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Jun 14

THE MANIC STREET PREACHERS – “If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next”

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#799, 5th September 1998

tolerate “You can interpret the lyrics,” huffed a Nazi goon caught nicking this song for the BNP’s website, “any way you want.” The specific double meaning of “if I can shoot rabbits, then I can shoot fascists” eludes me, but it’s true enough that the Manic Street Preachers’ lyricists had a taste for the oblique. Simple polemic was rarely their style: on their early records they favoured harsh, dense word-blocks, crushed by the transition to song into something barely singable, their uneasy imagery delivered by James Dean Bradfield as a compressed bark. But for all their rough treatment, the words mattered – for The Holy Bible the band took out double-page ads printing the record’s scorched, self-lacerating lyrics in full. They made records About Things, things number ones only occasionally break bread with: self-harm, depression, the decline of class consciousness. And here, apparently, the Spanish Civil War.

But one of those things is not like the others. Why on earth make, in 1998, a record about the Spanish Civil War? Old battles had never been the Manics’ territory: they preferred live issues, current problems of culture and psychology. A song praising the Republicans in the Spanish conflict is not addressing a live issue: and, to be honest, there weren’t a lot of obvious 1998 analogies you could make for it. “If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next” is a magnificent title, but tolerate what? What line were the band drawing? Was it all a better-read version of Father Ted’s omniprotest: Down With This Sort Of Thing?

So I’d like to suggest that something more is going on here, but before digging into what, it’s worth asking how we got to this in the first place. “If You Tolerate This” is a fanbase record, as surely as anything by Boyzone is. The Manics had been the most startling beneficiaries of the post-Oasis interest in British bands, hitting form and accessibility at just the right time for big, gestural rock to succeed. And to be horribly cynical about it, the tragedy of Richey Edwards established their bona fides as a serious band at the same time as his absence meant they could stumble into the mainstream without lyrics like “He’s a boy / You want a girl so cut off his cock” chewing up their column inches. “A Design For Life” was a remarkable single, a band pushed by guilt and circumstance into speaking plainly, seizing their platform and using it. They released it as a group with sympathy and a small, utterly devoted audience: they left it a band with a huge, solid fanbase.

It made “If You Tolerate This…” – first single off the follow-up album – into a big moment, the kind of release other singles shuffle out the way of. But as is often the case, the fanbase flexed its muscles a record too late. “If You Tolerate This…” has none of the painful confidence of “A Design For Life”. It opens brilliantly – cold, Radiohead-style bursts of treated guitar, pulsing out and back like the respiration of some great, dying machine. But once it gets going and the strings and solos kick off, it’s the band settling into the cement shoes of lugubrious arena rock – footwear they found all too comfortable.

So while it’s lovely to see them at Number One, what’s initially disappointing is that for the first time in their career, it didn’t feel like the group were over-reaching themselves. That had been a large part of their appeal. The earliest Manics made much of a love for Public Enemy and Guns’n’Roses, but the process they applied to those influences was pure indie pop: make a Quixotic attempt to match your idols with a tenth of their budget and technique, and trust that something inspiring comes out of it. They stood in relation to glam metal as Orange Juice stood to Chic and disco – a doomed, glorious tilt at a form that might end up wonderful in a different way.

Everything Must Go took the same trick and used it for stadium rock – gambling, successfully, that rough-hewn attempts at anthemic rock and thoughtful, sorrowful lyrics would rub well together. But it meant that when “If You Tolerate This…” came out, the surprise had become expectation. The band, inevitably, chortled about “subverting the mainstream”. But the idea of the Manic Street Preachers having a hit with a single about the Spanish Civil War felt right: was, instead, instantly comfortable and appealing enough by itself that the weary reality of it could be shrugged off.

What redeems the record – lets it wring dignity from tedium – is that this gap between reputation and reality is exactly what the song is wrestling with. The crucial moment in “If You Tolerate This…” is the breakdown before the final chorus – “And on the street tonight an old man prays / With newspaper cuttings of his glory days”. It’s picking up on the “monuments put from pen to paper” part earlier – the way remembrance of heroism, even well-meant remembrance, turns into romance and abandons the messy subjectivity of the lives in question. And even as it acknowledges this, the song has been playing around in that romance – the title slogan, the rabbits quote, the totems of a long-gone, righteous struggle.

It’s easy to see why this might resonate with the Manic Street Preachers. They had become a group defined by a gap: a vanished friend who was turning into stories and slogans himself. In a season of youth in the charts, “If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next” was less a subversive gesture, more a memento mori from a band that had finally found their place and were settling into a dependable success. Listen to Bradfield’s despairing, exhausted “aaaand” as he slides into the chorus – “If you tolerate this then your children will be next” is a warning, but not an avoidable one. History itself – the process of sorting and discarding, of turning fighters into forgotten men while their words survive – is the “this” that cannot be tolerated. But always is.

7

Comments

  1. 1
    Matt DC on 24 Jun 2014 #

    As far as I can remember, “I’d like to see THEM have a Number One hit with a song about the Spanish Civil War” was Nicky Wire’s stock response to criticism from any artist for several years after this.

  2. 2
    Chris on 24 Jun 2014 #

    Wasn’t “Fernando” also about the Spanish Civil War…?

  3. 3
    sleepssundays on 24 Jun 2014 #

    Easily my favourite Nicky Wire bassline, not even top ten favourite MSP songs.

  4. 4
    Tom on 24 Jun 2014 #

    #3 it’s about a Mexican War (independence? vs America? I should know this…)

  5. 5
    Tom on 24 Jun 2014 #

    #5 I went to the bother of working out that it IS in fact my 10th favourite MSP single (belying what I claimed on Tumblr about liking a dozen better).

  6. 6
    James on 24 Jun 2014 #

    I initially hated this when it was released. ‘If you tolerate this then the album will be next’ I said (unfunnily) to the Manics fans at school.

    But now I rather like it. 7 seems about right…

  7. 7
    Tamara on 24 Jun 2014 #

    This is the first song on the whole of the blog that I actually had to hand and didn’t need to youtube. Definitely far from my favorite MSP song though. There’s something a little too mannered and awkward about the lyrics, though I agree that the spark of light is that weary breakdown. There is a certain narrative logic to that awkwardness though, something adolescent about the self consciousness of a line like “and if I can shoot rabbits…” It’s not even someone psyching themselves up, so much making a show of doing so, the would-be International Brigadist’s internal monologue as fetishized theater. Or that may be a little overly charitable, since the song still never quite clicks for me.

    That said, when this was actually a hit, when I was 11, it was something else. This melancholy, incomprehensible thing full of images and ideas that felt as wild as they were inscrutable. I totally loved it then.

  8. 8
    flahr on 24 Jun 2014 #

    One of that band of Number One Singles Whose Title Is Slightly Different From The Title As Sung In The Song I think I mentioned earlier. I think there are four of them, one of which we’ve met (“I’d/I Would Do Anything For Love”) and one we have yet to meet, and this one, and one I’ve, er, forgotten.

  9. 9
    Rory on 24 Jun 2014 #

    No obvious analogies in 1998? Kosovo, February ’98 onwards? Not to mention the breakup of Yugoslavia in the years preceding it, which made Kosovo seem like the fetid icing on a putrid cake. And not to mention one of the most horrific events of the decade a few years earlier in Rwanda. A decade full of war in Europe, genocide in Africa, and the West watching impotently from the sidelines: if you tolerate this, your children will be next.

    This still sounds very fine to me, crunching-gear-change delivery and all. 9.

  10. 10
    Chelovek na lune on 24 Jun 2014 #

    Of course, I love the Manics, and especially the Manics with Richie in: not just the anarchic pushing-the-envelope, semi-coherent quasi-futurist manifestos as lyrics was absent after, but the whole playing with gender ambiguities and questioning masculinity thing pretty much completely disappeared with his loss, but had been a big part of their earlier appeal (the only time I have ever worn lipstick was to see them at the Kilburn National c. 1992….). And to my mind the absence of this factor was the single biggest change in what the band did, and who they were, once they had reestablished themselves without him – more so than the more commercial bent to their sound which is more frequently commented upon.

