low on tempo but were big on themes and on freaking passion. The next song is You Stole the Sun which, yeah, absolutely stinks and everyone involved in even enjoying it should be very ashamed of themselves. This monstrosity, however, is followed by Ready for Drowning, one of the most lyrically complex and multilayered songs that The Manics have ever done, and real reason to feel optimistic about the Nicky Wire era. Then, it’s motherfucking Tsunami, an absolutely perfect example of a pop rock song, one of the greatest singles the band have ever released and in the absolute upper echelons of late 90s rock. To be honest, that moment towards the end when you start to think the song’s finishing before James Dean screams ‘In between, in between, in between, IN BETWEEN!!’ makes the whole album worthwhile. It makes my whole life worthwhile. My Little Empire is a lovely little dark acoustic ballad and, ignoring the musical Holocaust that’s The Everlasting, you’re unlikely to find many better starts to a record.
(*unfortunately, not entirely unrepresentative either, motherfucker is still very capable of dropping the odd lyrical clanger to this day)
Then, the album goes off a fucking cliff.
I’m Not Working and Be Natural are joyless dirges, that you honestly can’t imagine any sane person accepting were full, complete songs that deserved to be released to the public. Born a Girl isn’t just a joyless dirge, but sounds astonishingly insensitive in 2019. Really, Nicky, you ‘wish you’d be born a girl’? Well, you’re actually fortunate to be living in a time when gender realignment is becoming more recognised and available, and if you really believe you’ve been born into the wrong gender then there are steps you could take to… Hmmm? What’s that? Oh, you don’t really wish that? You were just using it as rhetorical tool to complain about the ‘mess of a man’ you are? Because women get it so much easier, I suppose? Jesus there are at least two songs on ‘TIMTTMY’ that I find lyrically repulsive (and one more to come!). You’re Tender and You’re Tired is almost a great song, and definitely deserves to be in the same ballpark as ‘If You Tolerate…‘ as an example of the style the band would have headed towards were they going to make a decent album, and almost rescues the shit show that is ‘TIMTTMY’s second half. Black Dog on My Shoulder is fine, but so light and inconsequential that it screams ‘well regarded b-side’ rather than be included on an album that already has My Little Empire. At least Nobody Loves You raises the tempo a bit before…
Nobody Loved You isn’t on the remastered album. At least, not as an official track (it’s a secret track at the end, forcing you to listen to the entirity of SYMM, which obviously nobody’s going to do). Instead, it’s place on the album is taken by Prologue to History, the well regarded b-side to If You Tolerate This… Thing is, one of the reasons it was so well liked back in 1998 is because it’s so completely different to a lot of the nonsense that was on ‘TIMTTMY’, and suggested a different and far more exciting direction the Manics might have taken their sound into. When it’s actually on the record though, it just sounds ridiculously out of place and makes the record sound disjointed and unfocused. ‘TIMTTMY’s sound was often shite, but at least it was consistent. Maybe I’ve just played Prologue to History to death over the past 20 years and already know it like the back of my Steve Ovetts, so it’s inclusion here just bewildered rather than pleasantly surprised me.
Then, the album ends on SYMM, one of the worst and most lifeless Manics songs of all time, that I can’t even listen to when I copy in the YouTube link. Not only is it musically as dull as paint drying on a dog’s cock (I admit the circumstances surrounding that might be quite interesting) and lasts for, I’m pretty sure, twelve and a half years, it also contains some of the most apathetic and uninterested lyrics committed to tape by any band. Ostensibly about the Hillsborough disaster, which as a big fan of both sports and people not being killed by incompetent policing Nicky Wire is obviously pretty interested in, so much so that he went back to the topic for last year’s album. ‘SYMM’ stands for ‘South Yorkshire Mass Murderer’, and the fact that they abbreviate that in the first place is the first suggestion of how little conviction the band is going to put into the subject. But, fuck me, the lyrics are unbe-cocking-lievable:
The subtext of this song
I’ve thought about it for so long
But it’s really not the sort of thing
That people want to hear us singThe reason for this song
Well it may be a pointless one
But thank you Jimmy McGovern
For reminding me of what lives onThe ending for this song
Well I haven’t really thought of one
What. The fuck. is this?
This, Nicky Wire, this is your Hillsborough song? Barely a mention of the disaster at all, save a little shout out to Jimmy McGovern for that TV show he made?? Just a load of fannybatter about absolutely nothing?? What the fuck is this shit?! This is your closing fucking song?! Fuck this album! Fuck this band and fuck YOU!
Sorry, I get a bit angry, but I may as well say this blog entry is about supporting the Kurdish people’s fight for international recognition, then just write 3199 words about the Manic Street Preachers. I’m not supporting them. I’m doing nothing. I’m a dick.
But the failings of this album were truly laid out to me when I went to see the band in May.
I’ve seen the Manics live roughly 6’756 times, and they’re always amazing because they’re an amazing live band. Seeing them play ‘TIMTTMY’ in full made me a realise that the best Manics songs are the best Manics songs because of much they can pop a crowd. They can make you bounce, make you scream, make you cry, make you hurl, make you shit your pants. Standing through them chug through the latter half of ‘TIMTTMY’ laid out how these dirges couldn’t possibly pop any crowd in the world, and there were times during I’m Not Working or Born a Girl or- fuck me, especially!- SYMM that I felt the crowd were getting bored. A crowd of Manics fans. At a Manics gig. Getting bored. For shame, ‘TIMTTMY’.
At least back in 1999, The Manics recognised and understood the fans’ hatred of the album. It’s not clear what happened the night before The Manics’ incendiary gig on the 11th July, at T in the Park 1999, but they obviously dearly wanted to rip it up and start again. Nicky Wire wore a dress, they opened with fucking Faster, revisited many songs from their past, and were obviously desperate to put all that dull shit behind them and just be the freaking Manics again. Their second number one single, The Masses Against the Classes, was released six months later (‘Hello it’s us again/We’re still so in love with you’) and was both a love letter and an angry rebuke to their Determined fans (‘Success is an ugly word/Especially in your tiny world’). It was exactly what we all wanted, but also the last bit of real success the band would experience. They began to play more to the Dedicated fans, who unfortunately make up a very small amount of the potential album buying public. Their albums sold less and less, until in 2019 they probably sell exactly the same number of records they did before ‘Everything Must Go’.
One last thing: ‘TIMTTMY’ was often sold on the idea of a band that was once full of youthful energy and piss and vinegar getting old and wistfully accepting the gloom that comes with age. They were fucking 29 years old.
Yeah, I’m a bit of a fan
There’s no more Manics this year, so my other entries won’t be three and a half thousand words, I promise