Archive for the 'Manic Street Preachers' Category

07
Dec
12

How I Spent My Summer Vacation – Part Two

Here’s part two of my gig-crazy summer trip this year. I left you off where we staggered away from Pulp’s gig at Wireless only two days into our trip.

The next day, after an afternoon at the Tate Britain, we headed off to see Lou Reed at the Hammersmith Apollo. I’m sure there are people out there who will tell us “I told you so.” Yes, Lou Reed is a notorious curmudgeon. Yes, he’s made some very unfavourable career moves. While it was special to see a legend I never thought I’d see in my life, he seemed as though he was just going through the motions, except they were primarily the geriatric motions of needing help out of his jacket. He didn’t play “Walk on the Wild Side,” but he did play “Smalltown.” I don’t think we were the only ones feeling a little deflated; most seemed to leave the theatre in a glassy-eyed daze.

I woke up the next morning to get ready for our day trip to Cardiff, and I knew my immune system had finally caught up with me. There had been a nagging feeling of near illness right before I left for my trip because I had just finished a two-month health-rundown marathon of work before leaving. I managed to stave infection off for three days. I spent the rest of my time in London sucking on Strepsils and taking painkillers.

We didn’t just listen and dance to music whilst in the UK – we purchased it in copious amounts as well. Between Spillers in Cardiff, Music Video Exchange (at both Notting Hill and Camden Town locations), and FOPP at Earl’s Court, we amassed enough vinyl and CDs to fund a return flight to the UK.

Our last evening in London before heading off to Amsterdam was spent in Vauxhall at a delightful curry restaurant to which you can bring your own beer. We met up with Miles, who is in the brilliant band Vanilla Swingers, Anne who is also in Vanilla Swingers and Morton Valence, her partner Mike, and Hacker, who is in Morton Valence. It was a truly fun night and a welcome bit of company, and I have shimmering memories of questions about prairie dogs, why Amsterdam is actually one of the most conservative cities in Europe, a story about Johny Brown from The Band of Holy Joy perhaps losing a shoe, Miles doing a pretty reputable imitation of Jarvis Cocker’s dance moves, and an aside about how Hacker was once in a band that had Pulp opening for them. At least I think this all happened – between the bronchial infection setting in and the massive bloody marys from earlier, it was getting hard to tell. We also owed Miles a particularly big thank you for sending some tips before we arrived in London, including places to eat, places to find music, and other points of interest, including Battersea Power Station, which he ended up taking us to see before drinks and supper.

Throughout Amsterdam, Berlin, and Vienna, my sore throat and fever had blossomed into full-blown consumption. I was pretty much certain that I had bronchitis, and by Amsterdam, Laura was pretty sure she had the same. We coughed, wheezed, and fever-dreamed our way through galleries, parks, museums, baroque palaces, walking tours, and cathedrals. An Irish boy threw up on our bathroom floor in the middle of the night in Amsterdam, and a fellow hosteller in Vienna asked me if I was coughing up blood because if I were, I should see a doctor. I’m not sure if I’ve ever had such terrible sleeps in which I felt like I was drowning in my own fetid air every night. Daytimes were marginally better, and I did discover the joy of Cafe Aroma Ices.

As we took off from Vienna airport, we braced ourselves for what we figured was going to be a more difficult leg of the trip…

Just like lungs sucking on air…

I feel as though there have been several points in my life that were surreal. I’ve done odd whirlwind day trips to other cities, sometimes back-to-back. I’ve had travel mishaps and miscalculations. I just usually don’t have all of these things happen to me at once. I take full responsibility for the ludicrous events that ensued because I was the one with severe Manics tunnel vision – a condition similar to mania in that it makes me believe I can do anything as long as the Manics are involved. The “if they jumped off a bridge…” scenario is probably in bad taste.

At any rate, I knew that the whole “quick” stopover in Finland was always a bit of a stretch for us. In order to accommodate the Manics, we flew all day from Vienna to Berlin to Helsinki, arriving in late afternoon the day before the Wanaja Festival. The thing about the Wanaja Festival, which I knew very little about, is that it’s held in a small vacation town, Hameenlinna, which is one hour north of Helsinki via train. The other thing about the Wanaja Festival is that details regarding set times were only revealed shortly before we left for Europe. The evening that we arrived in Helsinki I discovered that the train from Hameenlinna to Helsinki only runs until 11:30PM…and it doesn’t start running again until 5:00AM. The Manics, as headliners, were due onstage at 10:45PM. We had a flight back to London the morning after the festival at 7:50AM. Our flight home to Canada was the day after that. All of these facts gave us a bit of a panic attack. My heart races a bit thinking about the situation now.

After consultation with the info desk at the Helsinki train station, it became apparent that our only option was to take the only bus back at 3:00AM, pick up our backpacks at the hostel, and catch another bus to the airport, which meant yet another hour of travel. Feeling more than a little queasy about how we were going to accomplish this grand feat while still fiendishly ill, we decided against bringing our bags to the festival, and hoped to Äkräs it would all work out — not because Äkräs is the Finnish god of fertility, but because he is the protector of turnips. And my brain may as well have been a turnip.

The train ride to Hameenlinna went smoothly, but the very vague map I had in my head of the festival site, gleaned from Google maps and the festival website (which was entirely in Finnish) had become beyond hopeless as we stepped off the train platform. Our brains had already been fairly addled with that cognitive disorientation you experience when immersed in a language so alien to you that you start to think you might be hallucinating, and now we were faced with utter loss of direction in the scorching, sunny heat. Luckily, we found one person who spoke English at the train station info desk, and she kindly marked out our route on the town map she gave us. Of course, she told us our easiest route was to follow the edge of the lake until we hit a bridge, and then to cross the bridge and keep following the lakeshore until we came to the castle park (only Finnish I learned: “linna” means “castle” and “puisto” means “park”). The straightest route would have been to swim the entire width of the lake. But since it was already feeling like the worst joke of an Amazing Race, that wasn’t an option.

We tentatively made our way along the lake, marveling at how much Finland’s landscape reminded us of home, and at how much this specific town reminded us of a place like Kenora, a small vacation town in Ontario. As we crossed the bridge, Laura started muttering about how the pavement was soft and moving. I told her she was probably in the middle of a feverish episode. Then I felt the pavement actually buckle underfoot like a giant air pocket being squished out of a rug. Apparently, Laura wasn’t incapacitated by fever, and Finland must have been unseasonably hot that day. Needless to say, we crossed the bridge as quickly as possible.

Checking our map every thirty seconds, we managed to find our way up the other side of the lake, and came upon a few people. I’ve never been so happy to see a girl in leopard print and Nicky-Wire-white-framed-sunglasses. It became apparent that there were two other intrepid (insane) fans from Britain waiting for the park to open the gates. And if that wasn’t enough to allay our concerns, we suddenly heard the strains of “Some Kind of Nothingness” coming from beyond the gates. I never thought I’d be so happy to hear that song, especially since it gives me Strictly Come Dancing nightmares. We had a half-hour to sit in the shade and bask in the brief moment of accomplishment of finishing one more leg of the trip. Not long after, the Finnish Manics contingent showed up as if they had just wandered off the set of Times Square, mauve hair, Useless Generation tattoos, Motley Crue t-shirts, ripped jeans, shredded tights, and all. They were wonderful.

It then became a silent film farce as all twelve of us hardcore loonies felt the need to race each other on foot to the front of the stage being headlined by the Manics. The people manning the festival shopping stalls just stood their mouths agape as one by one we whipped by them, leaping over rocks and cables. I likely lost another thirty percent of my lung capacity at that point. We then all settled in on the ground right at the barrier and baked our faces off. Though there were food stalls nearby, they seemed dodgy – spring rolls in 40 degree heat or handfuls of sticky gummy worms. We opted to subsist on the free water even though we hadn’t eaten since noon.

We had periods of leg stretching as a parade of progressively surreal bands performed on this stage, including a mediocre hair metal band with a bare-chested singer in white jeans and waist-length tresses, a band composed only of members with Down Syndrome (they appeared hugely popular, which made Laura and I hope like hell that the enthusiasm was genuine), a relatively folky twee band with a lead singer who bore a significant resemblance to Snufkin from the Moomin books, and a band that almost blew our heads off with screaming Finnish. During one of the breaks, I tried to put my mind into some sort of ease by searching out someone who could tell me how to get to the bus station, now the crucial location on which our entire next three days hinged. I stumbled a little frantically through the crowds, not comprehending anyone around me, yet somehow still had the presence of mind to ask if the merch tent had any Manics t-shirts (they didn’t). Armed with a newly marked map of where the bus station was, I headed back to my post to wait for 10:45.

Manic Street Preachers Wanaja

I then made an agreement with myself to stop panicking and dwelling on the upcoming trip from hell with logistics that defied all logic; it worked, and I put it all out of my mind from the time the Manics hit the stage. I unfurled the Canadian flag we had brought with us like some badge of survival, and hung on for dear life as we took off with “You Love Us.” It felt so satisfying to be crushed by such a loving crowd. The audience gave me the same feeling of starved fans that I had seeing the Manics in Toronto in 2009. “Motorcycle Emptiness” seemed all the more poignant after the last day spent in language isolation; I hung onto their every word like a life line back to my own brain. As expected, they performed the three singles released from Postcards From a Young Man, and Nicky Wire tried to recall whether the band had ever visited Finland when Richey was still with them (a mental exercise he seemed to be running with since the Send Away the Tigers tour). I was especially happy to hear “Slash ‘n Burn” and “Suicide is Painless” since I hadn’t witnessed them live before. It felt a bit odd to have the show end on “If You Tolerate This…” rather than “A Design for Life,” but at least we got the benefit of a false ending and the excitement over further songs. Somewhere along the way, Laura had been squeezed off the barrier and was smushed behind me. Being a festival performance, and thus at least five songs less than a regular gig, it felt like a compressed dose of adrenaline shot through my consumptive, weakened body. As the crowd peeled away and slowly dispersed into the perpetual summer twilight, it was lovely to see a couple of friends falling about each other, one wearing an exact replica of the sailor suit Richey used to wear. On our way out of the festival grounds and into the streets, the bedazzlement lingered in my brain and kept my anxiety over the necessary bus at bay for quite some time after.

Manic Street Preachers Wanaja 2

I started to come down from the high as we sat on a bench at the deserted bus station, but for festival fans queuing up for horrific fast food from a takeaway stand. The weight of the three weeks of travel, the intense day which wouldn’t end until we had been up for over twenty-four hours, and the fourteen hours without food settled on us at this point, and we tried to stay awake and conscious for the next three hours of waiting in the half-light of a sun that never really set. In the meantime, the Finnish Manics fans had also shown up with a box of pizza and seemed to be waiting for the only bus back to Helsinki as well. At that moment, I really envied those girls who didn’t have to care if they got back to Helsinki by 5:00AM. And the fact they could eat a box of pizza at 2:30 in the morning after a whole day in blistering heat.

Eventually the bus showed up, after at least a couple of buses that were heading north instead, and then we had the pleasant discovery that many people had already pre-booked tickets for it. The previous day we had been told that we had to buy tickets on the bus. I was getting prepared either to cry or start kicking people if we didn’t get on when they managed to squeeze us on. We had to sit on the aisle floor of the fully-booked bus with the Finnish contingent of Manics fans and a few stray British fans who seemed to hate us (maybe because we didn’t end up with eyeliner smeared across our faces). The next two hours were a mix of sheer panic and drug-like drowsiness. It nearly killed me when we actually stopped at the airport before returning to Helsinki — though bringing our bags with us would have been horrendous, it would have allowed us to get off at this point rather than sit in further cramped tension. Finally, the bus dropped us at an unfamiliar location, not the expected train station, which had become our only major landmark; however, I think adrenaline may actually sharpen your orientation senses because I still managed to lead us in the right direction to the train station. Of course the usual tram to our hostel wasn’t running that early in the morning, so we ran on foot back to the hostel, where they didn’t let us in right away. Once the front desk realized that we weren’t actually mad homeless people ringing the outside bell, they let us up. We got our bags, ran back to the train station, hopped the next bus, and ended up at the airport with roughly half an hour to spare. As I sunk into my plane seat and choked down the tasteless sandwich provided, I had never felt so relieved in my life.