    This is much more like conventional rock music, albeit done well, and intelligently, than anything else they had done up to that point (Yes, Gold Against The Soul, but man, the Angst there). Although the lyrics are, typically, not entirely coherent (and the analytic cubist use of slogans a little more subtle than previously, but still present) , they are probably more partisan than one might expect of the Manics (really so): they just take for granted that fighting for the republicans/international brigades (who most certainly had allies every bit as totalitarian as those they were fighting) was unequivocally a good thing… elsewhere they had been careful not to take for granted what is essentially conventional “wisdom” on the left (as in their pointed, and in places hilarious, criticism of superficial political correctness on “PCP”; or in their apparent understanding of the legitimacy of capital punishment in “Archives of Pain”)….here they almost do. At least, if one reads the song politically rather than as a kind of memorium. Although I’m not sure one really should read it politically, as one could and probably should do many of their other songs (later than this, as well as sooner)…that sense of detachment, stepping back is oddly strong: but somehow, in its way, this is as almost, but almost, (at least: in the chorus) as anthemic as “A Design For Life”, despite that.

    So, yes, probably about my 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, favourite single of theirs (and probably only the 2nd favourite from this album – “The Everlasting” beats this as a song, lyrically and musically, to my mind) . Competent, pleasing, but less earth-shattering than that to which we had become accustomed, great to see them at no 1, etc, with a decent track.

    Possibly the oddest thing about this, for a MSPs record, is that the music may be substantially superior to the lyrics?

    (Incoherent thoughts like MSP sleeve notes in days of Generation Terrorists)

  11. 11
    Tamara on 24 Jun 2014 #

    I’m the heathen, I know, but if I had to choose, gun-to-head – I might slightly prefer later Manics to early Manics. I appreciate the ambition and the rawness of the beginning, but the songs I just really *like*, and can listen to over and over again – often the quieter, more personal, less overtly political ones – are from later.

  12. 12
    Andrew Farrell on 24 Jun 2014 #

    #10 – I hang out with a fair few Manics fans, fell into a group that used to go to Simon Price’s Stay Beautiful club – one of the (other, possibly related) things I’ve noticed about them is that they’re unashamed and uncomplicatedly pop fans – far from surprising that Shampoo (who will sadly not be appearing here) met as Manics fans.

    On the perennial popularity of the SCW – I don’t know that ‘we have some totalitarian allies’ vs ‘we are fighting actual fascists’ is, er, a fair fight.

  13. 13
    Ed on 24 Jun 2014 #

    So my theory about the Manics, which I would be interested to have confirmed or rejected, is that it is impossible to feel truly enthusiastic about them if you remember the Clash as a going concern.

    I am just about old enough for that: I borrowed Combat Rock repeatedly from Bourne Hall library – that was how we suburban punks rolled in those days – and bought a dusty copy of Sandinista!, unwanted even at its low, low, price, from the independent record shop opposite the Loose Box wine bar. When Mick Jones was sacked, I spent a fruitless lunchbreak trying to convince my prog-loving schoolmates that this was the Lennon / McCartney split of our generation.

    So it really is impossible for me to hear anything that the Manics have done, from posturing adolescence to mature AOR statesmanship, as anything other than second-hand.

    And why do the Manics have a Spanish Civil War song? Well, because the Clash did. And theirs was better: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-qcy0-7ngw

  14. 14
    mapman132 on 24 Jun 2014 #

    Never charted in America, although it was MSP’s only single release here according to Wikipedia. Seeing the title in the number ones list was intriguing for me as the phrase “if you tolerate this, your children will be next” sums up my feelings on a lot of things in this world over the past 16 years. Ironically (or not) 1998 itself seemed to be a high point of optimism and good feeling relative to the dark times that have come since. I could go off on many tangents here, but I won’t.

    Back to the song itself. I never heard it or any MSP song until two weeks ago when it appeared in this site’s on deck circle. It seems like one of those songs that grows on me through multiple listens rather than grabs me at once. At first I was wavering between 7 and 8, but after a few times, bumped it up to between 8 and 9. I think I’ll settle on 8/10, but it may well have been a personal 9/10 favorite for me if it had crossed over to the US at the time.

  15. 15
    thefatgit on 24 Jun 2014 #

    The Bunny’s torment is over. I dunno, I’m kind of with Ed, up to a point. I think if I was asked if I had a favourite MSP song, it would be “Motorcycle Emptiness”, but I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t hoover up everything the Manics did, no siree. The Clash comparison re: Combat Rock and Sandanista! has an awful lot of political weight to bear, where the Manics were free to work out their politics on their records, without alienating their fanbase. The Manics never had that “Last Gang In Town” rep, as discussed on the SISOSIG thread. This is of course, the point of view of the outsider. Tom made a great case for MSP fans to pin their colours to the “with Richie” or “without Richie” mast. I’ve heard enough of post-Richie MSP to understand their brand as “stadium angst”, but I still think I’m doing them and IYTTYCWBN a massive disservice.

    Why can’t a #1 be about The Spanish Civil War? Why can’t it be a useful metaphor for Kosovo or Rwanda or Sierra Leone or wherever? That makes sense to me. (7)

  16. 16
    iconoclast on 24 Jun 2014 #

    Not at all bad, but a bit too similar to the complacent stately-without-igniting direction much post-Britpop rock took to be truly convincing. The way things change into the chorus is pretty good though. SIX.

    P.S. I prefer “Motorcycle Emptiness” myself.

  17. 17
    lonepilgrim on 24 Jun 2014 #

    the Manics have clearly inspired their fans to engage with and explore a range of experiences and issues over the years which is laudable. Unfortunately I usually find their music uninspiring and pedestrian and this song is no exception. In the comments for ‘Get off of my cloud’ Frank Kogan @ 22 writes compellingly about the tensions and contradictions between the lyrics, Jagger’s delivery and the band’s performance that all adds up to a complex work of art that invites multiple interpretations. In comparison the Manics songs sound simplistic to me.

  18. 18
    alexcornetto on 24 Jun 2014 #

    This was my formal jumping-on point for the Manics, who then became my favourite band for the best part of the next few years (nine is such an impressionable age to hear ‘Yes’ for the first time…), so I’m always going to look on this single fondly, regardless of how overplayed it is now as far as their setlists go.

    My main memory of this is tied to getting cable at home around this time, and remembering MTV constantly trailing the fact they were going to be premièring the song/video in 10, 9, 8 days etc – before the main event, there was even a film of the band saying “Hello, we’re Manic Street Preachers and this is the first play of our new video, ‘If You Tolerate This, Your Children Will Be Next’.” Looking back, I can only imagine what a weird victory that must have felt like for their longer-term fans.

    So thanks for the memories. I’ll agree it’s not their best single (that’s probably Faster/PCP), but it’s definitely their best number one. Ahem.

    9

  19. 19
    daveworkman on 24 Jun 2014 #

    #10 I agree that The Everlasting is the standout track, that took my breath away at the time.

    I will always have a soft spot for this and it’s accompanying album. Although subsequent albums were a bit of a disappointment, the Manics were my transition band, moving me away from the pop of my adolescence. This track seemed important and different, and was the point at which I realised this was music I wanted to listen to and connected with me. I can’t say I’ve stuck with the band or similar bands since, but as I think Tom pointed out, in the sea of what else we had this year (‘my’ year for music) this seemed like something truly other.

  20. 20
    Rory on 24 Jun 2014 #

    I remembered the fuss about Generation Terrorists (and a cynical reaction from some quarters) from my year in England in ’91-’92, but didn’t board the Manics Express until I picked up Everything Must Go from a Soho bargain bin during my ’98 visit to London. From that point on I was sold, and “If You Tolerate This” confirmed it. I am the very model of a major later-Manics fan, having loved Know Your Enemy, Lifeblood, and more recently Postcards from a Young Man. The early albums, by contrast, haven’t grabbed me yet—even Journal For Plague Lovers didn’t—although there are always tracks worth a listen on any of their albums. I’ll be playing Futurology all next week, no doubt.

    By the way, for those who don’t check Amazon’s free MP3 offers, there’s a 4-track live EP available there at the moment for nix.

    On the Manics and pop, let’s not forget their 1997 collaboration with Kylie.

  21. 21
    Rory on 24 Jun 2014 #

    Whoops, let’s try a Kylie link that works in the UK. Annoying YouTube region restrictions.

  22. 22
    alexcornetto on 24 Jun 2014 #

    #20 – and ‘Little Baby Nothing’ from Generation Terrorists was originally intended to be a duet with Kylie. Allegedly SAW never forwarded the request on.

