So it’s time to say goodbye to my already world renowned list of the greatest Manic Street Preachers songs by providing a statistical breakdown of the scientifically peer reviewed list that literally dozens of people are still buzzing about. Why? I don’t fucking know, I feel like I just have to by this point. Plus Necessary Evil 2021 will be starting in December (put yo hands in the aye-yer!!) and I feel that if I don’t conduct this largely meaningless counting exercise done before then, I might end up never doing it. And you know what will happen then, my friend? That’s right: Arma-fucking-geddon.
Also, with delightful serendipity, unbeknownst to me when I began planning my list the wonderful New Chart Riot blog began compiling votes for their quinquennial (there you go, your new word today) top 50 of the greatest Manics songs, so along with putting the top half of my list forward for suggestion, I have also used data collected by the blog so far to reach some conclusions toward the end of the post. Are those conclusions sweeping? Why, yes. Are they unfair? How could they not be? Are they needlessly offensive? My dear, what would be the point otherwise?
Quick note: this post is unlikely to be 30’000+ words.
Yeah, standard, no? Let’s first see which albums or collections contributed the least songs, starting with the lowest. Quick! Place bets on which album got the least love! I bet you’ll be shocked!!
Yeah, globviously. The album absolutely stinks, an embarrassingly overproduced, butter upon bacon mess laughably attempting to ape the ‘Everything Must Go’s success but evidently with no grasp of the beautiful subtlety of that album that would make its high points hit harder. I give the lead single (It’s Not War.).. a bit of love, as it’s not the stinkiest shit twirling in the turd bowl of the rest of the album, and I’ve stolen its name for the (incredibly forced) name of this blog post. However, when I sing it in myself, I always end up singing Light Aircraft of Fire by The Auteurs instead, a far better song, so it has to lose points for that, no? This album cover’s alright though. Is that actually Tim Roth? I can’t be bothered to check.
Ah, a slave to timing, I’m afraid. I made the list before the band’s… 136th?… album came out, back when the glorious Orwellian was the only thing we’d heard from it. I had initailly (ha!) planned to finish the list (chortle!) before ‘The Ultra Vivid Lament’ was released (titter!), but I couldn’t manage that. Seriously, how am I going to finish my 70+ best albums of he year list before January?? Yeah, if I made the list again now, there might be a handful more. A handful. You’ll have to wait for my year end list for more. Hit that subscribe button as hard as you can etc.
Yeah, yeah, but how else would you define Judge Yr’self?? It’s not a b-side, it’s not a standalone single, it was recorded for the (pants) 1995 Judge Dredd film but was never finished in time. Its only release was on the lovely 2003 compilation of b-sides, cover versions and rarities, so that record gets recognised on this list.
Undoubtedly one of their greatest album covers, but I worry that ‘RIF’ is damned to be their most forgotten album. At least ‘Postcards…’ will be remembered for what an artistic and logistical disaster it was. Which is kinda a shame, but also not. Because, damnit, so much of ‘RIF’ is forgettable garbage, absolute unimaginative rock music that even the Foo Fighters would question the release of. The Foo Fighters would then release it anyway, of course, because they’d release any old shit.
The band’s 2013 album is instead probably damned to be their most divisive and debated over amongst the fanbase. It’s not like there’s nothing there, there was an absolute and perhaps commendable artistic vision for this album. Did it work? Yes, really, I imagine this was exactly the album they set out to make. Is it any good. No. I’m sorry, but it’s dull and listless and I have absolutely yet to be won over by it. That cover can fuck off as well.
Then we have a bunch of albums with six entrants, which really speaks to the band’s consistency of quality after you get past… y’know… the shit albums. ‘SATT’ is a perfectly fine and fun album, but only one song managed to reach even the lower end of the top 50.
Get in! Where’s that rerelease we were promised*, you old farts?? Also, love this album cover.
(*“There are actually a lot of goodies. Even I’m quite giddy with excitement. James and Sean weren’t arsed though” – Nicky)
Can you name all six? Because, honestly, I’m kind of struggling to. I put Umbrella in this category, deciding that it kinda was a single.
Six great songs, a handful of unspectacular dirges, a few actually horrendous efforts I remain unmoved on ‘TIMTTMY’.
I’m such a coward. I think this record might be close to the top of my favourite Manics albums, but I’ll admit that my love scares me sometimes. Where’s Yourself? Where’s the title track? Where’s Symphony of Tour…? OK, that one stinks, but my next list in approximately five years time will have a lot more ‘GATS’ tracks. And Nostalgic Pushead is going top five, motherfuckers!!