If there were such a thing as The Amazing Race for Manics fans, I think Laura and I would have won.

Timeslide place to hide nudge reality…

When we got back to Heathrow in some sick deja vu, we discovered that the two tube lines that took us to our hostel were closed that day for maintenance. This led to over an hour of bus riding and figuring out where exactly we were supposed to get off. With some sort of last superhuman wave of energy, we managed to make it to FOPP for some shopping, to the Tate Modern for some supper, and then on to the Royal Festival Hall at the South Bank Centre to see Big Audio Dynamite, aptly the last big bang of the trip. We hadn’t even been entirely sure we had tickets for this show since they mailed them late to my home in Canada, and through the intermittent Internet access via hostels, I had to arrange for replacement tickets to be held at the venue. Thankfully, our sporadic luck was holding up and the tickets were there. We ended up having a brilliant last night with a dance party cascading into the aisles. We even got to sing happy birthday to Don Letts’s wife.

Big Audio Dynamite South Bank

Laura, whose immune system is always in much ruder shape than mine due to several chronic health concerns, ultimately had to stay in hospital for a few days after we returned home. I ended up with a massive course of antibiotics and a chest x-ray. I wasn’t sure what was more disorienting: my Finnish-addled brain on jetlag or coming back to work only about seven hours after my flight landed to attend a symposium discussing Deleuzian concepts.

I could ramble on about the non-musical highlights of the trip, including Tate Britain, Tate Modern, the British Museum, a lecture at a curiosity shop in Hackney, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam, the Dali gallery at Potsdamer Platz in Berlin, the Belvedere Gallery and the Secession in Vienna, but they could all use posts of their own. And perhaps one day they will find themselves in a blog.

Speaking of blogs, as I said in the previous post, I’ve started a new one with Laura, who has a passion for music and the ability to write about it in an erudite manner. It’s called From a High Horse. Please follow me there because hanging about here will likely only lead to feelings of abandonment.

Suicide is Painless (Theme from MASH) – Manic Street Preachers

E=MC2 – Big Audio Dynamite

25
Dec
09

Everyday is Like Sunday, Except for Blue Monday and Ruby Tuesday, and…Well, Friday I’m in Love: Year-End Round-Up Part 3

It’s finally the last part of my year-end round-up of weekly mixes. The themes included here are: twee, female singer-songwriters, rock, literature, commiseration, numbers, post-punk, Manic Street Preachers, autumn, cover versions, Halloween, Germany, Remembrance Day/war, winter and Christmas.

Speechless With Tuesday – The Apartments

Friday, Saturday, Sunday – DJ Hell

Weekly Mix #77 – Revolt Into Childhood (Download)

Come Saturday – The Pains of Being Pure At Heart
Hit the Ground – The Darling Buds
Sensitive – The Field Mice
Au bord du soleil – Souvenir
Pushbutton Head – Strawberry Story
Crush the Flowers – The Wake
Kid Gloves – Voxtrot
The Instrumental – The June Brides
If You Find Yourself Caught in Love – Belle & Sebastian
The Subtle Art of How to Break a Heart – Blind Terry
Lemonade and Somersaults – The Icicles
Blue – Kicker
Talulah Gosh – Talulah Gosh
Stethoscope Sounds – Bedroom Eyes
Who’s In Your Dreams? – Strawberry Whiplash
Love is…1968 – Beaumont
To the Dancers in the Rain – Emilie Simon
Footloose and Fancy Free – Camera Obscura
Candy – El Perro Del Mar
One Blue Hill – Pale Saints
Breathe Into Me – Kind

Weekly Mix #78 – What’s a Girl To Do (Download)

Never Forget You – The Noisettes
Dance and Boogie – The Pipettes
In These Shoes? – Kirsty MacColl
Them Heavy People – Kate Bush
Listen Up! (MSTRKRFT Remix) – The Gossip
Girl – Robots in Disguise
My Delirium – Ladyhawke
The Ballad of Lucy Jordan – Marianne Faithfull
I Could Be Happy – Altered Images
Backstabber – The Dresden Dolls
Maps – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Blue Jeans – Ladytron
Glamour Girl – Chicks on Speed
On My Own Again – Bishi
Please Don’t Touch – Polly Scattergood
I Muse Aloud – Jane Siberry
Comme des enfants – Coeur de pirate
A Sister’s Social Agony – Camera Obscura
Prescilla – Bat For Lashes
The Hollow Men – Cocteau Twins
Into the Light – Siouxsie and the Banshees
Isobel – Bjork

Weekly Mix #79 – Rock ‘n Roll is Our Only Culture (Download)

Welcome to the Jungle – Guns ‘n Roses
Pink Flower – Daisy Chainsaw
You Shook Me All Night Long – AC/DC
Rock ‘n Roll All Nite – Kiss
Whole Lotta Love – Led Zeppelin
Woman – Wolfmother
Little Girl – Death From Above 1979
Everything’s Ruined – Faith No More
Slither – Velvet Revolver
Plug In Baby – Muse
Icky Thump – The White Stripes
My Generation – The Who
Jumpin’ Jack Flash – The Rolling Stones
You Really Got Me – The Kinks
Clash City Rockers – The Clash
Imperial Bodybags – Manic Street Preachers
Killer Queen – Queen
Seasons – Jeff Beck
Voodoo Child – Jimi Hendrix
Purple Rain – Prince

Weekly Mix #80 – Songbook (Download)

The Small Print – Muse (Reference: German Legend of Faust or Faustus)
Colony – Joy Division (Reference: Franz Kafka’s Penal Colony)
Charlotte Sometimes – The Cure (Reference: Penelope Farmer’s Charlotte Sometimes)
Don’t Box Me In – Stan Ridgeway and Stewart Copeland (Reference: S.E. Hinton’s Rumblefish)
Ichabod Crane – Momus (Reference: Washington Irving’s The Headless Horseman)
Narcissist – The Libertines (Reference: Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray)
Anne Carson – Archivist
Lucy – The Divine Comedy (Reference: William Wordsworth’s The Lucy Poems)
Trainspotting – Primal Scream (Reference: Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting)
Reel Around the Fountain – The Smiths (Reference: Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey)
Buttons – Kingfishers Catch Fire (Reference: Jim Murdoch’s “Cinders”)
The House That Jack Kerouac Built – The Go-Betweens
Billy Liar – The Crooner (Reference: Keith Waterhouse’s Billy Liar)
Oscar Wilde – Company of Thieves
The Sensual World – Kate Bush (Reference: James Joyce’s Ulysses)
Oedipus – Regina Spektor (Reference: Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex)
Like Straw Dogs – Vanilla Swingers (Reference: John Gray’s Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals)
Tea in the Sahara – The Police (Reference: Paul Bowles’ The Sheltering Sky)
Blake’s Jerusalem – Billy Bragg (Reference: William Blake’s Jerusalem)
So Said Kay – The Field Mice (Reference: Jane Rule’s Desert of the Heart)

Weekly Mix #81 – Everybody Hurts (Download)

Sit Down (Rough Trade Version) – James
Sometimes I Scare Children – The Kid
The Number One Song in Heaven – Sparks
Take On Me (Extended Mix) – a-ha
Bizarre Love Triangle – New Order
I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’ – Scissor Sisters
Magic Game – Sliimy
This Charming Man (New York Vocal) – The Smiths
The Goodbye Girl – Pluto
Little By Little – The Wannadies
Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse – Of Montreal
Tear Garden – IAMX
The Night Starts Here – Stars
Half Way to Crazy – The Jesus & Mary Chain
Josef’s Gone – The June Bride
Higher Grounds – Cats On Fire
The Man Who Took On Love (And Won) – The Low Miffs and Malcolm Ross
If You Need Someone – Field Mice
No Tomorrow – The Boyfriends
Down the Dip – Aztec Camera

Weekly Mix #82 – Countdown (Download)

In-Joke For One – Fosca
Three and Nine – Roxy Music
Three Cheers For Our Side – Orange Juice
The Four Platitudes (A Bridge Song) – Parenthetical Girls
Eleven Executioners – Momus
Six Different Ways – The Cure
Seven – Fever Ray
Thirty Frames a Second – Simple Minds
Two Divided By Zero – Pet Shop Boys
Eight Flew Over, One Was Destroyed – Mew
Five Ten Fiftyfold – Cocteau Twins
One Thousand Reasons – The Sound
Twenty Four Hours – Joy Division
Sixteen Days – Modern English
Low Five – Sneaker Pimps
Thirteen Days – Sibrydion
Dozen Wicked Words – Longpigs
The Eighteenth Emergency – Butcher Boy
Anthems For a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl – Broken Social Scene
Ten Seconds to Midnight – The Divine Comedy

Weekly Mix #83 – A New Messthetic (Download)

Home is the Range – Comsat Angels
Complications – Killing Joke
A Song From Under the Floorboards – Magazine
Nostalgia (7″ Version) – The Chameleons
Words Fail Me – The Sound
Dark Companion – Tuxedomoon
It’s Her Factory – Gang of Four
Concrete Jungle – The Specials
This is Not a Love Song (Remix) – Public Image Ltd.
Twist Run Repulsion – Simple Minds
Messthetics – Scritti Politti
The Modern Dance – Pere Ubu
Dead Pop Stars – Altered Images
Playground Twist – Siouxsie & the Banshees
Only After Dark – Human League
Thorn of Crowns – Echo & the Bunnymen
Architecture and Morality – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
Strange – Wire
Variation of Scene – Josef K
New Dawn Fades – Joy Division

Weekly Mix #84 – This One’s For the Freaks (Download)

Dead Yankee Drawl – Manic Street Preachers (Horse and Groom, London – 20-09-89)
Methadone Pretty – Manic Street Preachers (Hull Adelphi – 17-05-91)
Crucifix Kiss – Manic Street Preachers (Hibernian Rooms, London – 13-08-91)
You Love Us – Manic Street Preachers (London Marquee – 04-09-91)
Democracy Coma – Manic Street Preachers (The Crypt, Middlesbrough – 07-02-92)
Born to End – Manic Street Preachers (Musik Café, Copenhagen – 10-04-92)
Motorcycle Emptiness – Manic Street Preachers (Eurockeenes, Belfort – 03-07-92)
Generation Terrorists – Manic Street Preachers (Oxford Zodiac – 02-02-91)
Little Baby Nothing – Manic Street Preachers (Northampton Roadmenders – 23-02-92)
Yourself – Manic Street Preachers (Southend Cliffs Pavillion – 07-07-93)
Roses in the Hospital – Manic Street Preachers (Milton Keynes – 19-08-93)
Yes – Manic Street Preachers (Paris Bataclan – 22-11-94)
PCP – Manic Street Preachers (Barcelona – 18-11-94)
Love’s Sweet Exile – Manic Street Preachers (Bangkok MBK Hall – 04-94)
From Despair to Where – Manic Street Preachers (The Hague Parkpop Festival, Holland – 21-08-94)
4st 7lbs – Manic Street Preachers (Nancy, France – 26-09-94)
IfWhiteAmericaToldTheTruthForOneDayIt’sWorldWouldFallApart – Manic Street Preachers (Astoria Theatre, London – 21-12-94)
No Surface All Feeling – Manic Street Preachers (Melbourne Big Day Out – 26-01-99)
Masses Against the Classes – Manic Street Preachers (Cardiff Coal Exchange – 08-03-01)
A Design For Life – Manic Street Preachers (XFM Winter Wonderland, Manchester – 11-12-07)