  23. 23
    PurpleKylie on 24 Jun 2014 #

    YES I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR THIS ARTICLE (lemme get my inner Manics fangirl out of the way).

    This song was my first exposure to a band that will eventually become one of my all-time favourites. While TIMTTMY isn’t their greatest album imo, I have a fond memory of the singles that came from it back then. I didn’t discover all the Richey-era Holy Bible stuff until I was about 16 when my fandom “fully blossomed” so to speak after I rediscovered them during the Lifeblood-era (I still maintain it’s an underrated album), the lyrics were a real eye-opener for someone not used to hearing something so dark before. I’m probably one of the few fans who enjoy both sides of the band: their harsh, dense side and their grandiose stadium-rock side.

    As for the song, I do consider it as one of their best even though some purists in the fandom might not agree with me. And I like how the Spanish Civil War was used as a reference as at least in the UK it’s not an event in history that many know about in great detail, which kind of fits in with the Manics’ tendency to use references from literary or historical sources in some of their songs (some of the lyrics in The Holy Bible being an example). And I know that this won’t be the last we hear of them in Popular, so that’s one bunny I’m already anticipating.

    Very well written and well researched article by the way, plenty of info bites on the band and their well-known influences that I enjoyed reading about.

    Also, one useless trivia: I grew up in a small town called Newbridge which is about a 10 min drive from Blackwood (where the Manics famously come from), so I feel a bit proud that they’re from the same part of South Wales as me.

  24. 24
    leveret on 24 Jun 2014 #

    The line ‘If I can shoot rabbits, then I can shoot fascists’ is very evocative of the ordinary folk from different parts of the UK (and other countries) going out to Spain to take on the fascist dictator Franco. It conjures up the mixture of bravado and fearful self-doubt that might’ve been felt by a young lad, who takes the odd rabbit for the pot, convincing himself that he can go out to Spain and take on Franco’s men (I think Nicky Wire has said this was the type of scenario he had in mind with this song). The latter two parts of Laurie Lee’s memoirs spring to mind.

    This song always seemed to me to revisit, musically and thematically, ‘La Tristesse Durera’ from Gold Against the Soul (a number 22 hit in ’93), with its tale of an old war veteran selling his medals to pay the bills. The chorus melody and bassline of ‘If You Tolerate This…’ always seemed to me to be a bit of a re-hash of ‘La Tristesse…’

    I wonder how much of a part multiple-formatting with different B-sides had in putting this at number. This was around about the time when 2xCD or even 3xCD ‘sets’ were at their height. I think this was available in 2 different CDs with different B-sides. I bought one of them, which I’d totally forgotten when I claimed a few entries ago that ‘Brimful of Asha’ was the only UK number 1 I’d ever bought.

  25. 25
    fivelongdays on 25 Jun 2014 #

    I’m never entirely sure who my favourite band is. I don’t know if that makes me a bad music fan, but it’s true.

    That said, if I were to list my Big Four, only one of those bands had a number one single.

    The Manics.

    [Warning – this is definitely a TL:DR, and will probably be split into many sections.]

    For a band to truly MEAN something – to have an existence where a kind of chemical change takes place in the mind of the listener, causing a distinction between ‘Fan of Band X’ and ‘Band X Fan’ is a rare, but notable thing. We’ll be meeting another band in *thinks* eight Popular years who do the same thing, but it doesn’t happen that often. I’m not talking about the likes of Oasis (whose fans often fall into the category of People Who Usually Don’t Like Music), nor am I talking about the likes of, ooh, I dunno, Metallica (a band I utterly adore, but my utter adoration of them is the same thing as the person who Quite Liked Enter Sandman only turned up much louder). This is where being a Band X Fan (I think Smiths Fans might fall into that category, if it helps any) is about More Than Just The Music. In fact, it’s about so much more. And the Manics do that.

    Let me tell you my personal truth.

    One June 3 1996, 14-year-old me finished school and on my way back home, as was normaI, went to Witney Our Price. I bought three albums. I bought “Load” by Metallica (which came out that day, and was the subject of much excitement between me and my mates), “Back In Black” by AC/DC and another album by a band who had made a comeback recently, and whose interviews fascinated me. They’d fascinated me to an extent that I didn’t want to buy their new album, but I wanted to explore their back catalogue. My teenage logic decreed that I should get their debut album, as that was the logical place to start, plus it has the most songs so was the best value for money.

    The band? Manic Street Preachers. The album? “Generation Terrorists”.

    Anyway, I got back, listened to “Load” (which I enjoyed), listen to “Back In Black” (while doing my History homework, an essay about the rise of Hitler IIRC) and then put on “Generation Terrorists”. The first three songs were alright, I thought, a bit Guns’N’Roses-y, but nothing wrong with that.

    Then the fourth track, “Motorcycle Emptiness”, comes on, and I find myself in floods of tears. It’s like my soul had been pierced with Truth, and suddenly bands like Oasis seemed awfully meaningless.

    It really did change my life.

    It changed the way I looked at the world, it changed (to a degree – but that’s another entry, for another time) the way I listened to music, and ultimately, that moment, that Earth-shattering cataclysm in the recesses of my soul, has led me to take an interest in politics (, and made me want to read more, and has led me to meet some lovely people, that I wouldn’t have met otherwise.

    None of these thing would have happened had it not been for four blokes from Blackwood, a riff half-taken from one of the solos in “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and the Truth.
    So where next? How does one move on from such a soul-slamming, life changing event? Well, in my case, I ditched the ‘shine on down the line like you’re feeling fine’ bullshit, pissed on the rotten edifice of Manchester, and started to look for this band, this band who were Truth Beyond Truth.

    (A sidenote – I suspect I was always meant to be a Manics fan. What else for an intelligent, Welsh, and slightly pretentious teenager?)

    We all need icons in Rock’n’Roll (Tom, I appreciate you’re probably shaking your head at that – I know you talk of pop, and this ‘ere blog is about pop or it’s about nothing, but Manic Street Preachers – the loud, guitary, outrageous, GnR/Hanoi Rocks worshipping Manic Street Preachers – are Rock’n’Roll. Ignore the protestations of the Priceite Indie Children, because the Manics are a Glam Metal band). I have always tried to seek mine. Yet, until that fateful moment, I considered the Gallagher brothers – in love with the past, never looking to see how Rock’n’Roll can and must remain contemporary, else it becomes pure museum piece, else it attracts the scorn of the smug – to be Rock’n’Roll Icons, when they were only icons of corpsefucking culture suicide. Yet now I had found some True Icons, their very existence a statement.

    Yet who would deny them? Only those for whom Rock’n’Roll is anathema. Either because of a fear of the Real Thing, or else through a denial of who they can be. This was music and words that spoke from the Valleys to the soulless estates of the provinces. How could a cool person, or a public school parasite understand them? How could they, when the hit up Truth in the faces of those who would be too cool. Credibility? I’m yawning!

    When Lennon-worship was at its zenith, who could deny the power of a band who laughed when Lennon got shot? Such a statement was a shock, and it would shock, and it did shock, the futile whores and whorelovers who were somad up. But why say you could ‘live forever’ or that you were ‘alright’ or it was ‘good enough’? Why, when you KNEW ‘death is your birthright?’

    And the ultimate, true icon had a mystery. Where was he? Where is he? Richey lives.

    Oh, they deny themselves truth for shabby imitations. Why hear the truth when you can think you shine, when you think you are the answer? Reality will call. Why hear the truth when you can dress up as your false idols, creating idiot worlds for that you never will be? Reality will call.

    Coming back again.

    One Rockstar. One Band. One Truth.

    MSP=The one band that matters.

    Richey James Edwards=The one rock star who matters.

    What of this song? Again – as ever – a Statement. Intent, intention, truth. A celebration, a commemoration, a warning. An anthem for those who took a stand. And the Manics did take a stand, against apathy, against idiocy, against the unthinking.

    This is the Manics. This is a number one single.

    This is a 10.

    (TL: DR – It’s the Manics at number one! That’s a de facto 10!)

    A brief addendum. I am CONVINCED that I heard Steve Lamacq – the man who made Richey prove that He was 4Real – announce from the Reading ’98 main stage – that this was number one to massive cheers. However, part of me also remembers coming home from Reading and eagerly checking Ceefax to see whether this had, indeed, made number one. So who knows? Funny how the memory works, eh?