Holy shit! Motherfucking redemption!! And I absolutely adore the cover, maybe my favourite of all the Manics’ albums. Did you realise that it’s a woman in the nip? Yes, it’s absolutely appropriate to masturbate over.
OK, I know I’ve fucked up this list somewhere. We have two records with eight entries at fifth, but then shouldn’t the next record be seventh rather than sixth?? I honestly can’t see what I’ve done wrong, but please berate me and call me a cuck snowflake faggot in the comments, that’s what the internet’s for.
Their true post-Richey masterpiece, don’t @ me. It’s important to note that ‘Futurology’s eight entrants represent 61.54% of its 13 song tracklisting, while ‘GT’s eight is only 1.01% of its 792 songs. God, that cover’s lame though, no?
Yeah, you could argue that this was their post-Richey masterpiece, but is it really post-Richey?? Who the fuck wrote the lyrics to Removables?? #GetOutClause
Wow, how did that happen?? Their post-Richey masterpiece? No, come on, absolutely doesn’t count.
Erm, guys? How is this not number one?
Christ, remember when I repeatedly said throughout the list that The Manics don’t do great b-sides?
OK, OK, OK, but a lot of these songs are in the lower reaches of the chart, yeah? What if we gave 100 points for number one and 1 point for number one hundred, which album would have the combined highest score??
Yeah, a lot of work to get ‘The Holy Bible’ to number one, but the B-Sides are still fucking up there! Oh, and I forgot to count ‘TIMTTMY’ (313) for some reason. I’m not very good at this.
OK, regardless, I love this shit – what if we divided the total score by the number of songs to get a song average for each album?? I’m not doing this with pictures, because that takes ages. Hey, guys, looks like there’s seventeen song collections in total, not sixteen, so that might be where I’m messing up…
17: Postcards From a Young Man (duh…) 0
16: The Ultra Vivid Lament 8
15: Send Away the Tigers 27.16667
14: Singles 33.83333
13: Know Your Enemy 38.83333
12: Rewind the Film 40.5
11: Journal for Plague Lovers 43.2222
10: Lifeblood 43.4286
9: Futurology 45.5
8. Lipstick Traces 51
7: This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours (there y’are!!) 63.6364
6: B-Sides 54
5: Generation Terrorists 56.625
4: Resistance is Futile (??) 63.5
3: Everything Must Go 63.5556
2: The Holy Bible 63.6364
1: Gold Against the Soul 79.6667
Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaars!! I’ve finally proven it! ‘GATTS’ is officially the motherfucking greatest Manics album! Possibly greatest of all time! And by quite a distance! Sure, you have to crack a few eggs to make a truthlette, ‘RIF’ is waaaaaay too high, plus ‘KYE’ and ‘SATT’ are quite royally fucked (plus ‘Lipstick Traces’ is officially a better album than ‘Futurology’), but the truth hurts sometimes, no? Also, if someone knows how to do the ‘reoccurring’ symbol on WordPress, let me know. I really wanted to show off the one thing I learned from maths at college.
OK, last one I promise, now I’m going to rank the albums by the pecentage of their total tracklist that made the list. No space for singles, b-sides and ‘Lipstick Traces, because… well, you know why, right? Oh, and I counted the ‘JFPL’ ‘secret’ track Bag Lady as a track, seeing as it’s on the freaking list, but disregarded ‘KYE’ and ‘SATT’s secret tracks, because sometimes life isn’t fair.
14: Postcards From a Young Man (0/12) 0%? Or is it actually infinity or something?
13: The Ultra Vivid Lament (1/11) 9.1%
=11: Resistance is Futile (2/12) 16.6%
=11: Rewind the Film (2/12) 16.6%
10: Know Your Enemy (6/16) 37.5%
9: Generation Terrorists (8/18) 44.44%
8: This is My Truth Tell Me Yours (6/13) 46.15%
7: Lifeblood (7/12) 58.33%
=5: Send Away the Tigers (6/10) 60%
=5: Gold Against the Soul (6/10) 60%
4: Futurology (8/13) 61.54%
3: Journal for Plague Lovers (9/14) 64.29%
2: Everything Must Go (9/12) 75%
1: The Holy Bible (11/13) 84.62%
That’s… that’s actually almost an understandable and rational ranking of their albums, isn’t it? A few outliers, ‘GT’ and ‘KYE’ suffer from their combined 4’082 tracks, while anyone listing ‘SATT’ as the fifth best Manics album is clinically insane (and anyone saying it’s the equal of ‘GATS’ will be murdered. By me. Viciously.). Next time, expect ‘TUVL’ to easily leapfrog ‘RIF’ and ‘RTF’, perhaps more ‘KYE’ love after that long promised reissue, and I actually think ‘EMG’ will shed a few tracks that perhaps aren’t aging as well as I’d like (I may finally have to let go of my Richey Boi Removables love). ‘THB’ though, is pretty untouchable, and it’s not beyond the realms to think that all thirteen tracks will be on the next list.