Weekly Mix #85 – For C + M (Download)

The Samurai in Autumn – Pet Shop Boys
We’re in a Thunderstorm – Gentleman Reg
Gone Like Summer – Strawberry Story
Theme to the Autumn Leaves – Autumn Leaves
Waiting For a Chance – Northern Portrait
September’s Not So Far Away – Field Mice
By the Light of a Magical Moon – Tyrannosaurus Rex
Climb a Tree – Jim Noir
Nothing Broke – Meursault
Apples and Pairs – Slow Club
Summer’s Gone – Sibrydion
Darwin’s Tree – Martin Carr
We Could Send Letters – Aztec Camera
Further to Fall – Trembling Blue Stars
Forests and Sands – Camera Obscura
No Excuses (The Autumn Cantata) – Air France
Road to Somewhere – Goldfrapp
Under the Folding Branches – The Veils
September – David Sylvian
Autumnal – Arab Strap

Weekly Mix #86 – Take Cover (Download)

Pop Goes the World – Hyperbubble (Original: Men Without Hats)
Together in Electric Dreams – The Voluntary Butler Scheme (Original: Phil Oakey and Giorgio Moroder)
With Every Heartbeat – The Rest (Original: Robyn)
Dream Attack – Kites With Lights (Original: New Order)
No Cars Go – vitaminsforyou (Original: The Arcade Fire)
Night Vision – The Twelves (Original: Daft Punk)
Primary – The Dandy Warhols (Original: The Cure)
100% – The Raveonettes (Original: Sonic Youth)
Like a Virgin – Teenage Fanclub (Original: Madonna)
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – The Killers (Original: Cyndi Lauper)
Womanizer – Sliimy (Original: Britney Spears)
Whole Lotta Love (Acoustic) – Prince (Original: Led Zeppelin)
Careless Whisper – The Gossip (Original: Wham)
When You Were Young – The Noisettes (Original: The Killers)
Isobel – Xiu Xiu (Original: Bjork)
Transmssion – Hot Chip (Original: Joy Division)
Down In It – Tiga (Original: Nine Inch Nails)
Love Song – The Big Pink (Original: The Cure)
Islands in the Stream – Feist and The Constantines (Original: Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers)
When Doves Cry – Brett Anderson (Original: Prince)

Weekly Mix #87 – Anglopunk’s Bloody Good Halloween Mix 2009 (Download)

This is Halloween – Danny Elfman
Ramalama (Bang Bang) – Roisin Murphy
Monster Mash – Bobby Pickett and the Crypt Kickers
Purple People Eater – Sheb Wooley
Clap For the Wolfman – The Guess Who
Kandy Korn – Captain Beefheart
Halloween Parade – Lou Reed
Abracadabra – Steve Miller Band
The Time Warp – The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Halloween – Siouxsie and the Banshees
Bela Lugosi’s Dead – Bauhaus
Release the Bats – The Birthday Party
I Put a Spell On You – Arthur Brown
Halloween – Sonic Youth
Don’t Fear the Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult
Halloween on the Barbary Coast – The Flaming Lips
I Was a Teenage Werewolf – The Cramps
Transylvanian Concubine – Rasputina
Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) – David Bowie
Date With a Vampyre – The Screaming Tribesmen
Do the Hippogriff – The Weird Sisters
Secret Vampires – bis
London Ghost Stories – Shirley Lee
Vampire Racecourse – The Sleepy Jackson
Waiting For the Wolves – Daisy Chainsaw
Faces & Masks – The Cherubs
Vampire Love – Ash
Frankenstein – New York Dolls
Halloween – Dead Kennedys
Feed My Frankenstein – Alice Cooper
Vampires Pt.II – The JeanMarie
Tales From the Crypt Theme
Hells Bells – AC/DC
Nanageddon – The Mighty Boosh
Dracula – Gorillaz
Halloween With Morrissey (Ouija Board) – Cheekyboy
Magic Dance – David Bowie
I Want Candy – Bow Wow Wow
My Vampire – Soho Dolls
Vampire – Paul St. Paul and the Apostles
Lust For a Vampyr – I Monster
For Halloween – No Kids
Ghost Town – The Specials
Ghostbusters – Ray Parker Jr.
Ghosts – Comateens
Thriller – Michael Jackson
Every Day is Halloween – Ministry
Batdance – Prince
The Addams Family Theme
Halloween – Japan
All Cats Are Grey – The Cure
Scare Me – Paul Haig
Skeletons – The Sound
Lycanthropy – Patrick Wolf
Dracula – Momus
Please Mr. Gravedigger – David Bowie
Graveyard – Public Image Ltd.
Vampires – Pet Shop Boys
Theme For a Witch – David R. Prangely and The Witches
Ghost – VNV Nation
Waking the Witch – Kate Bush
Bat’s Mouth – Bat For Lashes
They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back From the Dead!! Ahhhh! – Sufjan Stevens
Hip Deep Family – The Tiger Lillies
Halloween Head – Ryan Adams
If I Only Were a Goth – Thoushaltnot

Weekly Mix #88 – Die Mauer Wird Fallen (Download)

Disco Fantasy – Mikrofisch
Hero – Neu!
Der Räuber und der Prinz – DAF
Pogo (The Horrors remix) – Digitalism
Jeffer (Modeselektor Remix) – Boys Noize
Yeah – Tiefschwarz
U Can Dance – DJ Hell
Showroom Dummies – Kraftwerk
Mother Sky (Pilooski Edit) – Can
Sweet Lies – Booka Shade
Nights Off – Siriusmo
Happy Go Lucky – Polarkreis 18
Tag für Tag – Xmal Deutschland
Tierlieb – Abwärts
The Twist (Live) – Klaus Nomi
Michail Michail (Gorbachev Rap) – Nina Hagen
Steh auf Berlin – Einstürzende Neubauten
Hauberg – Hauschka
Propeller 9 – The Notwist
Limelight – Apparat

Weekly Mix #89 – War Inc (Download)

The Intense Humming of Evil – Manic Street Preachers
An I For An I – IAMX
New Dress – Depeche Mode
He’d Send in the Army – Gang of Four
When Ya Get Drafted – Dead Kennedys
Melancholy Soliders – The Skids
Radio Free Europe (Original Hib-Tone Single) – R.E.M.
Missiles (BBC Session) – The Sound
U.S. Forces – Midnight Oil
Poppy Day – Siouxsie and the Banshees
Straight to Hell – The Clash
Man at C & A – The Specials
Bullet the Blue Sky – U2
Soldier’s Poem – Muse
Army Dreamers – Kate Bush
My Youngest Son Came Home – Billy Bragg
Shipbuilding – Elvis Costello & the Attractions
Universal Soldier – Donovan
Voir un ami pleurer – Jacques Brel
In Our Bedroom After the War – Stars

Weekly Mix #90 – Blow Thou Winter Wind (Download)

The First Time You Saw Snow – Shirley Lee
Winter – The Dodos
The Dead of Winter – Martin Carr
Walk Out to Winter – Aztec Camera
Red High Heels – Jane Siberry
Il Neige – France Gall
Snowfall Sorrow – Secret Shine
A Winter’s Sky – The Pipettes
December – Teenage Fanclub
Permafrost – Magazine
Snow – Pooma
Sit Down By the Fire – The Veils
It’s Snowing on the Moon – St. Christopher
Midnight Sun – David Sylvian
Snow Country – Paniyolo
You and My Winter – Snow in Mexico
Snow – The Trashcan Sinatras
Snowfalls in November – Julie Doiron
Peacock Dance – Matt Kanelos
Eisblume – Hauschka

Weekly Mix #91 – Better Than Mincemeat (Download)

Christmas Number One – The Black Arts
Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight) – The Ramones
Father Christmas – The Kinks
Countdown to Christmas – Glam Chops
Christmas in Killarney – Eugene McGuinness
We Three Kings – Reverend Horton Heat
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – Bright Eyes
Little Drummer Boy – The Dandy Warhols
Christmas Wrapping – I Love Poland
I Was Born on Christmas Day – Saint Etienne
Away in a Manger – Hyperbubble
Christmas Reindeer – The Knife
Can You Hear What I Hear? – Bodies of Water
Frosty the Snowman – Cocteau Twins
Christmas Fire – The Deer Tracks
She Came Home For Christmas – Mew
Put the Lights on the Tree – Sufjan Stevens
Child’s Christmas in Wales – John Cale
Fairytale of New York – Stars
The Christmas Song – The Raveonettes
Christmas is Cancelled – The Long Blondes
A Christmas Duel – The Hives and Cyndi Lauper
White Christmas – The Pipettes
Sleigh Ride – The Ronettes
Baby, It’s Cold Outside – Tom Jones and Cerys Matthews
You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch – How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Spotlight on Christmas – Rufus Wainwright
It’s Christmas Time – Yo La Tengo
All I Want for Christmas – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Carol of the Bells – The Polyphonic Spree
December Will Be Magic Again – Kate Bush
Winter Wonderland – Goldfrapp
Christmas and Train Trips and Things – Trembling Blue Stars
It’s Xmas So We’ll Stop – Frightened Rabbit
Merry Christmas (I Love You) – Hawksley Workman
Listening to Otis Redding At Home During Christmas – Okkervil River
Last Christmas – Manic Street Preachers
Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy – Bing Crosby and David Bowie
Christmas Song – Mogwai
Douce Nuit – IAMX
Are You Burning, Little Candle? – Jane Siberry
Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence – Ryuichi Sakamoto
Remember (Christmas) – Harry Nilsson
There Are Much Worse Things to Believe In – Stephen Colbert and Elvis Costello
Christmas on Earth – Momus
The Christmas Wish – Kermit the Frog

And so ends a year marked by my little weekly mixtapes. A year marked by the death of the “King of Pop” and hopefully the death of Oasis; the return of Blur to the stage and the return of the Manics to North America; the rise of Susan Boyle and the eventual incarceration of Phil Spector. The last weekly mix for this year will be for New Year’s Eve – last year’s mix can be found here. We’ll also see if I can manage a best of the decade post before the new year.

24
Dec
09

My Top 40 Albums of 2009: Numbers 8 Through 1

I realize this is a week late – I apologize. It wasn’t just to build suspense; I suppose I decided to get a bit of actual relaxation in when I finally started my holidays four days ago. At any rate, let’s dip into what autumn brought for albums. September gave us releases from Sondre Lerche, frYars, The Cribs, The Big Pink, Dragonette, Boys Noize, Yo La Tengo, Noah and the Whale, Sliimy, David Sylvian, Jamie T, The Voluntary Butler Scheme, and surprisingly, Prefab Sprout. Wild Beasts broke through with their sophomore album (being contrary, I thought it wasn’t as good as their first), and Matt Bellamy led the Resistance (perhaps wearing a tinfoil hat). There were also releases that already graced this countdown, including the Where the Wild Things Are soundtrack and Malcolm Ross and the Low Miffs.

