Broken Up or Still Around? Manic Street Preachers’ ‘Know Your Enemy’ 2022 Remaster Reviewed

Here is what I know about the state of the world:

1. We are rich.

2. There are no wars or anything (real wars, that is).

3. Ummm. Very little continental drift going on (that’s probably normal).

4. Somewhere, the president’s daughter is “like, totally wasted” right now.

There. One minor problem. Otherwise, things are swell. I haven’t really researched this much, but if something major was going wrong, I’m sure someone would have told me. So what are these Manic Street Preachers bitching about?

Pitchfork review posted March 19th 2001, roughly six months before Americans became aware of bad things happening in the world apart from Jenna Bush being arrested for underage drinking

I discussed the Manics’ 2001 commercial hari kari ‘Know Your Enemy’ at length in my 50’000 word list of their 100 greatest songs published last year. I mentioned that it all started when an aging British revolutionary folk icon turned his nose up at the band’s private Portaloo at a Scottish festival. I mentioned how Manics bassist/lyricist Nicky Wire would later confirm that he wouldn’t have that same folk icon’s “Dick pissing in my toilet for all the money in the fucking world”. I mentioned how that shot of verbosity occurred during a T in the Park performance that acted as an reinvigorating reminder of the band’s routes as angrily political agitprops. I mentioned how people had mostly accepted they would never be that exciting again after the morose and Phil Collins infused ‘This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours‘ had sold roughly seventy two squillion copies, making the band Britain’s biggest rock band after Oasis had politely taken their dog out of the fight with ‘Be Here Now‘. I discussed at length their line in the sand statement single The Masses Against the Classes*, the scuzz punk call to arms that became the first new UK number one of the 21st century. I noted how this moment – along with them playing the song live to 57’000 people at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium at new years eve 1999 – represented the absolute peak of their commercial success. For the benefit of the TL:DR generation, I then explained the release of their sixth album a little over a year later in meme form:

And despite everything I’ll discuss in this review, I still absolutely stand by that visual point. It’s simply inconceivable that the band ever believed that ‘Know Your Enemy’ would be a commercial success, and it’s likely that they correctly assumed that it would cut ties with the mainstream to such an extent that they would never again experience anything close to the success that they enjoyed in the late 90s. Their previous album, 1998’s ‘This is My Truth…’ sold five million copies worldwide (!), while ‘KYE’ sold 500’000. Nicky Wire would later even concede in Mojo Magazine that much of those sales were to dissatisfied customers, and also remark on how it marked the band’s commercial downturn:  “To this day, you see ‘Know Your Enemy’ at service stations for £2.99, because they bought so many thinking it was by one of those commercial bands! In retrospect, it sold half a million copies. Imagine what we’d give for that now.”

So, yes: commercially, it was ritual suicide. But was it any good?

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65 NYSE:%

I was never even aware of the existence of the ‘Vaporwave’ genre maybe as recently as six months ago. Vaporwave is electronic music that utilises 1980s mood music and smooth jazz via tropes and distorted samples, mainly to provide a satiric commentary of some of capitalism’s and consumer culture’s worst excesses. It’s different, it’s making a statement, it’s at once disgusting and thrilling, it sounds quite unlike anything else, and it jumped immediately to being one of My Favourite Things. It’s experimental, it’s abrasive, it’s self-aware, it’s challenging, it’s exciting. I love it. I’d be proud, honoured and- dare I say it- woke if I were to be considered one of the notable early adopters of the movement.

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Unfortunately, that’s unlikely to be happen, as vaporwave has existed since the early 2010s after emerging as a more ironic take on ‘Chillwave’ (another genre I was not aware of). Me being considered an early adopter of vaporwave because of the handful of shouts on this list (and there will be more) is like me naming Brian Eno on my 2014 list marking me out as an integral part of the early success of Roxy Music. Yes, I know Mojo Magazine made that claim in a 2017 cover story, but I’ve actually attempted to distance myself from that article many time in the past. Anyway, in August the guy who used to be in The Monkees claimed himself a fan of the genre, so now it’s officially over.

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