The Richey Factor
Or perhaps ‘The Legacy Factor’, if you prefer. Making the list initially, I kind of assumed it’d be 90% Richey-era selection, and it’s true that I will never love the band as much – or at least not in the same way – as I did with their first three albums. I’ve decided to make two lists, one with the percentage of songs released post-Richey, and one with the percentage featuring his work in some way, either through lyrics or (ha!) musically.
So…not overwhelming, but definitely… there… Especially when you consider:
I can’t find many references in Ghost of Christmas. Though, now I think about it…
Let’s move on, yeah?
The Nicky Factor
Songs lead sung by Nicky, rather. Special mention for moments like ‘Braindead motherfuckers!’ in Miss Europa Disco Dancer, ‘I could have written all your lines!’ in Your Love Alone Is Not Enough and the very appropriate ‘What a Mess!’ in Intravenous Agnostic. Yes, Nicky’s lines are always followed by an exclamation mark.
Oh, I’m sorry, what kind of collectivism is this supposed to be, you selfish bastards?! Talk about a Socialist Serenade, ammi right? That half a point is for You Love Us, which obviously straddles the line between libertarian and collective action. Hey, did someone say ‘politics’??
Sounds about right? Especially considering that the Tories were in power for 20 years of the band’s existence (starting in 1988) while Labour only 13. However, let’s look at their best songs:
See that?? See all that light blue?? That tells you something, no?? Come to your own conclusions, I’m not your fucking sociology professor.
Ronald Reagan left office in 1989, and the earliest song on the list is New Art Riot, which came out in 1990.
Yeah, I know, I thought there’d be more as well. Probably didn’t deserve its own dedicated section. Are we sure I didn’t include Wrote for Luck? Freaking love that shit…
Like, facts about tracks, yeah? But cooler.
Fourteen fucking albums, two decent closing tracks. I may have overlooked at least three bangers though, as we’ll discuss below. Do you know where the real gold is though?
Yeeeeeeeeeeeeah, that’s where you need to look on a Manics album! I think most of the pictographs I’ve used so far have been pretty self explanatory, but if you really want to challenge yourself try and work out the Vincent van Gogh connection here. Answer below.
Unfortunately, that age old debate remains unsettled. Yeah, I know I’ve said ‘And finally’ twice now. And there’s quite a bit left in this post.
Oh, and I used Vincent van Gogh in the last picture because I remembered La Tristesse Durera (Scream to a Sigh)– named after Van Gogh’s alleged final words of course – being the second song on ‘GATS’, so knew that its #2 placing would mean coming out on top. Nah, it’s track three. I’d made the picture by that point, so…
Well done if you got that.
A handful of these songs were screamed at me by Manics fans when I first revealed the list, but most are songs that I’ve noticed gaining frequent placing on contributions to Ian’s documenting of his voted Manics ranking on New Chart Riot that just… Did not make it to my list. Some didn’t make it more than others.
Christ, people, there are eleven ‘Holy Bible’ songs represented from a thirteen track album! Can I not excuse one or two?? Ah, though, isn’t PCP a banger though? I find the lyrics maybe overreach themselves in a bewildering amount of directions, and perhaps even the suggestion of a complaint against ‘PC Culture’ brings me out into hives, but it’s an absolutely marvelous and unexpected palate cleanser after the repeated trauma of the previous twelve tracks. It’s maybe ranked at #107 or some shit. In fact… now I think about it… definitely better than Revol (#95)… Shit, I’m going to have to do this list again, aren’t I? Like, now…
Nope, swing and a miss I’m afraid. I do get that, yes, back in the Wild Wild West of 1998, it was perhaps literally unheard of to hear a song by one of the biggest rock bands in the country(/world outside USA) singing a song first person about a male wishing he were a different gender, but looking back has this aged at all well? Even at the time, it seemed like an oversimplistic (‘Do I look good for you tonight?’ Y’know? Like a girl?) and mildly patronising piece of performative transgenderism. Think of all the wonderful pieces of art we’ve had in the last 20 years (well, closer to five, really – Lil’ Wayne was rarely commenting on outdated gender stereotypes on 2008’s ”The Carter III’) that present thoughtful and lived perspectives of trans and non binary lives, yet Wire seems to be instead suggesting it’d be much easier to live as a girl, with all their ponies and tampons and shit. Nope, sorry, denied, thisn song can go in the bin.