In October we saw new releases from Julian Casablancas, Richard Hawley, Tegan and Sara, Editors, Kings of Convenience, Atlas Sound, The Mountain Goats, Fuck Buttons, White Denim, The Flaming Lips, and a heavily pared down Wolfmother. There was a truly disappointing return from Echo & the Bunnymen, and another album from Flight of the Conchords, which must console us in the wake of their declaration that there will be no third television series. A couple more of my top albums also appeared including ones from Emilie Simon and Mumford & Sons.

Squeaking into the end of the year, albums out in November included ones from Pants Yell, Weezer, Brett Anderson, and the ubiquitous Lady GaGa. There were also ones who just made the deadline for my countdown: Luke Haines and The Mary Onettes.

If you’ve missed it, this is my countdown so far:

40. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix – Phoenix
39. Through Fire – Twiggy Frostbite
38. The Empyrean – John Frusciante
37. Travels With Myself and Another – Future of the Left
36. Nonsense in the Dark – Filthy Dukes
35. Yes – Pet Shop Boys
34. xx – The xx
33. Temporary Pleasures – Simian Mobile Disco
32. Primary Colours – The Horrors
31. Sigh No More – Mumford & Sons
30. Polly Scattergood – Polly Scattergood
29. Sun Gangs – The Veils
28. Merriweather Post Pavilion – Animal Collective
27. Where the Wild Things Are – Karen O and the Kids
26. Ruby Jean & the Thoughtful Bees – Ruby Jean & the Thoughtful Bees
25. It’s Blitz – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
24. Bitte Orca – The Dirty Projectors
23. Dragonslayer – Sunset Rubdown
22. Islands – The Mary Onettes
21. he closed his eyes so he could dance with you – vitaminsforyou
20. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
19. The Big Machine – Emilie Simon
18. Malcolm Ross and the Low Miffs – The Low Miffs and Malcolm Ross
17. 21st Century Man/Achtung Mutha – Luke Haines
16. Ellipse – Imogen Heap
15. Is It Fire? – Jessie Evans
14. “Further Complications” – Jarvis Cocker
13. React or Die – Butcher Boy
12. Shirley Lee – Shirley Lee
11. Jet Black – Gentleman Reg
10. Cloud Pleaser – David Shane Smith
9. Bob and Veronica Ride Again – Morton Valence

Drumroll please…

8. Manafon – David Sylvian
I’ve been on a David Sylvian kick this year. Buying several CD copies of his past solo efforts and several more Japan releases on vinyl, the mania culminated in purchasing his Weatherbox collector set from a used record shop (the guy at the counter had originally priced it at $90.00, but sold it to me for $60.00, saying that he had vowed to sell it to anyone who was already buying a David Sylvian album – he figured there were only two Sylvian fans in Winnipeg: me and the guy who sold the set to him). Through this raid on his back catalogue, I’ve come to admire and appreciate his material more than ever, following him on an unexpected journey and ending up in the Welsh parish of Manafon. This record is both an articulate tribute to the contradictory poet, R.S. Thomas, and a deeply personal story that spreads like a rhizome in the loamy earth. The lyrics are potent with disappointment, yearning, and bitterness while celebrating the artistic process. Spaces and silences gently push the vocals and instruments into new constellations, providing room to breathe and contemplate. There are soothing repetitions and reprisals as pervasive and refreshing as cool misty rain and violet shadow; there are phrasings and gaps waiting to be bridged, forcing you out of your reverie in poignant peaks. There is a strength in this album’s sadness, a dignity in dearth. Sylvian and his collaborators crafted an album that evokes a subtle patience, a quiet coaxing of everything music and words could be if given space and time.

Read my review of the album here.

Small Metal Gods – David Sylvian

The Rabbit Skinner – David Sylvian

7. Dark Young Hearts – frYars
From the wildest and comically strange realms of the gothic, frYars summoned up his debut album. Filled with enough curiosities to fill numerous Wunderkammern, the album is electronic chamber pop with dark, sometimes seemingly nonsensical, narrative. There are whiffs of murder, decanters of betrayal, and niggles of odd laughter – an Edward Gorey illustration come to life. The plumb line of frYars imagination and use of language dips into the inky macabre as his distinctive deep vocals surge from plummy tones to soft menace. The off-kilter nature of the music keeps you spinning in an infinity of mirrors even as frYars’ voice keeps you anchored and calm. Lying somewhere between a penny dreadful and the unsettling liminality of a child prodigy, Dark Young Hearts is an intelligent, imaginative record that stubbornly denies definition and remains ambidextrous in its morality.

Read my review of the album here.

Lakehouse – frYars

A Last Resort – frYars

6. No More Stories Are Told Today, I’m Sorry They Washed Away, No More Stories, The World is Grey, I’m Tired, Let’s Wash Away – Mew
Danish band, Mew, are no strangers to pushing their dreamy, ethereal pop into new planes and challenging contexts; their last album, And The Glass Handed Kites, was a seamless opus of melancholic whimsy. This latest record takes them yet further with a fierce crashing of rhythm and the angelic heights of sighing melodies, but also brave disjointedness and shards of funk. Sometimes the rhythms duck and elude you as they move in all directions at once, leaving you as displaced as the sentiments told by the lyrics. There are multiple, but involuted layers of melody, sometimes guitar, sometimes synth, rising to meet the unique airy vocals of Jonas Bjerre. To balance the aural fireworks, there are also moments of cooling minimalism as intricate rhythms get reduced down to a vertebrae of xylophonic tones and tapping knocks, reminding me of Gentlemen Take Polaroids-era Japan. The sunlight has broken through for Mew and these upbeat tracks criss-cross each other even as the words cross-examine themselves.

Introducing Palace Players – Mew

Sometimes Life Isn’t Easy – Mew

5. The Bachelor – Patrick Wolf
Borne from loneliness, bitterness and frustration, Patrick Wolf’s latest album acted as an epiphany and self-revelation. Wolf no longer inserted himself into fairy/folktale contexts, but allowed them to pour forth from his own reality. Generating a sometimes frantically violent, sometimes balefully self-pitying record, the lycanthropic runaway youth came of age in a battle of incendiary passions and self-destructive doubts. After listening to The Bachelor, I felt war-torn and liberated, as though I had been taken through a medieval quest or pilgrimmage via urban alleyways, mass-mediated networks, and seamy sex clubs. While specifically locating himself in this decade of information overload, pervasive fear, banality disguised as significance, and the solitude of crowds, Wolf also cast himself back into his personal history, mourning missed opportunities and regrets. Though Wolf’s music has always straddled time periods, blending old folk styles with modern electronics and samples, this album is truly alive in its pain and desire, using the darkest reaches of the human condition to be found in music. Unlike previous Wolf albums, The Bachelor doesn’t regale you with stories of tragic, but fantastical characters; instead, it relays the hellish turmoil and purifying hope to be exposed in Wolf’s own life. Between the victorious anthems of Hard Times and Oblivion, the raw violence of Vulture and Battle, and the keening forsakenness of The Bachelor, Who Will, and Damaris, and paralleled with intricately-wrought visual imagery, Patrick Wolf succeeded in illuminating his own manuscript and finding a way beyond the blackness.

Read my review of the album here.

The Bachelor – Patrick Wolf

Damaris – Patrick Wolf

4. Everyone All at Once – The Rest
There is something utterly overwhelming about this record from Canadian band, The Rest. It feels like blissful chaos and tastes like symphonic nectar, gliding from delicate moment to powerful zenith and back again often within the same song. The shambolic meanderings of the lyrics convey an endless stream-of-consciousness that transforms mundane happenings into magical imagery. Vibrantly coloured with that uncertain yet omnipotent gait of youth, Everyone All at Once makes me feel everything all at once: heart-racing anticipation, bittersweet restlessness, fleeting serenity, sweet harmony. This record lives in that brief moment when you inhale fresh, outside air too quickly and your mind rushes so fast that it nearly crashes into your soul.

Read my review of the album here.

Modern Time Travel (necessities) – The Rest

Walk on Water (auspicious beginnings) – The Rest

3. Learning to Live on Poison – Archivist
This record challenged and pushed me in a way that the best literary and theoretical works do. It travels beyond music, punching words into the paper, hammering like the lettered arms of a typewriter, tiny fists raining down, attempting and achieving stunning wealths of meaning over and over again. Abstract and oblique, there is an internal music in Ben McCarthy’s poetry, which is merely augmented by the use of instruments, creating a piece that is both soulful and spare. Despite being some of the utmostly intelligent lyrics I’ve ever heard in music, they are not staid intellectualism, but empowering in their humanity and pitch-perfect imagery. Amidst the desire for self-immolation and the longing to fill the lack, you find yourself in a yellowing library of ideas, memories, and emotions, where cream-coloured pages drift across the floor like beautiful but dangerous manta rays; the constant struggle against your own decrepit habits and idiosyncrasies can be documented, but never resolved. You have to live inside this album, repeat its litanies, drink in its toxicity, to scratch even the smallest of surfaces. And when you do, you’ll see a piece of yourself and be comforted.

Read my review of the album here.

Son of My Sorrows (Genesis 49:27) – Archivist

Speaking – Archivist

2. Kingdom of Welcome Addiction – IAMX
This album became my second most listened to record of 2009. While I’ve loved the first two IAMX albums, this one hit me in a different spot. Chris Corner got political. And whilst his presentation may have gotten more theatrical than it had ever been, his fragility and vulnerability grew in proportion. The lyrics on his record show an acute recognition of the world’s pathologies, its plague of humans, but also provide a redemptive release to be found in the beauty of damage and destruction. Through Corner’s music, the broken is transcendent. Expressing fears of too much thought and too much care, he creates art from these lines of flight from a world that is undoubtedly and irreparably cruel. His vocal range is sublime as his singing soars, rasps and cajoles through spellbinding dynamics and acrobatics, and his musical palette has expanded beyond darkwave electro and slinky beats; his music has absorbed Old World nomadic glamour, easily cleaving to sounds of flamenco, waltz, cabaret, hymns, and circuses. Every track on this record is a hit in its own right, and Corner has ensured that the visuals have kept up with his musical standard; this culminated in his self-directed music video for My Secret Friend in which he and Imogen Heap demolish the pretence of gender amidst even deeper identity politics and psychoanalytics (taken even further in this bonus improvisation). Identity should be fluid and transient to keep us as happy as we can hope to be; to be neither here nor there is the best place to be. There is both an anger and an empathy to Chris Corner’s lyrics and music, an admission that we are all part of the problem, we are all fickle, sadistic and hypocritical. However, we are gifted with an inexplicable consciousness that allows us to feel colour and be happy in the in-between.

Read my review of the album here.

Kingdom of Welcome Addiction – IAMX

I Am Terrified – IAMX

1. Journal For Plague Lovers – Manic Street Preachers
“In the end we had pieces of the puzzle, but no matter how we put them together, gaps remained, oddly shaped emptinesses mapped by what surrounded them, like countries we couldn’t name.” This passage from Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides is featured at the end of Doors Closing Slowly from the Manic Street Preachers’ Journal For Plague Lovers, and I think it perfectly encapsulates what this record means and why it’s so compelling. Like the doomed Lisbon girls of Eugenides’ novel, Richey Edwards was reified and mythologized, but impossible to pinpoint, awash in a sea of artifacts, stories, theories and exhibits. Among these artifacts is the journal of lyrics used for this album and also for most of the liner notes for the deluxe edition. The remaining members of the Manics studiously worked inside these gaps to produce their best album since The Holy Bible, plotting a way into and through Richey’s difficult writing whilst leaving enough ends loose and permanently free. Their approach made the album richer than it might have been, and these words, which meditate on a mixture of Judeo-Christian tropes and pop culture/information glut, brought out some of the mightiest guitarwork and vocals from James. This group of friends knew Richey the best and were often puzzled by the fragments and apocrypha he left behind, so the rest of us can only cling to these unnamed countries of his mind with damaged maps and conflicted observations; this album helps us with that, leaving deliberate apertures like the best art does. And Richey’s manuscripts turned the sparks from Send Away the Tigers into the inspired flame we all hoped was still there. There’s a moment in William’s Last Words in which James joins in behind Nicky’s brilliantly Lou Reedesque performance, and combined with Sean’s loose, easy drumming and the small string section, it hits me in the chest every time. This record, in every sense of the word “record,” is to be cherished and pored over. The Manics achieved what seemed impossible: a fitting tribute to the infinitely unknowable Richey Edwards.