  26. 26
    Andrew Farrell on 25 Jun 2014 #

    8 years is a long time, but they say a Sandi Thom only comes along once per generation…

  27. 27
    Your Brother, The Astronaut on 25 Jun 2014 #

    I’ve always struggled to enjoy this single as it always seemed, as some have hinted at above, that it existed purely so that they could say they made a no.1 hit of the Spanish Civil War, without asking WHY you’d want that in the first place. If they wanted to make a statement on Yugoslavia etc. then they probably could have done so easily. The only thing that would have held them back is that they were always happier with dead issues rather than live ones, and its the dead topic of the Spanish Civil War that drags this song away from being vague enough to apply to anything else other than itself.

    Identifying “And on the street tonight an old man prays / With newspaper cuttings of his glory days” as the line to decode the song definitely gives me a different way into the song though. Thinking of it in terms of lamenting history in general, rather than just the Civil War, makes it appealing since so much of the MSPs appeal lies in their attempts to reclaim/pick back up from a discarded past (whether that’s attempting to redirect stadium rock towards intellectualism, or create the dangerous situationist band that so many others are mythologised up as, not to mention the vague socialism). Ultimately though its done so much better on the Lifeblood album (I’m probably one of the few who’s entry point to the MSP was Lifeblood) I struggle to really engage with IYTTTYCWBN. Lifeblood even has the ‘Love of Richard Nixon’, which narrowly misses out on being featured on Popular, and which commits much more fully of the audacity/novelty of having a historical(or even historiographical) hit single and is much more enjoyable for that.

    @23, despite living only 40 minutes away I only recently visited Blackwood and was surprised by how ‘un-Valleysish’ it is; more of an urban sprawl commuter town than the tightly packed semi-rural/semi-industrial enclaves you get elsewhere in South Wales. Not that it really changes anything about the music or the MSP themselves but it says something for the mythical tropes the MSP often dabbled in that I considered Blackwood to be so different than it was (although I admit a lot can change in 20 years).

  28. 28

    I imagined it was perhaps inspired by a viewing of Ken Loach’s 1995 film Land and Freedom — which is also about the Spanish Civil War and the International Brigades and such, which was quite a big deal at the time as Loach’s first foray outside the UK in subject-matter. Googling around hasn’t really confirmed or refuted this, but it does turn up the fact that the “if I can shoot rabbits, then I can shoot fascists” line comes from a book called “Miners Against Fascism: Wales and the Spanish Civil War” by Hywel Francis. Don’t know if they saw the film; can’t believe they didn’t read the book.

  29. 29
    will on 25 Jun 2014 #

    Nicky and Richie were contemporaries of mine from Swansea University in the late 80s and indeed were the first band I ever interviewed (for a college arts magazine), so I’ve always felt affectionate towards the MSPs. To my mind they’re probably the best singles bands of the 90s/00s and whilst ‘If You Tolerate…’ isn’t up there with Stay Beautiful, Revol or A Design For Life it’s still one of the solid middle ranking efforts.

    It was great to see this at Number One.

  30. 30
    fivelongdays on 25 Jun 2014 #

    If I am being rational, this wouldn’t get into my top five Manics singles (Motorcycle Emptiness, Faster/PCP, Motown Junk, You Love Us, From Despair To Where), but it IS in my top ten and I’d probably put it above Design For Life (which is slightly overplayed). That said, there’s a whole load of great stuff that either ended up as album tracks (eg Condemned to Rock’n’Roll, Sleepflower, Of Walking Abortion, Yes, Ready For Drowning) or B-sides (eg Patrick Bateman, Never Want Again, Comfort Comes, Dead Yankee Drawl, Love Torn Us Under, First Republic) that would make doing an actual top 10 Manics songs very difficult.

    And, 4REALly, it’s Richey, not Richie.

    (And I’m not-so-secretly quite relieved that we won’t have to talk about The Love Of Richard Nixon…)

  31. 31
    Tom on 25 Jun 2014 #

    #27 This gets at my slight wariness at the idea that the SCW subject matter relates to an “it could stand for Kosovo / Bosnia / Rwanda” reading, definitely. It just seems a bit pat for them (though maybe that’s still the fairest way to look at the record). It’s not like they weren’t happy to do specific songs. I think you’re right about the crux of the probem – is it a good thing in itself for the Manics to get a song about the Spanish Civil War to #1? Nicky Wire’s answer, according to a lot of interviews, is “yes, it’s subversive”*. And my answer (like yours) would be “it depends whether it’s got anything interesting to say about the Spanish Civil War”. (I think it DOES have something interesting to say about the reception and use of the SCW – whether it fully intends to say that is open to question, obviously).

    *more on the Manics’ conception of the charts as a venue for subversive theatre to come in 2000, of course!

  32. 32
    MikeMCSG on 25 Jun 2014 #

    A couple of penultimates here- the last but one number one I bought as a single ( some years later from a charity shop but still ) and it got to number one on the last but one Sunday chart show I listened to ( just beating Steps I seem to recall ) driving back from walking stage two of the Lancashire Coastal Way.

    Two random memories

    I also remember making a horrible mess of this at a karaoke night at Oscar’s in Manchester which can’t have been too long after its reign as it’s not the sort of thing that would stay on the selection list for very long. Indeed the guy running it gave me a filthy look throughout for killing the party vibe.

    This was also near the start of the third and final season of Graham Barrow’s unhappy reign at Rochdale and I remember trying to put together a chant of “If You Tolerate This The Conference Will Be Next ” but it didn’t catch on.

    # 9 There was also a suggestion at the time that it referenced the massive ongoing paedophilia scandal in Belgium which the band denied.

  33. 33
    Tom on 25 Jun 2014 #

    The later Manics single – and I’ve not heard a lot of them – that snuck up on me and became a favourite is “Postcards From A Young Man”. It’s a partial resolution of one of the hidden issues with this song and “La Tristessa Durera” – i.e. there’s always a certain gaucheness or projection in very young men singing about how older men feel, a tendency to conceive age only in contrast to youth, even sympathetically. The dogged persistence of “Postcards” is a rather more seasoned take. (Though the song improves dramatically if you hear its chorus not as the anodyne “They may never be written or posted again” but as “You may never be reading our bullshit again”)

  34. 34
    fivelongdays on 25 Jun 2014 #

    @33 – it is a terrible, terrible shame that none of the songs on the masterful Journal For Plague Lovers were released as a single. Peeled Apples, Pretension/Revulsion, All Is Vanity and William’s Last Words (Wire vocals or no) would have been worthy entries into the MSP Canon. More on that later, though.

  35. 35
    Garry on 25 Jun 2014 #

    I came to the Manics via the combination of football and the net. I got the Internet around 95/96 – around the same time as Manchester City begining to through the divisions. There was a lot of talk online was about whether the Gallaghers were going to step in and save that club. The Forest fan email list I had just joined was thus inspired to search around for our own celebrity Forest fan who wasn’t a Tory MP. The name they came up with was James Dean Bradfield. The Manic’s were duly discussed at length.

    The first song I can remember was this, and the first album Know Your Enemy, the only Manic’s album I own and love.

    I’m completely ignorant of the Edwards era stuff, but Tolerate still gets a spin around here. I never knew the Spanish War link, but I’ve always been more drawn to the sound of his voice on this as a instrument over the sea of other instruments – I hear it as an emotional instrumental.

  36. 36
    chelovek na lune on 25 Jun 2014 #

    #34. I quite, quite agree. “…Plague Lovers” is masterful indeed. I’d add “This Joke Sport Severed” to the list of its highlights. In general, the process of watching the Manics mature has been, mostly, pleasing (though there was always an element of inconsistent quality control there…): they were SO, spiky and adolescent in their heartfelt intensity early on…as well as reflective. That they managed (poor Richey apart, of course) not to burn out, and still produce material, that was, mostly, at least, interesting, is a tribute to their talent and group dynamics.

    My top singles would include: Motorcycle Emptiness, Life Becoming A Landslide, Faster/PCP, Little Baby Nothing (with its extraordinarily busy, insane, video: and using the hammer and sickle as a symbol of liberation – ever – but in 1992 of all years?) , Motown Junk, From Despair to Where, A Design For Life, There But For The Grace of God .
    Quite a lot of the post-1996 stuff isn’t far behind these (Although we have a further chance, later on, to discuss what may have worked less well…), but I am very firrmly in the Richey camp… Tortured, beautiful, insane, genius. Oh God.