The Will Smith classic Wild Wild West was actually released in 1999, I just made myself giggle with the reference.
Theme From M*A*S*H (Suicide is Painless) (single)
It’s… a good song. Perhaps really good. It was the band’s first top ten single, so likely a lot of people’s first experience of them, and we all love the G’N’F’n’R Live and Let Die style chugga-chugging of the 1970 classic, but much as I love Theme From Pain (Suicide is Mashless), it’s just never struck me as a cover that ever truly transcends or puts any new spin on the source . But, fuck it, it’s one of those tracks that’s one inebriated dance at a wedding away from making #48 next time.
Freedom of Speech Won’t Feed My Children (KYE)
OK, I admit it, I dropped the glitterball here. Freedom of Speech… is a certified banger and, if I’m thinking at all straight, absolutely one of ‘KYE’s standouts. I thin that I remember being a bit confused about he lyrics when I was a spotty college boi back in 2001, forgetting that not only have I long worked them out, but I love them and kinda agree with them. An interesting and more jovial companion song to All is Vanity. Honestly, sit me down and I’ll even explain the ‘Just brings heart disease/And bootleg clothing’ lines to you.
Still Snowing in Sapporo (TUVL)
I’ve mentioned the opening track on ‘TUVL’ here to stand for all of the choices from the September 2021 album, mostly because one mad bastard chose it as their number one choice. Like, best Manics song ever. This. This song here.
Generally, it’s a difference in ethics – I wouldn’t dream of naming any piece of art I’ve only lived with for a matter of weeks as much close to the best of anything. Like, how long did it take you to realise that Sandy was the best sex you’ve ever had? That’s right, another decade of literally nobody else having sex with you. Not even any of Sandy’s puppies.
Or, pfffff, maybe not, I dunno. Perhaps if I’d made this list in late 2014 Misguided Missile would be my #1 and every’ Futurology’ track would be top twenty. Maybe ‘TUVL’ just isn’t that good. I’m speaking rhetorically here, of course. Also, the chorus of Sapporo reminds me of SYMM, which as I’ve already discussed is a song worse than Hitler.
With all due respect, the fuck is wrong with you people? This song is bad. It’s listless, it’s navel gazing, it’s turgid, it’s completely lacking in either style or substance, it contains the line ‘The world is full of refugees/They’re just like you and just like me’!! What am I missing here? A chronic ear infection?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, the biggest name to miss out, one that’s likely to finish in or close to the top ten when all the Manics fans’ votes are counted, and an omission so notable I saw fit to mention it in my introduction to the post. I like the song, I think casting Traci Lords is genius (but, let’s be honest, no way near as fantastic and as subversive as Kylie would have been) and, yeah, a nice bit of Yacht Rocking with very interesting lyrics. But, eugh, doesn’t anyone else find it a little patronising (that word again) and White Knighty? It’s always struck me as a bit too ‘damsel in distress’ with such a lack of agency even the words she sings are written by men, I’m sorry.
I go back and forth with this one. It’s almost definitely the second best song on the principled and purposeful wet fart of ‘RTF’, but to be honest I’m far closer to being baffled at the inclusion of Builder of Routines than I am the exclusion of this almost but not quite political nearly rocker. Seriously, what the fuck, Routines?? I could have squeezed in another ‘GATS’ song!
OK, OK, come on now, we’ve all had our fun, but I’m trying to be serious here. Bateman is a fucking dumb, dumb, silly as a shrimp’s willy song, that’s actually embarrassing in how edgy and shocking and sweary (like big boys!!) the band were obviously giggling in the back of class at being allowed to be. Are they even allowed to be this naughty?? ‘I fucked God in the ass’?!?! OMG! The religious being pwned! Jesu Christ, why are the fans obsessed with this song? It’s one of the most embarrassing things they’ve ever done. It’s also, literally, the longest, which is only a little baffling why they’ve never gone longer than six minutes and thirty two seconds.
I’ll let you know, Big Ian, my man. Both. They both ‘divide opinion’. Because they’re both shit. Really, really shit.
Jackie Collins Existential Question Time (JFPL)
I didn’t think it would be that controversial an omission, but it turns out it’s practically the only ‘JFPL’ song that I didn’t pick (and many people’s only pick from that album). Listen, it’s fine, it’s got that nice ‘Mummy what’s a Sex Pistol’ refrain, but it’s just so slight and ineffectual that you’re likely to assume they’re just carbon covering another McCarthy or Camper van Beethoven song.