Read my review of the album here.

Doors Closing Slowly – Manic Street Preachers

All is Vanity – Manic Street Preachers

This Joke Sport Severed (Patrick Wolf’s Love Letter To Richey Remix) – Manic Street Preachers

The last honourable mention album of 2009 is Patrick Jones’s Tongues For a Stammering Time, a piece of art that keenly observes the last century and this young one. There’s no question that most people who know about Patrick Jones were led to him and his work via his younger brother, Nicky Wire. This fact does not retract from Jones’s talent as a poet and playwright (there’s a clear influence of his work on his sibling’s lyrics); I recommend reading fuse, which is a collection of his poetry and plays. Jones tends to take on topics that no one else wants to touch; if his more famous brother presents a variation on masculinity through eyeliner, dresses and feather boas, Jones presents masculinity as a plurality that is often troubling and brave, taking on ideas ranging from the emasculating of unemployed Welsh miners to domestic abuse with men as victims. This album is actually his second (the first, released in 1999, was called Commemoration & Amnesia and featured the likes of Cerys Matthews, James Dean Bradfield and Gruff Rhys), and like his debut ten years ago, this is Jones reading his poetry over soundscapes provided by a variety of musicians, this time including the likes of Billy Bragg, Beverley Humphreys, Les Davies, Martyn Joseph, and Defiance of God and Steve Balsamo, in addition to his brother and James Dean Bradfield once again. There’s nothing quite like Jones’s voice reading (often nearly shouting) his own poetry, and though he bloodies you with his politics, his honesty and belief is as powerful as that of his brother’s band and Billy Bragg. And the music accompanies perfectly, sometimes contributing extra vocals, sometimes fading into a understated backdrop like a good film soundtrack does, making its presence felt subliminally and eclectically.

The Healing House – Patrick Jones featuring Billy Bragg and Beverley Humphreys

Well, it’s been quite a ride through 2009, and I actually feel a little emotionally exhausted by the whole countdown. I hope you all found at least something in it that was valuable to you. Feel free to let me know what the soundtrack to your year was. The last part of my weekly mixes will be up shortly, and don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten the Day of 200 Songs. I’m now out of words. Thank you for coming this far with me, and have a Happy Christmas.

15
Oct
09

Everyday is Like Sunday, Except for Blue Monday and Ruby Tuesday, and…Well, Friday I’m in Love: Weekly Mixes #84 and #85

Manic Street Preachers (Horse And Groom - Front)

As promised in my last post about the Manics show in Toronto, one of this week’s mixes will be Manics-themed. It couldn’t just be a bunch of Manics album tracks, nor even a bunch of b-sides (frankly, I do enough of those in other mixes and posts, and that would all be too easy). Since they are one of the most dynamic live bands in the world, this mix is comprised of tracks from various bootlegs of Manics gigs. I have nowhere near the amount of bootlegs other Manics fans have, but I delved into what I did have and came out with a decent assortment. The majority of the bootlegs I have are pre-Richey-disappearance (for obvious reasons I suppose), but there’s also a few tracks at the end from later shows, including the 2006 XFM Winter Wonderland show in Manchester where the first couple of tracks from Send Away the Tigers were revealed. Note the songs Generations Terrorists (which I included in this mix) and Faceless Sense of Void are actually early versions of Stay Beautiful and Love’s Sweet Exile, respectively. I think this mix shows a beautiful evolution and captures different facets of songs I’ve listened to so many times; the nuances and the crowd’s live energy make these bootlegs something to treasure and remind me of the Manics’ dynamic presence.

I want to dedicate this mix to all of those fans I newly met two Sundays back (Dan, Connor and his two brothers, Maria, the couple from Buffalo, the father who attended the Vancouver gig and then brought his son to the Toronto one, the girl who attended one of the JFPL shows at The Roundhouse), to the old friends who were there (Evo), and to all of the ones I didn’t get a chance to meet properly – I saw you and your dedication, and I just may have been the one taking your photo with James (I seemed to become cameragirl for a moment for several people). I regret not getting more contact information from all of you. I came to the show hoping I would meet at least one new friend, and I more than accomplished that. This one’s called This One’s For the Freaks.

Dead Yankee Drawl – Manic Street Preachers (Horse and Groom, London – 20-09-89)

Methadone Pretty – Manic Street Preachers (Hull Adelphi – 17-05-91)

Crucifix Kiss – Manic Street Preachers (Hibernian Rooms, London – 13-08-91)

You Love Us – Manic Street Preachers (London Marquee – 04-09-91)

Democracy Coma – Manic Street Preachers (The Crypt, Middlesbrough – 07-02-92)

Born to End – Manic Street Preachers (Musik Café, Copenhagen – 10-04-92)

Motorcycle Emptiness – Manic Street Preachers (Eurockeenes, Belfort – 03-07-92)

Generation Terrorists – Manic Street Preachers (Oxford Zodiac – 02-02-91)

Little Baby Nothing – Manic Street Preachers (Northampton Roadmenders – 23-02-92)

Yourself – Manic Street Preachers (Southend Cliffs Pavillion – 07-07-93)

Roses in the Hospital – Manic Street Preachers (Milton Keynes – 19-08-93)

Yes – Manic Street Preachers (Paris Bataclan – 22-11-94)

PCP – Manic Street Preachers (Barcelona – 18-11-94)

Love’s Sweet Exile – Manic Street Preachers (Bangkok MBK Hall – 04-94)

From Despair to Where – Manic Street Preachers (The Hague Parkpop Festival, Holland – 21-08-94)

4st 7lbs – Manic Street Preachers (Nancy, France – 26-09-94)

IfWhiteAmericaToldTheTruthForOneDayIt’sWorldWouldFallApart – Manic Street Preachers (Astoria Theatre, London – 21-12-94)

No Surface All Feeling – Manic Street Preachers (Melbourne Big Day Out – 26-01-99)

Masses Against the Classes – Manic Street Preachers (Cardiff Coal Exchange – 08-03-01)

A Design For Life – Manic Street Preachers (XFM Winter Wonderland, Manchester – 11-12-07)

New Hampshire Autumn

I’ve got a slightly different excuse for why these mixes are late this time: I was in New Hampshire over the weekend being the maid of honour for my oldest friend’s wedding. They picked the most beautiful season to get married in (or out, I should say, considering the wedding took place on the beach next to a lake), especially since I think New England probably has the most attractive, quintessential display of autumn leaf colours in the world. In fact, you expect to see the Headless Horseman chasing Ichabod Crane at any time. I had a great time, even more so because it’s been five years since I last saw this friend. She picked a fantastic guy, and together, they’re some of the most entertaining people to be around (one day we will dominate the charts as The Leaf Peepers, a band that uses only steam-powered instruments, wears David Bowie Labyrinth-era wigs and two eyepatches per person, and sings about iPods sprouting consciousnesses and legs, and style will finally triumph over substance). In addition to all of the social aspects of the wedding trip, I also had a fun time taking a walk by myself through the trees in upstate New Hampshire, snapping photos (one of which is above this paragraph). It was a perfectly crisp morning spiced with the scent of pine and fresh wind coming off the lake.

Finally, it’s starting to get autumnal here in Winnipeg (the freak Indian summer is definitely over, so much so, we may just leapfrog directly into winter), and I can look forward to smoky air, vibrant leaves, cool days, warm food, and the best holiday ever – Halloween. So, here’s a little autumn music. This one’s called For C + M.

The Samurai in Autumn – Pet Shop Boys

We’re in a Thunderstorm – Gentleman Reg

Gone Like Summer – Strawberry Story

Theme to the Autumn Leaves – Autumn Leaves

Waiting For a Chance – Northern Portrait

September’s Not So Far Away – Field Mice

By the Light of a Magical Moon – Tyrannosaurus Rex

Climb a Tree – Jim Noir

Nothing Broke – Meursault

Apples and Pairs – Slow Club

Summer’s Gone – Sibrydion

Darwin’s Tree – Martin Carr

We Could Send Letters – Aztec Camera

Further to Fall – Trembling Blue Stars

Forests and Sands – Camera Obscura

No Excuses (The Autumn Cantata) – Air France

Road to Somewhere – Goldfrapp

Under the Folding Branches – The Veils

September – David Sylvian

Autumnal – Arab Strap

07
Oct
09

Love’s Sweet Exile: Manic Street Preachers at the Phoenix Concert Theatre

Manic Street Preachers - 010 - JPEG

Ten years is a long time to wait for anything. So when the Manic Street Preachers finally returned to Toronto, it was tough to predict quite how it would go down. I, myself, had only waited nearly two and a half years, which felt quite long enough for me. My very first post on this blog was a review of the Manics’ second show at the Cardiff Student Union in 2007 as part of the Send Away the Tigers tour. For many of the fans at the Phoenix on Sunday night, this was their first time witnessing their musical heroes play live. If I hadn’t been fortunate enough to be in Cardiff in May a couple of years ago, I would have been one of them. People travelled from all over the country to come to this gig (some from just south of the border as well), and several had either already seen gigs on this tour or were going to follow the Manics through the next cities. The dedication, passion and community to be found amongst Manics fans always inspires me and bolsters me after spending most of my time being a Manics fan on my own.

I couldn’t help but make a comparison between this gig and the Cardiff Student Union one. What remains quite fascinating to me is how much shorter this gig felt – despite the fact it was one song less than last time (21 instead of 22 songs). I suppose the Manics have such a large back catalogue now that no matter how many songs they play, it’s never enough, especially for their die-hard fans. While this long-suffering group of fans weren’t quite as flamboyantly attired as their UK counterparts generally are, their enthusiasm and utter gratefulness were overwhelming. Yes, people in the crowd called out the usual requests for songs and the occasional “I love you Nicky/James,” but what was so much more touching and indicative of the atmosphere was the fact that so many people kept shouting “Thank you!”

Manic Street Preachers - 036 - JPEG

I sort of pity any band that has to open for the Manics; no matter who you are, we just don’t care. And in this case, I saw the majority of the crowd look alternately bored and impatient as the opener played. But as the lights dimmed and the Manics came on stage, the audience exploded. And I pulled on my hand-painted black tuque with “JAMES” emblazoned on it a la James Dean Bradfield’s balaclava worn during that performance of Faster on TOTP (I was going to wear it even if I died of heat exhaustion). Against a simple backdrop of the Journal For Plague Lovers album cover, they opened with my favourite Manics song, Motorcycle Emptiness. The power of the music crashed into the roar of the crowd like a sonic boom, and James was a joy to watch for his intricate guitarwork, sending out those whining chords of desperate melancholy, and for the beautiful violence of his hits to his own head and face as he sang, “All we want from you are the kicks you’ve given us.” They kept the soaring anthemic feel going with No Surface All Feeling, which I saw as a solo acoustic performance by James last time. Prefacing the next song with an acknowledgement of Mr. Richard Edwards and his brilliant words, the band clattered into the first song to be played off the latest album: Peeled Apples. It was a cathartic performance that brought my singing closer to wild, frenetic shouting – the raw intelligence that the Manics represent simultaneously appeals to my logic and my emotions in a way no other band does.