  37. 37
    Mark G on 25 Jun 2014 #

    #34, will they ever release a single again?

  38. 38
    Rory on 25 Jun 2014 #

    This struck me in 1998 – and still does – as a perfectly valid response to the 1990s, not as some historical artifact. Just because the band says it’s about the Spanish Civil War doesn’t mean we have to restrict our interpretation of the song to that. The only lyric that specifically ties this song to Spain is “I’ve walked La Ramblas, but not with real intent”. I could say that, and I was born thirty years after Homage to Catalonia. Thousands of people have walked La Ramblas as tourists, but have no idea what once happened there; we travel and shop and play our way through our lives, so young and so vain, forgetting the wars of the past and the wars happening elsewhere: gutless wonders, tolerating the intolerable.

    (I hope it’s obvious that I’m interpolating lyrics there.)

    I’m not saying the band didn’t want this to be about the legacy of the Spanish Civil War – the La Ramblas mention and Sukrat’s source @28 for the “rabbits” quote certainly confirm that – but it seems ungenerous to me to suppose that they didn’t mean to tie it into contemporary issues and to speak to larger, more timeless concerns. Or even if they didn’t, to think that the song doesn’t benefit from those possible readings.

  39. 39
    chelovek na lune on 25 Jun 2014 #

    #37 I think they’ve released three (all of which missed the top 75) in the last year, alone… (possibly only as downloads in each case, but such are the times)

  40. 40
    Rory on 25 Jun 2014 #

    I feel I need to keep justifying the point… I’m not trying to have a go at anyone else’s interpretation, least of all Tom’s. But there were good reasons why the title of this song resonated with the public in the supposedly peaceful 1990s.

    Anyway. I gave the album a fresh spin last night, and had quite forgotten “You Stole the Sun from My Heart”, and other tracks like “My Little Empire” and “Nobody Loved You”… there’s a lot of focus on their lyrics, but it’s their music that draws me in. And “Tolerate” is no exception; that intro is fantastic.

    Tom @33, Postcards is a great album.

  41. 41
    anto on 25 Jun 2014 #

    If ever there was a Popular entry where I could think of a million different things to say then it’s this one so let’s stick with the song itself. Although ‘If You Tolerate This….’ is some distance from being The Manics best single, it is nontheless the kind of single that could only belong to them. Not so much because of the subject matter but more because of it’s tone – that midway point between dejection and defiance that seems inherent in so many of their songs. On this occassion there is an affinity with one of the songs main sources – George Orwell’s ‘Homage To Catalonia’ where the experience of fighting fascism was recalled with regret, resignation and dark humour before the author returns home in some dejection and focuses his underlying anger on ‘the deep, deep sleep of England’. Behind Orwell’s words however there is always a clear pride that although he and his comrades in Spain were poorly equipped and barely trained compared to Franco’s men as well as being burdened by in-fighting (the passage in the book that lists the various organisations, groups and splinter-groups who considered themselves the true voice of Republicanism – a list that takes up virtually a whole page), they were at least fighting with moral right on their side.
    Nicky Wire looks at that sense of sacrifice from an awestruck perspective, putting himself forward to represent ‘the useless generation’. There is something unweildy about this track – another Manics trait and not one I’d want to be without. If their approach was smug and smooth I don’t think it would be the same. It’s also why I think the song works – that dragging rhythm and those eerie, futuristic gutiars might seem like a mismatch but together they gather a mood of stasis – a kind of anxious poise.
    James Dean Bradfield’s vocal emphasises the shame within the words rather than any attempt to invoke heroism, and is all the more effective for that.

    Why are they my favourite band? – They’re the band who I feel the most affection for, that always seems to be the answer.

  42. 42
    Tom on 25 Jun 2014 #

    #38 Also the title of the song is from a Republican propaganda poster from 1936!

    I’m not trying to take away your right to interpret either, Rory. I prefer to avoid a “horrors of the 90s” reading but of course it’s there – there are always human cruelties that would justify the title. I just think that this band, of any, would have been capable of doing a more specific and better one.

    But I would raise an eyebrow at “resonated with the public” – I’m not sure how much it did. As pointed out in the review, this is a fanbase #1 – as with “Beetlebum” it got to #1 because the first single from a new album by one of the country’s biggest bands was always likely to. It spent a measly second week in the Top 10 – a better measure of resonance – and then vanished. It sold well though, and is fairly well remembered I think. But I don’t see it as one of the years landmark singles – it’s (yet another) after-echo of 1996 (and of 1936 in this case…)

  43. 43
    Rory on 25 Jun 2014 #

    Tom @42, re “resonated”, I’m thinking of the way the title has entered the language in a modest way – to the point where, as you opened with in your review, the BNP felt they could co-opt it. I don’t doubt it’s a fanbase number one, but once it got there it will have lodged in the public’s awareness in a way that a number 5 or 15 wouldn’t have. If you asked a bunch of random people to name a Manics song this would be in the top three responses, I’d wager, because it has such a memorable title.

  44. 44
    wichitalineman on 25 Jun 2014 #

    The vagueness of the subject matter doesn’t bother me. I’d always taken “I am an architect, they call me a butcher” as a reference to Milosevic and Karadjic and their ‘Greater Serbia’ project, though the rest of the lyric is clearly more personal. This also felt like a reflection on the Yugoslav wars (still ongoing at this point). The power of the Manics lyrics, for me, isn’t in their direct meaning.

    Musically, though, I find IYTTTYCWBN a chore. It desperately needs a chord change, some switch of pace or mood – think of the change onto the chorus of A Design For Life, that extraordinary lift, or the heart-into-stomach drop as the chorus of Motorcycle Emptiness begins. The strings here sound big but thin, and are basically superfluous. Without the marvels and the strength of what had gone before, I’m sure I’d think a lot more of this.

  45. 45
    Kinitawowi on 25 Jun 2014 #

    Eurgh… I don’t know. I get the horrible impression that the Manics are one of Those bands that you either have to worship or despise, and fitting neither leaves me without a way into this song. I mean, I picked up the Everything Must Go album (seriously, A Design For Life) and Forever Delayed (this album’s other singles), but I just can’t put this one together.

    So the song’s about the Spanish Civil War, apparently (an event about which I could tell you very little other than “it happened”, it was in Spain, it probably wasn’t all that civil, and The Manics made a song about it), and it’s got a video riffing on Gattaca, and for me this is when their apparently determined attempts at Meaningfulness started to become a bit… well, meaningless. I’d never followed the RJE era, so it’s a bit like the previously discussed Tori Amos and David Bowie; I’m coming at this without having followed the artist’s Story, and I’m just left finding this song very, very bland.

    My mate Jess on the other hand, who has been following the Story, could probably write a forty-page essay on why this song is the greatest thing to ever happen to humanity. I remember a blog entry she wrote about her world stopping dead when she saw the *cover art* of Journal For Plague Lovers, never mind actually listening to it. The Manics are that sort of band.

    4 (real).

  46. 46
    Kat but logged out in on 25 Jun 2014 #

    I was gobsmacked when Schoolchum Kirst first revealed she was a big Manics fan (other favourite bands at the time: Steps, ABBA, Black Lace) – but I had no idea in 1998 about the feather boas and glittery motorcycles, only the serious political anthems. But, as mentioned above, many of the FMFs I’ve met since then have indeed been big pop fans. However Kirst’s claim that Gold Against The Soul was the best album was clearly bullshit of the highest order.

    Also ‘This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours’ is TOO LONG an album title to fit along the top of the Side B half of a C90 inlay (I have big handwriting) (god knows what was on side A, probably the Smashing Pumpkins…)

  47. 47
    alexcornetto on 25 Jun 2014 #

    #46 – isn’t TIMTTMY too long an ALBUM to fit onto Side B of a C90 to begin with? Then again, lop off SYMM. No one minds. (GATS is so much better than everyone gives it credit for though!)

    #36 – the Little Baby Nothing video, as I recall, was directed by the late, lamented Steven Wells. Which may explain its somewhat chaotic nature.

    Sidebar: of all the singles the Manics would release post-Tolerate, I would probably say their 2000 Bunny is probably in the top 3 I would have least expected to get to #1. More on which later, of course.

  48. 48
    Tom on 25 Jun 2014 #

    #47 “South Yorkshire Mass Murderer” is a classic example of About-ism, a familiar music press phenomenon of my youth.