Condemned to Rock ‘n’ Roll (GT)
Kind of a fan favourite, and a nice muscly, dumb rock epic, but as laughably overwrought album closers go I’m always going to lean more towards the next album’s title track.
Are you noticing a theme here? People liking songs from ‘TIMTTMY’ and being so embarrassingly wrong about it? It’s pretty good, a catchy and strong piece of anthem rock that manages to fit ‘carrier bags’ into the lyrics, but I just can’t see it ever becoming one of my favourites.
Door to the River (Forever Delayed)
Yeah, ‘Forever Delayed’, the 2002 distinctly hit-focused greatest hits compilation that didn’t even fucking feature the song 4 Ever Delayed! It did, however, feature two original songs. One was released as an accompanying single, the slow burning There by the Grace of God, which I always really liked. Then there was this other song, which I remember thinking was dull and uninspired at the time and respectfully ignoring for almost twenty years. I didn’t even bother considering it for my list, never giving it another listen. However, I have noticed the track having a marked upswing in fan support, with many people naming it in and around their top twenties, and there was obviously a deep and subtle beauty to the song that perhaps I had neglected. So I decided to listen again.
The fuck is wrong with you people? The song’s as dull as paint drying on a dog’s cock. Have a word with yourselves.
Good Old Fashioned Gatekeeping
Again, the wonderful New Chart Riot blog is a near inspiring collection of disparate and equally valid ruminations on the wonder of the band’s songs by the many people touched by their music. Some of the lists are fucking insane, but that’s all the more beautiful.
Seriously though, I believe I should be the authority on what constitutes a proper Manics fan, based on the fact that I own a couple of really cool t-shirts and I once had a passionate night of uninhibited sex with Richey Edwards as far as you know.
I have scientifically developed but two ways that a legitimate Manics fan can be identified. The first is, obviously, that you can’t stand the odious ‘Postcards from a Young Man’ (did I ever mention that I don’t really rate that album?) so our first list of heroes is comprised of the absolute chads who didn’t name a single ‘PFAYM’ track in their top 50. So congratulations to Cameron Sinclair Harris, Heather, Steve Murphy, DSCNNCTD, MentalJargon, Karen Davies, Marc Edison, Alice Lewis, Richey Jones (real name, I’m sure), Dom Gourlay, Wrestling 20 years Ago (are you from the Worcester Years Agos? I believe I went to Bible school with your cousin), Tink Holloway (the only PG Woodhouse character to be represented), LaLaLaMurph (which, coincidentally, is also my mother’s name), and Rich. Let’s not eat Rich. Unless they want us to. Basically, just do anything Rich wants. You’re all verified Manics veterans and have the legal right (nay, responsibility) to angrily demand any teenage girl wearing a Manics shirt name her three favourite Japan only B-Sides pre-1991
So we have our chads, but what does it take to be a giga Manics chad? Obviously, it’s naming Nostalgic Pushead as one of your favourite songs, but you already knew that.
H, formally of Steps, just edges into giga territory by naming it #50. Bob Caridad pushes it a little further by naming it #42, but is embarrassingly outshone by a family member later. The Gutless Wonder, who shows the freaking guts to name it at #22. mister_underscore, with their non more Twitter name, bangs it at #20 like a boss. Joe Byrne, whom I believe is a literal badger, and the elusive Pat Redmond both name it at #15. Bob Caridad’s daughter Maddie is already ruthlessly out giga-ing her Dad with an absolutely brazen #12 position. MAЯK YEAH blows us all away with their immaculate testicles, slam dunking it at #11. But then Monkey Marl – Monkey fucking Marl!! – breaks all records and blows all minds by placing it at number three!! Can you imagine all the sex that Monkey Marl must get? Loads, I reckon.
I was joking about H, by the way. he’s not really the former Steps member and unfortunately named Ian Watkins. They’re actually called ‘H’ because of their longstanding and debilitating heroin addiction.
Of course, there’s no such thing as a perfect Manics fan, the wonderful fan base is more like a caring and accepting communes of like minds that shares in its successes and consoles in its failures… No, wait, what if somebody didn’t name a ‘PFAYM’ track and chose Nostalgic Pushead?? Step forward, Richard Lawless, who recognises the vapidity of the band’s tenth album and also names Nostalgic Pushead at #30. Bow down to your master, Richard Lawless is your new God.
Oh no, I did both of those things as well, didn’t I? Also, remember me telling you about those two t-shirts? Yeah, I win.
Jesus, this might be one of the most pointless blog posts ever and badly constructed. But the albums of the year are coming soon! And you know they’re always focused and well written! Yeah!?
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