I also had the privilege of watching a live performance of Your Love Alone Is Not Enough and La Tristessa Durera for the second time in my life (I always get a kick out of the lines that Nicky sings in the former). Then we got a second track from JFPL, Jackie Collins Existential Question Time, which has one of the most memorable melodies in the world and leads into what could be one of the best vocal performances by James with the lyrics “Situationist sisterhood, Jackie and Joan” – I felt my body tense in anticipation of those lines. At this point, they went into Let Robeson Sing, the only song that they would play off Know Your Enemy. Before careening into a blistering rendition of Faster, they pulled out a little bit of Rush’s The Spirit of Radio (the Manics have often stated their unabashed love for the Canadian band, and Nicky also quoted their lyrics before You Love Us in much the same way his brother quoted his own poetry before Love’s Sweet Exile all those years ago: “It’s really just a question of your honesty. Yeah. Your honesty. One likes to believe in the freedom of music. But glittering prizes and endless compromises… Shatter the illusion of integrity.”). During the maelstrom that is Faster, I felt my raised hand clench into a fist as James sang, “I am stronger than Mensa,” and I spat out every word along with him. After the slight reprieve of Tsunami, and in answer to many of our hopes, they then played my favourite track off JFPL: Marlon JD. We were then treated to two regular live standards, From Despair to Where and If You Tolerate This, Your Children Will Be Next.

Then as is the pattern, Nicky and Sean left the stage, allowing James to sing a couple of songs acoustically. Last time I saw them, James sang Yes and the aforementioned No Surface All Feeling, but this time he sang This is Yesterday and The Everlasting (according to the setlist, the latter was supposed to be Small Black Flowers That Grow in the Sky – I’m still hoping I get to hear that live one day). Perhaps what was so astonishing to the band, and even to me for that matter, was the fact pretty much everyone knew all of the words to every single song. This was really apparent during The Everlasting as James turned the song over to the crowd several times. And as one person, who was unfamiliar with the band but attended the show with a friend’s spare ticket, later commented, whenever James was too winded or lost some of his lyrics, the audience completely filled in for him.

Manic Street Preachers - 025 - JPEG

In my opinion, the next performance, Send Away the Tigers, was slightly unexpected, very welcome but unexpected – for some reason, I had assumed we’d get one of the radio-friendly SATT hits, either Autumnsong or Indian Summer. This was followed by You Stole the Sun, a song contemporary with the last time the Manics toured North America. Oddly enough, it continues to be a setlist staple – it’s definitely not among my favourite Manics tracks, but it does tend to get the crowd jumping for that chorus, and I’m more than willing to oblige. The next track, which I firmly believe must get played, Motown Junk, was as punk-rock as ever – I’m fairly certain that I, along with others, couldn’t help but automatically fill in James’s ellided “When Lennon got shot.” Interestingly, the setlist states “A or Motown Junk” – would the Manics actually have considered playing Autumnsong instead? I’m eternally grateful that they picked the classic Motown Junk.

The energy stayed high with Me and Stephen Hawking before two more old stormers were played: Little Baby Nothing and You Love Us. Both of them provided those extraordinary communal moments as all of us chanted and pointed along to the “you are pure, you are snow” refrain and the chorus of You Love Us, which had probably never been so true (the image of all of those arms pumping along almost made me cry). As A Design for Life struck up, it felt bittersweet – as always, it was an anthemic moment with James perched on an amp stack and Nicky up on the drumkit platform, but you always know that quite literally “this is the end.” No arrogant encore. No filler. No regrets.

In addition to scissor jumps and that rolling pacing that he does across the stage, Nicky Wire occasionally leaned over to say something in James’s ear with that maniacal grin of his, and the first time he did it, James playfully batted him away, slightly smooshing Nicky’s face in the process. It was one of those fantastic reminders of how close these guys are. James and Nicky took turns at banter, the former mock-wincing at the sheer loudness of the crowd and telling us how “mega” we were, and the latter making jokes about the size of The Opera House (where they first played in Toronto), asking himself “why the fuck they took so long to come back,” and praising us for holding our own against what he called our “Big Brother” neighbour to the south. All band members wore black, James in a basic military shirt with a few badges and an arm patch and Nicky in a rather subdued Sgt-Pepper-My-Chemical-Romance-type jacket with red details and the usual Urban Decay panda eyes (at one point he slapped on a captain’s hat, but unfortunately no skirt this time).

While I would have liked more songs from The Holy Bible and at least something from Lifeblood (in my opinion, highly underrated and more deserving than Everything Must Go and This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours), the fact we got four songs from JFPL, which are as close to THB as we’re ever going to get, made up for it. And considering I’ve witnessed Yes and Die in the Summertime live previously, I’m slowly getting a chance to hear THB live.

Manic Street Preachers - 024 - JPEG

As the crowd reluctantly filtered out of the venue, they all just looked so sweaty, ecstatic and gobsmacked that I had to smile. The show had been one of mutual appreciation and gratitude – according to other reviews, we were possibly the largest crowd on this tour. Fans were still reaching out to each other after the show, one asking me if I enjoyed the show and another asking me about my Send Away the Tigers t-shirt. It had been all the sweeter for the long absence, our North American exile from the Manics.

When I wrote that review two years ago, I said, “My only regret is not staying outside after the gig to see if I could meet the band – who knows when I’ll ever, if ever, get to see them again, especially at such a small venue. But I suppose that just raises the bar for more dreams – after all, I never thought I would ever see the Manics live and even if I saw them live, I never thought it would be six feet away from them in the closest thing to a hometown gig.” The dream happened all over again, and this time, I got a photo taken of me with my guitar hero, James. It took a bit of speeding down sidewalks (admittedly, my sheer sense of mission took over any sense of tact, and before I knew what I was doing, I had grabbed James’s arm as he tried to get across the street to the tourbus, before asking for that photo). In the clamour of desperate fans surrounding him, begging for photos, autographs and even a tiny moment of dialogue with him, James was graciously patient (especially since it appears Nicky and Sean left him to fend for himself – next time, I’m coming for you, Wire). Amidst all of the demands and requests, James nearly signed the pieces of my writing about the band that I wanted to give him (who knows if they’ll actually read it, but it was worth a shot). Possibly my favourite moment was when a black man, who was begging for money with cup in hand and was inexplicably moving about on rollerblades, started shouting at James, “You’re the white street preacher, and I’m the dark street preacher!” Quite baffled, James just said, “I don’t have any money.” He should have seen the earlier “street preacher” who had screamed at us to repent as we stood in the queue before the gig.

Before they had launched into Let Robeson Sing, James remarked that most of their songs were pretty negative, but that this one was one of the more positive ones. I, and likely many Manics fans, just don’t see their songs that way; the Manics’ music reminds me of one of my favourite quotes from John Gray’s Straw Dogs: “The aim of life was not to change the world. It was to see it rightly.” The Manics didn’t set out to change the world or pretend that they could – their songs always just made you see the world rightly, and the hope and comfort were in that perspective. As is the tradition, the Manics added a quotation to the bottom of their setlist on Sunday night: “We are all modernisers today. We have no idea what being modern means. But we are sure that it guarantees us a future.” By none other than John Gray.

Little Baby Nothing – Manic Street Preachers

Send Away the Tigers – Manic Street Preachers

**NOTE** an extra special Manics-themed weekly mix is coming up.

30
Jul
09

Pigs Are Flying Over the Icefields of Hell: The Manics Hit North America

Manics Black and White

It’s finally happened…the Manic Street Preachers are coming back to North America. In honour of the North American release of Journal for Plague Lovers, they will be hitting twelve cities in the US and Canada in September and October. It’s been ten years, but as the posts on the Manics’ official site show, their long-suffering fans on this side of the Atlantic are elated and willing to fly or drive as far as they have to in order to get to the lucky twelve cities on the circuit. I, myself, have bought a ticket for the Toronto show on October 4 (immediately following an email alert from a fellow Manics fan – thank you, evo). After seeing them in Cardiff two years ago, I didn’t know if I would ever get another chance, especially for this latest album (in case you missed it, I reviewed it here). The dates are as follows:

September
Mon -21 Seattle, WA @ Neumo’s
Tue- 22 Vancouver, Canada @ The Commodore Ballroom
Thu-24 San Francisco, CA @ The Fillmore
Fri- 25 Los Angeles, CA @ The Avalon
Mon-28 Denver, CO @ The Bluebird Theatre
Wed-30 Minneapolis, MN @ The Varsity Theatre

October
Thu-01 Chicago, IL @ The Metro
Fri- 02 Detroit, MI @ The Majestic Theatre
Sun- 04 Toronto, Canada @ The Phoenix Concert Theatre
Tue- 06 Philadelphia, PA @ World Café Live
Wed- 07 New York City, NY @ Webster Hall
Thu- 08 Boston, MA @ Paradise Rock Club

All I can say is thank you, James, Nicky and Sean.

All is Vanity – Manic Street Preachers

Yes (Radio 1 Evening Session) – Manic Street Preachers

21
Jun
09

Doors Opening Slowly: Manic Street Preachers’ Journal For Plague Lovers

Manic Street Preachers - Journal for Plague Lovers (2009)

The Manic Street Preachers have been adamant that “closure” is a false Americanized concept. I’m inclined to believe them – even more so after listening to Journal For Plague Lovers. It is a record upon which so much meaning was heaped before it was even created, it is a record that had to bear a lot of bulky history on its narrow shoulders. Rather than definitively closing a chapter of the band’s history, it has left many doors ajar, doors that will remain that way forever. Journal For Plague Lovers is not so much an attempt at being the New Testament to their Holy Bible (if we’re all honest with ourselves, we knew that could never really have happened, and perhaps, it never should have anyway), but by deliberately using Jenny Saville artwork for the cover, the band made a choice to connect the two works – almost as if to say, “Everything Must Go was a half-assed use of Richey’s lyrics, and we’ve strayed so far from Richey’s original guiding force, that this is our attempt to rediscover that rather difficult path before we abandon it for good.” Yet, because this journal, this dossier of typewritten lyrics and collage, has been hidden in drawers for fourteen years, any attempt at using them and exposing them to the public would re-open the case that is Richey Edwards. We are finally let into part of the mindscape of an artist before he effectively disappeared off the face of the Earth. JFPL ends up being open to hermeneutics of biblical proportions.

The Manics were faced with infinite choices when making this record; it would have been a daunting task trying to consider all facets of this project and all the parties involved, including the Edwards family, a passionate, potentially critical fanbase, a major record label, and their own artistic impulses. Ultimately, they chose to scan pages from Richey’s journal to serve as liner notes (at least in the double disc version I have) rather than merely print their edited versions or take them out of their context in that binder. Because they did this, there will always be a haunting, almost Derridean “trace” to those pages of unedited lyrics. The lyrics that weren’t given voice by the band in the songs themselves will always be there to be pored over, to be re-interpreted, to stand in as ghostly alternatives simultaneously speaking against the songs. This duality will continue to give the album texture and depth for years to come.