    1. Band mentions in interview they are writing song inspired by something.
    2. NME reports this as news, fixing what the song is “about”.
    3. Tabloids – if the band is big enough – pick up on this.
    4. Tabloids or NME ask someone likely to disapprove to disapprove. They do, without hearing song.
    5. Reviews make knowing references to “the controversial [song]”
    6. Song is released, generally disappoints. World spins on.

    This used to happen to Morrissey a lot, and to Carter USM and The Wonder Stuff all the time (minus the tabloid interest, admittedly). The Manics mostly avoided Aboutism, but not entirely.

  49. 49
    James BC on 25 Jun 2014 #

    Pulp got hit with about-ism a lot, Help The Aged and Sorted for Es and Wizz being two examples (maybe the only two actually, so maybe ‘a lot’ is pushing it). I suppose anyone who writes intelligent and thoughtful lyrics about non-standard subjects is going to be prey to it, except maybe the Beautiful South.

    As for IYTYCTTWBN, I like it a lot. Wichita is right that the mood never changes or goes anywhere (very easy to play on acoustic guitar if you can do an F), but it’s a strong mood that stays with you. I can’t have heard it for years but I can call it to mind instantly and get slightly moved from memory.

    Good drumming, too.

  50. 50
    skpow on 25 Jun 2014 #

    @ #38 the line“I’ve walked La Ramblas, but not with real intent” is to my mind the key to the song. The problem with being an old school fan (I remember them on snub TV) is we tend to relate everything to Richey. And I always thought that song was Nicky admitting he couldn’t walk the walk Richey did. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but survivor grief plays a big part in the Manics mythos and this is in part about survivor grief. It definitely relates to the Loach film, they’ll later do a song on Richard Nixon to coincide with a film about Nixon. Nicky always liked to believe he had his finger on the Zeitgeist to the point of claiming he killed it on a solo album. The other key line is Gravity keeps my head down or is it maybe shame… Again you wonder how hard it must be to have so much success without Richey, how you deal with the shame of looking his parents in the eye. Not that you should feel ashamed, but success has always sat uncomfortable with the band.

    What adds to the myth is the b-side, prologue to history. A lot of fans preferred this to the a-side, but you can’t help wondering what the band were doing putting this on the flip. This is a band who invested everything they did with meaning. So what’s the prologue to history? The Spanish civil war, lost because of its subsuming into WWII, now regarded as the just war the way those in the international brigade saw their war? Are they talking about Richey? Missing out on the success? Is it the band, always missing out on the party, always slightly out of step? Hard to say. But they make good copy and they have an investment most other bands lack. Only the Manics could get a song about the Spanish civil war to number one because nobody else cared enough to try. I guess that’s why I love them. Pop can be empty and beautiful, but it can be clever and awkward and beautiful too. Personally I still feel spectators of suicide (heavenly) should have been their first number one!

  51. 51
    Tom on 25 Jun 2014 #

    #50 – I always hear it as “but NOW with real intent”, which doesn’t actually change the meaning at all…

  52. 52
    fivelongdays on 25 Jun 2014 #

    I’m in a minority, but I prefer the GT version of Spectators of Suicide, despite (or rather, because) it sounds like Every Rose Has Its Thorn.

    (Yet another reason why the Manics are fundamentally a glam metal band – every album has at least one power ballad.)

  53. 53
    mapman132 on 25 Jun 2014 #

    Rory @38/40 etc: This is what I was attempting to articulate, and not doing a great job at, back @14. For me as an American who has never heard the song until now, but has seen the *title* before in the list of number ones, this is what I take from it now. The 90’s in retrospect were a very good time, at least superficially, but somehow it felt like there were dark clouds on the horizon, and unfortunately there were.

    But Tom’s probably right that for most people this was a fanbase record about the Spanish Civil War.

  54. 54
    skpow on 25 Jun 2014 #

    Now works better actually. I’d have to check the lyrics because I have a long history of mishearing them. I had a spell curating the misheard lyrics list on alt.music.Manics in my youth!

  55. 55
    skpow on 25 Jun 2014 #

    #52 the album version is gorgeous but the heavenly one is the one I heard first so to me it’s the true version. The Manics used to say something about nodding to glam on every album out of respect to the welsh workers in the pot noodle factory who were all metal fans. I think there’s a lot going on with this song the more I think about it. Surprised no one has mentioned the miner’s strike yet. Like I said on the previous entry, they used this in Ireland to protest against a former mine becoming a landfill site. The juxtaposition of this and boyzone worked there but also the mining history. There’s some that see the closing of the mines and Thatcher’s use of the Met as a british civil war. That the song gestated at the end of that long Tory rule is another theme that could be pulled at, this is a band who used to collect for the miners.

  56. 56
    MikeMCSG on 25 Jun 2014 #

    I remember my friend playing “TIMTTMY” in the car on some away trip and nothing but this one really registering. He never put it on again ( unlike Belle and Sebastian and Yo La Tengo ad nauseam) so I guess he was disappointed too. And that pretty much ended my interest in them; I don’t know the bunnied song at all. Where do they get played now ? 6 Music ?

  57. 57
    Chelovek na lune on 25 Jun 2014 #

    #53 I’m sure this did not then have any influence on this song at all, but It was precisely in 1998 that Al-Qaeda really started to make their presence and intentions felt, first, with the publication (in February) of their “declaration of jihad against Jews and Crusaders”; and then, in the summer, with the simultaneous bomb attacks on the embassies of the US in Kenya (this being a particularly large-scale and horrific attack, and one that mostly killed Kenyans) and Tanzania. If ever a song title fitted something, it’s here…

  58. 58
    skpow on 25 Jun 2014 #

    #56 they get played on radio 2 absolute and radio Wales as well as 6 music looking at the latest studio tours they’ve done. They had an distance on strictly a couple of years so as well. I keep waiting for someone to do one of their songs on x-factor just to see if wire still has his rentaquote side working but if it’s happened I’ve missed it.

  59. 59
    wichitalineman on 25 Jun 2014 #

    Re 56: The Manics get played on Radio 2 – A Design For Life came straight out of a news bulletin about “British values” a couple of weeks ago, which was sweet. Someone else might confirm, but I think IYTT was played on Radio 2 when it came out – I can’t think why else I’d have heard it so much at the time.

  60. 60
    Kat but logged out innit on 25 Jun 2014 #

    #47 Almost certainly! There are a whole bunch of mid-to-late-90s albums where I’ve never heard the last couple of tracks despite being super-familiar with the first 80%.

  61. 61
    fivelongdays on 25 Jun 2014 #

    @55 – I’d argue that is a classic bit of Pricest Indie Kiddery designed to appeal to NME readers – the Manics do not nod to glam metal, they headbang to it.

    Listen to Generation Terrorists, and discover a band who worship/rip off GnR, Poison, Motley Crue, Hanoi Rocks and Tigertailz to name but five. Listen to The Holy Bible – is that the sound of The Smiths, or a compressed, despairing, Skid Row (This Is Yesterday=I Remember You), consider how you’d respond if Faster Pussycat released a song called Condemned to Rock’N’Roll, or if Dogs D’Amour wrote a song which went ‘People like you need to fuck people like me’…the list goes on.

    Pastiche? This is not the work of a jangleist cool indie ‘ Oh we always liked dance, yah’ public schoolboys, this is rock’n’roll, the glory of glamour, the last gang in town stance of G’n’R (and – yes! – The Clash), the masculinity of Public Enemy fused through the androgynous aggression of glam metal. Statement beyond Statement, no neshness here (even La Tristesse Durera – their alleged nod to baggy – sounds to my ears like they’re ripping off Bon Jovi’s Keep The Faith, a second hand nod to The Only One I Know), just pure Rock’n’Roll with brains. And they are at their best when they embrace their fundamental Rock’n’Roll, no matter what the IndieChildren say.

    (TL;DR – When the Manics rock, they are supreme. When they don’t – parts of TTMIT, the entirety of the dire Lifeblood, most of MSP Lies, they’re a bit blegh).

  62. 62
    skpow on 25 Jun 2014 #

    #61 you’re talking to someone who owns records by Cinderella and the Quireboys and saw the Manics support Jovi in Milton Keynes. I may have not been clear or you may have misunderstood me, but my point was that in their heart they know they could have been those glam metal fans in the pot noodle factory. Isn’t that where flicker ended up, of memory serves. And I think flicker has said he’d never have fit in with what the band became, that they did move on from those roots. But I’m old now. My heart’s like a wheel and my head’s just a stone i got my memories ain’t got no home. Falling apart at the seams.

  63. 63
    Tom on 25 Jun 2014 #

    How was their reception in the metal press, FiveLongDays?

  64. 64
    Mark M on 25 Jun 2014 #

    So about the Spanish Civil War… for a chunk of the British (and American) left, it’s remained a touchpoint, mostly because of that idea that idealistic young men of all classes went over there and made a stand in fight that wasn’t theirs – or rather (as the song title suggests) wasn’t theirs yet. Even if that fight turned out to be extremely messy, as described in Homage To Catalonia (the only George Orwell book I’ve ever liked).
    I certainly remember having discussions about with people in the 1990s, who wanted a moment like that for our generation, and suggesting (intolerantly) to them that they could go to East Timor or Sarajevo if they really felt that strongly. In the ’80s, as recounted in another Ken Loach film, some did go to Nicaragua, and many came back predictably disillusioned.

    Now, of course, we’ve got members of another generation slipping off to fight in distant civil wars, and we’re mostly pretty uncomfortable with that.

    For me, La Guerra Civil is rather more personal, because my grandfather was an officer in the Spanish army who was killed on the third day by colleagues from his own regiment who had risen against the republic and were trying to seize the barracks and its arms. My uncles, then teenagers, joined the Socialist militias, and both ended up spending years in prison. Being on the losing side shaped the family history, it’s fair to say. And for a lot of people in Spain, it’s not a dead issue at all – Franco was still alive in my lifetime, and a significant number of Spanish novels and films still deal with the war and its aftermath. And there are still survivors, like one of my uncles.

  65. 65
    skpow on 25 Jun 2014 #

    #63 holy bible review by kerrang is herehttp://www.thisisyesterday.com/ints/thb-kerr.htm

  66. 66
    fivelongdays on 25 Jun 2014 #

    @63 Unrelentingly positive! TIMT’s best review was a 5k from Kerrang!, while the likes of Metal Hammer et al very supportive throughout their career

    @62 – Pretty sure Flicker was a punk – major into The Clash, I understand the bands love of Glam Metal is what pissed him off. (Still makes me giggle when the NME talk J&MC about early Manics when they were Glam Metal in every way (IIRC Nick Wire is credited as Nikki – as in Sixx – on the back cover of New Art Riot)

  67. 67
    wichitalineman on 25 Jun 2014 #

    re 66: Well… Nicky Wire has also said that him and Richey wanted the Manics to sound like McCarthy, James and Sean wanted them to sound like GnR, so they settled on McCarthy’s lyrics (and indeed their rotten scanning) with GnR’s music.

    I rememember “stoneswhopistolsclash” as their quickfire list of inflences, maybe on Snub, later amended to to “stoneswhoaxlslash… not the Clash anymore”.

  68. 68
    fivelongdays on 25 Jun 2014 #

    The point is that the Manics influences were ROCK, rather than the Beatles/Byrds/Beach Boys trinity that sustained Indie. And the Manics are – unlike, say The Verve – an Actual Rock Band Who Rocked.

  69. 69
    skpow on 25 Jun 2014 #

    #68 god yeah, you’ve only got to listen to GT. Slash and burn is a glorious metal track full of great rock guitar licks. Where the Manics and Indie crossed over was the Rolling Stones. But yeah, they rock. One of the best live acts of their (our) generation. Only bad gig I’ve seen from them was Glastonbury 94, the sound was awful and the crowd was worse.

  70. 70
    23 Daves on 25 Jun 2014 #

    Well, this is a pain in the arse. I’ve been looking forward to discussing this entry for ages, but it’s finally cropped up right at the very point where I’m so snowed under with work I can barely think straight (apologies in advance for any typos, poorly expressed ideas or incoherence) and a lot of the points I wanted to make have been made already.

    But still, the most recent comments above do cover one issue I wanted to get on to. That’s the fact that the Richey-era Manics never really sat easily with me. I liked the IDEA of them enormously, the lyrical subject matters, the interviews, the slogans… to a slightly depressive teenage boy fascinated by left-wing political literature (so much so that I’d stick around at college after hours just to stay in the library and read stuff that wasn’t otherwise easily available) they seemed so much as if they should have been a revelation. In reality, though, musically they were too Rock for me, and not even Rock in the scuzzed up Pixies sense of the word, just ROCK as in the kind of stuff you might have heard on FM/Revolver records, only with better lyrics. I got into enormous trouble with a Manics fan I once knew for comparing the cheapest and trashiest of their output (“Repeat”) to “The Comic Strip’s Bad News with two Colin Gregsons in the line-up”.
    “THEY SOUND NOTHING LIKE THAT!” he thundered.
    They bloody did at times, to me anyway. But then I never really understood the appeal of that kind of music.

    Still, my faith in them was enough that I did actually buy “Generation Terrorists” and “The Holy Bible”. I can’t remember the last time I ever actually listened to either, and I probably should give them away to a charity shop, but I don’t quite have the heart to.

    The Manics at their commercial peak slotted in much more neatly for me. The sweeping, melodramatic strings reminded me of the epic parts of the best Northern Soul ballads (think “Drifter” by Ray Pollard), the lyrics were still interesting enough (initially, at least) and the songs less swathed in soft rock worship. It all finally clicked together for me, the kind of person old school Manics fans probably wouldn’t welcome to a party.

    To be potentially even more controversial, this is probably my favourite single of theirs. Tom and numerous other commenters have pointed out that the emotions of the song seem to pull in two directions, and it’s mainly because of this that I’d stop short of tagging it with the catch-all “stadium anthem” description. It’s a head-hung-low, confused and neurotic sound, tugging back and forth. You can’t punch your fist in the air to this.

    In fact, it’s so conflicting that the first few listens were almost unrewarding. I can remember it being received at the time as a “slow burner”, and that’s exactly how it felt. The first four times I heard it, I was only mildly impressed, but then the fifth listen was the one that opened it up to me completely, and it happened under the most absurd circumstances. I was wandering along Southsea promenade by myself when it blasted out from a radio inside one of the shops (I think that’s right. It sure as hell didn’t come from the funfair, anyway). It was on the last weekend of the year when the weather was hot enough to warrant solo seafront wandering, and I stood and listened to the song while children played on the beach and a bit of a chill developed on the wind. Just the perfect moment to finally have a song making sense, the uncertain feel of weather on the cusp of Summer and Autumn matching the song’s mood perfectly.

    I still play this song regularly, and it’s a 9 from me, I think. Actually, a 10. I don’t expect anyone to agree with me on most of the points I’ve made above, and it’s difficult to have my particular perspective on a band whose fans are often insistent that they peaked on the third album… but so be it.

  71. 71
    swanstep on 26 Jun 2014 #

    The Manics weren’t characters in my world until this entry, so it’s been interesting for me to listen to a whole bunch of their stuff over the past few days. ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ has been the definite standout track and its parent, GT (or at least its first half; their records all seem to be too long!) is the pick of the albums I’ve listened to.

    GT is very revealing – lots of Van Halen and (pre-Mutt Lange) Def Leppard in their sound at that point. I wonder whether making a designed-to-be US- and world-conquering record with Lange was ever in the cards (and exisst for the Manics now as their great ‘road not taken’)?

    Anyhow, its actual big production notwithstanding there’s something deeply unpolished about all the Manics stuff I’ve listened to: even Motorcycle Emptiness has a weak middle eight that could be a lot better, ‘A Design for Life’ manages to make ‘for’ polysyllabic and just generally needs work on its vocals (some rewriting, more takes, etc.). And so on. It’s all rather frustrating listening really – the Manics’ songs are good but could have been better; the band’s really *got* something but it needed to be worked harder is how it sounds to me. Perhaps they never found their George Martin or Bob Ezrin or Eno who could push them…

    Anyhow, IYTHYCWBN. First few listens, it sounded like a vocally and instrumentally under-powered version of a Muse track such as ‘Sing For Absolution’. On subsequent listens, ‘Sleeping Satellites’ has seemed like a more fitting comparison in the context of Popular, i.e., as something that, like IYTHYCWBN is pretty contemplative for a #1 and but yet also has hooks and surprises in it so you can hear ‘Ah, yes, that’s why it went to #1, and that’s why it’s a damned good record’. IYTHYCWBN doesn’t do that to a listener hence it *is* a UK fanbase record (hence it only made it into the 40s in both Australia and NZ) and not a true win-the-people-over #1 in the vein of Sleeping Satellites.