Reading Richey’s lyrics, I was compelled to mourn him all over again; not in the way his bandmates and family would, but in the way an art lover mourns the lost potential of an artist. He pulled ideas from so many different sources, high and low culture, and made so many unlikely, but valuable connections, that he couldn’t help but create inspiring, unique art. Unfortunately, I believe it would take a mind on exceptional overload to create in that manner. He also had the ability to leave his lyrics ambiguous, encouraging multiple, meaningful readings. On this particular record, one of my favourite songs is Marlon J.D., a title that itself can make multiple references at once (Marlon Brando, James Dean, J.D. Salinger, etc); its lyrical content is briefer than in other songs, but it is packed with religious imagery of a Christ-like figure. The transience of perfect beauty, the romance of destruction, the self-deprecation sitting alongside self-importance – all of these ideas exist in the same song. Even though the majority of the lyrics and notes are stamped out in the impersonal courier font of the typewriter, the scribbles, the spelling errors, the “x’s” over certain words, the choice to type only in capital letters, the self-editing lines of black marker, and the many collages, images and drawings, are all testament to Richey’s reality, to his fraility, to his mortality. These lines of prose/poetry give us a bit more insight into his mindset prior to his disappearance, but that brilliant ambiguity stubbornly refuses to comment on the whys and hows.

There are, however, some persistent themes. Possibly one of my absolutely favourite lyrics on this record is in All is Vanity:

I would prefer no choice
One bread one milk one food that’s all
I’m confused I only want one truth
I really don’t mind if I’m being lied too
(sic)

It resonates so pristinely with me precisely at this time in my life when I feel like the data smog is smothering me and the banality of instantaneous communication networks is pummeling me. The fact that Richey wrote these words well before the onslaught of mobile phones, social networking and viral niche marketing is testament to his prescience. It would have been fascinating to know what he thought of the world in 2009. This leitmotif of information overload is evident in the fragmented thoughts, the melding of ideas, literature, celebrities and philosophies; though a large part of Richey’s lyrical style had always seemed like he was trying to get too many connections, thoughts, words and feelings out, this album makes it all the more clear that he had opened himself up to so much information, that his brain was raging with dialogue and dialectic which needed to be exorcised via the keys of his typewriter. After all, art is the coping mechanism for so many overaware, oversensitive people – of course “over” being a loaded term.

As I can relate to Richey’s overcrowded brain, I can also understand both his paradoxical self-absorption and his obsession with transient beauty. Though it may seem strange that Richey could be so self-aware and self-obsessed (honey) yet also be so open and vulnerable to the injustices and hurts of the outside world, I think I can understand. The observation and noting of the world’s problems can eventually numb you to other people, especially those that can’t seem to see what you see, and you start to internalize that frustration and turmoil; the world’s issues become your personal issues. You can also end up repulsing yourself because you get wrapped up in the superficial while being completely aware of it. There’s a loneliness inherent in being apart from society’s shared myths, and so there are times when you have to pretend along with everyone else even as it nauseates you. This push and pull paradox of Richey’s insecurity and superiority pops up all over his lyrics like jabs and shards of bone as does his preoccupation with physical beauty that couldn’t last. Marlon J.D. raises this issue by referencing two icons of male beauty, who destroyed their own beauty, and Pretension/Repulsion includes the fantastic line “Born.a.graphic vs porn.a.graphic.” The excellent line “I once impersonated a shop floor dummy” (original: “window dummy”) from Peeled Apples is another possible acknowledgement of superficiality. Or possibly a lack of feeling and connection to humanity. Or possibly a feeling of a false pose for others to gawk at.

Also, achingly obvious in the songs found on this record is the play with religious imagery. While Richey appears repelled by religion, he definitely never escaped it as a reference point. A fair number of the images in his journal are Judeo-Christian, including a crucifix, angels, and Dante’s levels of hell (the first having been a symbol long worn around Richey’s neck, the last having been tattooed on his arm). The title track’s chorus goes:

Only a god can bruise
Only a god can soothe
Only a god reserves the right
To forgive those that revile him

The bitterness and scorn are palpable, and the recognition that religion is most used and best believed by the weakened and the wounded is a very sad statement for its worth, indeed. Was Richey always mocking, or was he working through the reason and meaning of religion’s persistence and power? Perhaps a lifelong, inner struggle is laid bare in these references as logic and despair begin to muddle the mind. Perhaps not.

Not only are we privy to Richey’s lyrical process and thoughts, but the surviving band members have opened up their musical process for all to see in showing us what was left out in the editing process. This is a facet of the process that has never been shown to us before despite us knowing that Richey and Nicky Wire used to hand in reams of unedited lyrics before they were crafted into the songs we know. The unstaunched spillage of words was curtailed for a purpose, conscious or not, and in these edits, the band has made Richey’s truth theirs, inevitably transforming his work through their own reading of it, as thousands of fans will continue to do while holding the scanned pages of his journal. In the same vein, the band has chosen not to release official singles off this record, preferring to keep the work as one, whole piece of art – stamping it with “difference” and imbuing it with weight.

JFPL has also demonstrated quite clearly that James Dean Bradfield is greatly affected by lyrical content when composing music. Forget Send Away the Tigers, this is proof that the band has found its essence again. Peeled Apples is a rabid, fantastic opener to the album – the verses are musically raw while the chorus takes their ability to create soaring, anthemic choruses into a lyrical terrain that they haven’t been brave enough to tread for so many years. James’s vocals alternate between angelic beauty, staccato rasps, and tormented screams – an interplay that has been missing from his voice for at least a couple of albums. That opening line “You know so little about me…what if I turn into a werewolf or something?” by Christian Bale from The Machinist is also the perfect lead-in for a band so adept with intertextual soundbites and for such an enigmatic album with insomnia-infused lyrics. Jackie Collins Existential Question Time is a perfectly self-contained wonder of riffs and melody that grinds against the grain of punk on the song, which has the lines “If a married man fucks a Catholic/And his wife dies without knowing/Does that make him unfaithful,” which feels like an echo of The Clash’s “He who fucks nuns will later join the church,” and the line “Oh mummy what’s a Sex Pistol,” a phrase from badges worn during the punk period. The point at which James hits the lines “Situationist sisterhood Jackie and Joan/Separated us the question without a home,” he practically tears his own larynx out and gobs it into our faces – I love it. The start and stop and bounding romp of Me and Stephen Hawking emphasizes the surreality and humour of Richey’s lyrics:

African Punch and Judy show at half the price
100,000 watch Giant Haystacks in a Bombay fight
Oh, the joy, me and Stephen Hawking we laugh
We missed the sex revolution when we failed the physical

The song’s themes of genetic manipulation and humanity’s attempt at playing God are refracted through the lens of the outsider, who sees the manufacturing of consent in a mass media machine. This song is also an example of lyrical edits; the original line had “rice price” rather than “at half the price,” which invites what I see as a different interpretation.

The album’s title track is an excoriating and embalming piece ripping its way through bloody metaphors while soothing the pain away with sweet melody and comforting vocals. Marlon J.D. moves the Manics into a harsher, post-punk electronic element, which surprisingly works very well and includes one of those trademark Bradfield guitar solos, and, in combination with the stunning lyrics, makes it one of my top choices from the album. All is Vanity is a jagged, driven composition that pushes James’s vocals into all those visceral and immediate places that I’ve hoped for; it’s an angular bit of post-punk that feels like it could have been at home on The Holy Bible. It’s also nice to hear the kind of scansion-defying, fragmented lyrics of Pretension/Repulsion coming from James before exploding into a meaty chorus, rather than the sweeping chorus style that has been so prevalent in the last decade of the band’s output. Virginia State Epileptic Colony, which could be read as being about its namesake, or as being about Richey’s own hospitalization, or as an intertextual reference to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, or as any other number of things, uses clanging guitars and James’s intermittent howls to breathe life into the printed words. The “V-S-E-C Piggy” chorus utilizes a simplistic, singsong feel that provides an effective accent on how one can revert to being treated like a child when perceived as mentally ill. Or maybe it’s a reference to the children chanting in Lord of the Flies. Probably both.

There were quieter, more subdued melodic moments on The Holy Bible, despite the collective memory of it being one of brutality, minimalistic darkness, and harsh lyrics; Yes is one of the most gentle, melodically playful songs in the Manics canon, which makes the bleak lyrics all the more poignant and striking. And JFPL has its quieter moments, too. James manages to make the laundry list of advertised beauty enhancements and “this beauty here/dipping neophobia” in Facing Page: Top Left, a delicate, cascading ballad that twinkles like Small Black Flowers That Grow in the Sky (my favourite track from Everything Must Go). Doors Closing Slowly is another ballad that limps along to echoing drums, exuding brokenness and incorporating an apt quotation from Virgin Suicides; it must be said that the numerous spoken samples that were chosen to punctuate the album are just as much a part of the craft of musical composition as the music itself by adding an extra layer of interpretation to Richey’s words. And I think the Manics did an admirable, thought-provoking job.

As with most albums by any artist, not every song is perfect. This Joke Sport Severed is a mild acoustic ballad that feels detached from the content, and She Bathed Herself in a Bath of Bleach feels like it’s plodding around, married to an awkward Nirvana-inspired style and trying too hard to be hard. To be fair, Richey acknowledged his own weaknesses and granted his bandmates licence by leaving a handwritten note that said, “These songs are in no particular order of preference although some lyrics are better than others – infancy speed, all is vanity etc.” It begs many questions of purpose and meaning, and that title “infancy speed” (which I may be deciphering incorrectly in the first place) will remain a mystery to us who only have an excerpted version of the journal. The bonus hidden track, Bag Lady, which wasn’t included on the double-disc version but was then offered as a free download (perhaps to make up for the oversight), would have been a more effective placement on the album proper in my opinion. Its guitarwork is extraordinary and lacerating, and the lyrics, which include “Never let yourself out, I did/It ruined me/It ruined me,” seem superior to those found in She Bathed Herself in a Bath of Bleach.

William’s Last Words is the conclusion of the record proper and is arguably the most edited song on the album. Nicky Wire chose to sing it himself in his shambolic, flawed vocal style over top of a rather twee backdrop while chopping down over a page completely filled with text into a few select lines. It’s a difficult track to evaluate for both that reason and for the potential interpretations. Nicky chose to distill the heavy text and use the most hopeful lines like:

Isn’t it lovely when the dawn brings the dew I’ll be watching over you

Good night my sweetheart/until we leave tonight/hold me in your arms/wish me some luck as you wave
goodbye to me/you’re the best friends I ever had

Good night sleep tight/good night God bless/good night night star/I’ll try my best

I’m just going to close my eyes/think about my family/shed a little tear

Leave me go Jesus/I love you yeah I love you/Just let me go I even love the devil/Yes he did me harm to keep me any longer/’cause I’m really tired/I’d love to go to sleep/wake up happy

It’s hard not to read the goodbye/suicide note in it. And oddly enough, the cuts generally make the song sadder and more personal than it appears on paper. The full lyrics on paper are full of archaic references as though in the voice of a post-war character actor/entertainer, using “cheerio” and parenthetical asides as though in a play, and mentioning early 20th century singer/comedienne, Gracie Fields. All those lines seem distancing, but then the very last lines of the piece, which Nicky omits, are “You can die happy but I wonder if you can wake up happy, I’m hopeless. If I sing a song I’m down a scale or up a scale. I’ve come a long way, really, even for a tone deaf singer, if you want to know.” Whether this old and tired character that Richey is speaking through reflects any of his own insecurities and weariness is a matter for everyone’s personal opinion and judgement. Should we be resisting some of the obvious readings? I don’t think so. But I also think it’s worth exploring the context of those other references, devices and sentences. There are times when I can smile hearing this song, and other times when I feel my throat catching in spite of myself.

Journal For Plague Lovers doesn’t feel so much like picking at old wounds as it does slicing open the jugular of the band’s life flow, compressing the pressure into a concentrated power that hadn’t been present for years, and admittedly may never be again. The Manics’ story isn’t complete, especially not with their intentions to already start work on the next album, but they will never return to Richey’s words – a bittersweet, romantic notion that I think Richey himself would have appreciated. Despite this rather sad prospect and sense of finality, the Manics have left us with something that is to be continually returned to afresh and is to be interrogated into new life. Through this album, we are taken both backwards and forward in time, and that band symmetry that Nicky Wire and James Dean Bradfield have mentioned in both the past and more recently, is regained, reminding me of what I had forgotten to miss. Forcing me to prop up my eyelids and face the meaning to be found beyond simplified facades. Prompting me to take a closer look, a closer read. Journal for Plague Lovers is an open book, not a closed chapter.

Me and Stephen Hawking – Manic Street Preachers

Marlon J.D. – Manic Street Preachers

Bag Lady – Manic Street Preachers




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Gigs Attended

Arcade Fire w/ Bell Orchestre + Wolf Parade (2005)

Arctic Monkeys w/ Reverend and the Makers (2007)

Austra w/ Young Galaxy + Tasseomancy (2011)

Big Audio Dynamite (2011)

Billy Bragg w/ Ron Hawkins (2009)

Billy Idol w/ Bif Naked (2005)

Bloc Party w/ Hot Hot Heat (2009)

Buzzcocks w/ The Dollyrots (2010)

Damo Suzuki (2012)

David Bowie w/ The Polyphonic Spree (2004)

Diamond Rings w/ PS I Love You + The Cannon Bros. (2011)

Diamond Rings w/ Gold & Youth (2012)

Dragonette w/ Ruby Jean & the Thoughtful Bees (2009)

Frank Turner w/ The Cavaliers (2010)

Frank Turner w/ Into It Over It + Andrew Jackson Jihad (2011)

Franz Ferdinand w/ Think About Life (2009)

Gang of Four w/ Hollerado (2011)

Good Shoes w/ The Moths + The Envelopes (2007)

Hot Hot Heat w/ The Futureheads + Louis XIV (2005)

IAMX w/ closethuman (2007)

IAMX w/ Coma Soft + The Hourly Radio (2007)

Interpol (2007)

Janelle Monae w/ Roman GianArthur (2012)

Joel Plaskett Emergency w/ Frank Turner (2012)

Jonathan Richman (2011)

Keane w/ Lights (2009)

Lou Reed w/ Buke and Gass (2011)

Manic Street Preachers w/ Fear of Music (2007)

Manic Street Preachers w/ Bear Hands (2009)

Manic Street Preachers at Wanaja Festival (2011)

Mother Mother w/ Old Folks Home (2009)

Mother Mother w/ Whale Tooth (2011)

Mother Mother w/ Hannah Georgas (2012)

MSTRKRFT w/ Felix Cartal (2008)

Muse (2004)

Nine Inch Nails w/ Death From Above 1979 + Queens of the Stone Age (2005)

of Montreal w/ Janelle Monae (2010)

Owen Pallett w/ Little Scream (2010)

Patrick Wolf w/ Bishi (2007)

Prince (2011)

Pulp w/ Grace Jones, TV on the Radio, The Hives, The Horrors, Metronomy, Devotcka, Vintage Trouble (2011)

Rufus Wainwright w/ Teddy Thompson (2010)

Snow Patrol w/ Embrace (2005)

Snow Patrol w/ OK Go + Silversun Pickups (2007)

Sons and Daughters w/ Bodies of Water (2008)

Stars w/ Thurston Revival (2006)

Stars w/ The Details (2008)

Stars (2010)

Steven Severin (2010)

Stroszek (2007)

The Antlers w/ Haunter (2012)

The Flaming Lips w/ Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti (2010)

The Jesus and Mary Chain w/ Nightbox (2012)

The Killers w/ Ambulance Ltd (2004)

The New Pornographers w/ Novillero (2008)

The New Pornographers w/ The Mountain Goats (2010)

The Ordinary Boys w/ Young Soul Rebels (2006)

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart w/ Suun (2011)

The Rakes w/ The Young Knives (2006)

The Raveonettes w/ Black Acid (2008)

The Stills w/ Gentleman Reg (2009)

The Subways w/ The Mad Young Darlings (2006)

Tokyo Police Club w/ Smoosh + Attack in Black (2008)

TV on the Radio w/ The Dirty Projectors (2009)

Yann Tiersen w/ Breathe Owl Breathe (2011)

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The only certain thing that is left about me

There is no part of my body that has not been used

Pity or pain, to show displeasure's shame

Everyone I've loved or hated always seems to leave

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So I turned myself to face me

But I've never caught a glimpse

Of how the others must see the faker

I'm much too fast to take that test

The Smiths Queen is Dead

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're happy

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Oh, Keats and Yeats are on your side

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're wanted

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Keats and Yeats are on your side

But you lose 'cause weird lover Wilde is on mine

The Clash London Calling

When they kick at your front door

How you gonna come?

With your hands on your head

Or on the trigger of your gun

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Charles Windsor, who's at the door

At such an hour, who's at the door

In the back of an old green Cortina

You're on your way to the guillotine

Here the rabble comes

The kind you hoped were dead

They've come to chop, to chop off your head

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Then you came with your breezeblocks

Smashing up my face like a bus-stop

You think you're giving

But you're taking my life away

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Won't someone give me more fun?

(and the skin flies all around us)

We kiss in his room to a popular tune

Oh, real drowners

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Don't walk away

In silence

See the danger

Always danger

Endless talking

Life rebuilding

Don't walk away

Walk in silence

Don't turn away in silence

Your confusion

My illusion

Worn like a mask of self-hate

Confronts and then dies

Don't walk away

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You don't want to hurt me

But see how deep the bullet lies

Unaware I'm tearing you asunder

Oh there is thunder in our hearts

Is there so much hate for the ones we love

Tell me we both matter don't we

The Associates Affectionate

I don't know whether

To over or under estimate you

Whether to over or under estimate you

For when I come over

You then put me under

Personal taste is a matter of gender

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I wake at dusk to go alone without a light

To the unknown

I want this night inside of me

I want to feel

I want this speeding

I want that speeding

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You'll never live like common people

You'll never do what common people do

You'll never fail like common people

You'll never watch your life slide out of view

And dance and drink and screw

Because there's nothing else to do

Vanilla Swingers

All I have is words, words that don't obtain

And I feel I'm a stain on your horizon

So I stay away - it's easier that way

And there won't be no-one I need to rely on

Is it him, is it me

Or is there something only I can see

How did I get here, why do we blow around like straw dogs on the breeze

I'm a special one, what they used to say

But I've to stay on, finish levels-A

You don't need exams when you've read John Gray

The Indelicates American Demo

And nobody ever comes alive

And the journalists clamour round glamour like flies

And boys who should know better grin and get high

With fat men who once met the MC5

And no one discusses what they don't understand

And no one does anything to harm the brand

And this gift is an illusion, this isn't hard

Absolutely anyone can play the fucking guitar

JAMC Darklands

And we tried so hard

And we looked so good

And we lived our lives in black

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Plucked her eyebrows on the way

Shaved her leg and then he was a she

She says, hey babe,

Take a walk on the wild side

Said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side

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Hide on the promenade

Etch a postcard:

How I dearly wish I was not here

In the seaside town...that they forgot to bomb

Come, come, come - nuclear bomb

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Back when we were kids

We would always know when to stop

And now all the good kids are messing up

Nobody has gained or accomplished anything

Wire Pink Flag

Prices have risen since the government fell

Casualties increase as the enemy shell

The climate's unhealthy, flies and rats thrive

And sooner or later the end will arrive

This is your correspondent, running out of tape

Gunfire's increasing, looting, burning, rape

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Well, maybe there's a god above

But all I've ever learned from love

Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you

It's not a cry that you hear at night

It's not somebody who's seen the light

It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

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And what costume shall the poor girl wear

To all tomorrow's parties

For Thursday's child is Sunday's clown

For whom none will go mourning

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My body is your body

I won't tell anybody

If you want to use my body

Go for it

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Oh it's opening time

Down on Fascination Street

So let's cut the conversation

And get out for a bit

Because I feel it all fading and paling

And I'm begging

To drag you down with me

Mansun Six

And you see, I kind of shivered to conformity

Did you see the way I cowered to authority

You see, my life, it's a series of compromises anyway

It's a sham, and I'm conditioned to accept it all, you see

Japan Gentlemen

Take in the country air, you'll never win

Gentlemen take polaroids

They fall in love, they fall in love

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We just want to emote til we're dead

I know we suffer for fashion

Or whatever

We don't want these days to ever end

We just want to emasculate them forever

Forever, forever

Pretty sirens don't go flat

It's not supposed to happen like that

Longpigs The Sun

There's no perfume I can buy

Make me smell like myself

So I put on perfume

To make me smell like someone else

In bed

Calvin Harris I Created Disco

I got love for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

I've got hugs for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

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Does his makeup in his room

Douse himself with cheap perfume

Eyeholes in a paper bag

Greatest lay I ever had

Kind of guy who mates for life

Gotta help him find a wife

We're a couple, when our bodies double

Simple Minds Sons and Fascination

Summer rains are here

Savaged beauty life

Falling here from grace

Sister feeling call

Cruising land to land

No faith no creed no soul

Half a world away

Beauty sleeps in time

Sound and fury play

Bloc Party Silent Alarm

North to south

Empty

Running on

Bravado

As if to say, as if to say

He doesn't like chocolate

He's born a liar, he'll die a liar

Some things will never be different

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LCD Soundsystem

Well Daft Punk is playing at my house, my house

I've waited 7 years and 15 days

There's every kid for miles at my house, my house

And the neighbors can't...call the police

There's a fist fight brewin' at my house, my house

Because the jocks can't...get in the door

Johnny Boy

I just can't help believing

Though believing sees me cursed

Stars Set Yourself

I am trying to say

What I want to say

Without having to say "I love you"

Josef K Entomology

It took 10 years to realise why the angels start to cry

When you go home down the main

Your happy smile

Your funny name

Cocteau Twins Bluebell

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Doesn't she look a million with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Yes, she's a beautiful brunette angel from heaven with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Augment a beautiful brunette

New Order Power Corruption

How does it feel

To treat me like you do

When you've laid your hands upon me

And told me who you are

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You must let her go

She's not crying

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Baiting

Feeling like I'm waiting

Modern times

Valentines

Hating

Hating to distraction

Just leave them alone

Whipcrack

Girls in the back

Girls in the back

Puressence Don't Forget

They say come back to earth and start getting real, yeah

I say come back to earth and start getting real

I know I can't

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So I walk right up to you

And you walk all over me

And I ask you what you want

And you tell me what you need

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The problem of leisure

What to do for pleasure

Ideal love a new purchase

A market of the senses

Dream of the perfect life

Economic circumstances

The body is good business

Sell out, maintain the interest

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Sitting in my armchair thinking again and again and again

Going round in a circle I can't get out

Then I look around thinking day and night and day

Then you look around - there must be some explanation

And the tension builds

Psychdedelic Furs

India, India

You're my love song

India, you're my love song

In the flowers

You can have me in the flowers

We will dance alone

And live our useless lives

Ladytron Light Magic

They only want you when you're seventeen

When you're twenty-one

You're no fun

They take a polaroid and let you go

Say they'll let you know

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No consolation prizes

Spit out your lies and chewing gum

Cut off your hair yeah that's it!

If you look like that I swear I'm gonna love you more

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All the neighbors are startin' up a fire

Burning all the old folks, the witches and the liars.

My eyes are covered by the hands of my unborn kids

But my heart keeps watchin' through the skin of my eyelids

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Prince charming

Prince charming

Ridicule is nothing to be scared of

Don't you ever, don't you ever

Stop being dandy, showing me you're handsome