    So, this is a 6 for me, but I’m very happy to have been finally introduced to the Manics and will continue to explore their discography in the coming months. Yay.

  72. 72
    Shannon on 26 Jun 2014 #

    Great analysis of the Manics! Came over from Phil Sandifer’s Tumblr because I’m a huge Manics fan and they helped me get through a lot of college. I’m an American fan, so I often have a really different perspective on it than the Brits. While I love their earlier stuff, I find I relate much more to their later stuff like Everything Must Go and this whole album as I get older. There’s something about that worn-outness that I can relate to.

    Now, if you want to get into fan base records, that’s Send Away the Tigers, but I love it anyway.

  73. 73
    wichitalineman on 26 Jun 2014 #

    Did they ever consider changing their name? There’s an obvious Joy Division/New Order comparison, with A Design For Life as Ceremony.

  74. 74
    Rory on 26 Jun 2014 #

    Fascinating to hear from people who are new to the Manics, Swanstep @71. Re “manages to make ‘for’ polysyllabic and just generally needs work on its vocals”: the forced scansion of their lyrics used to annoy me, even as an admirer of their work, but eventually I realised that it was one of the key hooks of their songs, drawing my attention every time. In a roundabout way, it might help explain why I’m a fan, at least of their later stuff: the orchestral flourishes and epic sweep of their best late-90s work sounds so odd next to that mangled metre and admittedly sometimes routine rock guitar that the whole feels more interesting than it ought to. Perhaps it’s also why I haven’t got into the early albums, with their G’n’R influences and the rest – a less interesting setting for those vocal tics, maybe. I’m going to take this entry as a cue to go back to those early albums and try them again, though, along with the later ones that didn’t click for me. Send Away the Tigers and Journal for Plague Lovers are probably a lot better than I remember them: they just came out when I was too distracted by new fatherhood to listen to new music properly (even as I habitually kept buying it).

    Looking through their singles discography, I was surprised to see that they missed out on the top spot three times after their next number one. And missed out on the thousandth number one to a reissue! Booo.

    @73 But when could they do it? Would have been embarrassing if Richey had walked through the door refreshed from three years in the wilds of Patagonia.

  75. 75
    BT on 26 Jun 2014 #

    Choruses have never really been an MSP strongpoint, have they? I can think of few that go far beyond the song title sung twice.

  76. 76
    James BC on 26 Jun 2014 #

    #75 They’re slogans! That’s what you do with a slogan, repeat it.

    I was thinking myself, listening to the chorus of this one, that a young Ryan Tedder might have been a fan.

  77. 77
    Rory on 26 Jun 2014 #

    Just realised/wondered: why no Manics pic in the FT banner to go with this?

  78. 78
    Tom on 26 Jun 2014 #

    Steve does the pics when he has time – I looked for a Manics one but I couldn’t find it. So treat them as a delightful bonus (or a way of finding out what obscuro pop stars looked like) rather than a feature :)

    I am sure we’ll have one ready for next time.

  79. 79
    Rory on 26 Jun 2014 #

    Ah, right; they’d been so regular I’d thought you must have done a few years’ worth in advance as part of the recent redesign.

  80. 80
    fivelongdays on 26 Jun 2014 #

    @75

    “I am stronger than mensa, Miller and Mailer/I spat out Plath and Pinter/I am all the things that you regret/A truth that washes, that learned how to spell”

    That’s a chorus.

  81. 81
    weej on 26 Jun 2014 #

    Agreed completely with this review. A song I still like and might even put on from time to time, yet it marks the end point of my relationship with the group. A few years later I saw them play at Reading, and just walked away, they were so dull. It didn’t matter, they had tens of thousands of new fans.

    I’d always had a weirdly ambivalent relationship with them though. Generation Terrorists was fantastically exciting, but at the same time bloated and patchy (and sorry to say I still don’t get Motorcycle Emptiness or Little Baby Nothing). Gold Against The Soul was much more consistent – those first three tracks are unbeatable, but it gets hopelessly mired on side B. Then The Holy Bible, of course, which still sounds thrilling, but it’s spoiled a little by Nicky Wire trying to keep up with Richey (for example in Archives of Pain, one of my favourite tracks until I read the stupid lyrics, and PCP – “nowadays I can’t seem to tell the difference” – it’s one thing to skewer left-wing complacency but that just sounds like a guffawing Mail On Sunday columnist.) Nicky was always up to this sort of pointless contrariness – “let’s build a flyover over this shithole,” etc – and it was never appealing. He upped his game after Richey disappeared, but it’s never been enough to get me back into the fold.

    Early-Manics fans were an interesting bunch, I still have a few fanzines somewhere in the loft, generally very interesting, thoughtful, well-read teenagers, much more political and confrontational than goths. A friend went to a fan convention a bit later on and complained that it was a bit too “Have you read The Bell Jar?” “Yes” “It’s good, isn’t it?” “Yes, it is” – but pretentiousness is at least better than lad culture, so that doesn’t sound too bad to me.

  82. 82
    swanstep on 26 Jun 2014 #

    @rory, 74. I’m not sure that it’s the scansion I’m having problems with, but I find I mostly can’t make head nor tails of their lyrics as I hear them in songs – consonants just completely vanish. And without looking up the lyrics online I’d be lost. Yet their lyrics are very meaningful once you track them down! It’s frustrating that they didn’t work on this problem, and, say, get enunciation at least up to Dylan or Joe Strummer or even Thom Yorke standards. I know it sounds slightly patronizing to make such remarks, but it honestly strikes me as a bummer for rock that an evidently really good band ended up not finding the audience world-wide that they could have had.

  83. 83
    Chelovek na lune on 26 Jun 2014 #

    #82 I quite agree with all of that. I think I must have listened to “Yes” dozens of times before I could catch a grip of the lyrics (again: another stunning, unforgettable, chorus, once you’ve heard what they are singing – “ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayitsworldwouldfallapart is another memorable chorus, and one that is readily comprehensible).

    The combination of slurred enunciation with quite strong valleys accents (found not just in “Yes”, but not uncommonly) means it is easy for the intended meaning to pass the listener by – a great pity, as it is usually worth making the effort…

  84. 84
    wichitalineman on 26 Jun 2014 #

    Re scanning: the Manics were huge fans of McCarthy whose lyrics were always political and scanned badly (see Charles Windsor, which the Manics covered). So I imagine it was intentional, though slightly maddening.

  85. 85
    Rory on 26 Jun 2014 #

    #82 I agree too, the lyrics can be hard to make out. Scansion can be part of that, though. We expect to hear words and sentences stressed in certain ways, and when they’re stressed differently – either to crowbar the lyrics into the music, or because they’re being sung in an unfamiliar accent – they can be harder to make sense of.

  86. 86
    Andrew Farrell on 26 Jun 2014 #

    This discussion makes a lot more sense once I realise that McCarthy and Mclusky are different bands.

  87. 87
    Chelovek na lune on 26 Jun 2014 #

    “Should The Holy Bible Be Banned?”

  88. 88
    23 Daves on 26 Jun 2014 #

    #84 – I was a bit of a fan of McCarthy in my teens. The vinyl gatefold sleeve for “The Enraged Will Inherit The Earth” is interesting in that it present the lyrics as blocks of prose, making no attempt to pretend they’re anything else. When I tried to read the lyrics as the record played, it was a faintly peculiar experience, like listening to someone singing stories from a newspaper or political pamphlet. The breaks in the lines just seemed to crop up as and when the music dictated a pause was necessary. Blew my adolescent mind, it did.

    These days, of course, I tend to think “That would have been an interesting approach to scansion for a few songs, but it seems odd and absurdly restricting to base your entire style around it”.

    FWIW, I don’t think the Manics take it to anything like those lengths.

  89. 89
    Tom on 26 Jun 2014 #

    The only McCarthy song I still own is their attempt to GO BAGGY, “Get A Knife Between Your Teeth”, which I really enjoy partly despite partly because of it’s incredible awkwardness. The issue there isn’t exactly scansion, it’s the sheer discomfort the band seem to have with the genre they’re playing. But I owned The Enraged… too and frankly have played “Get A Knife” about a hundred times more often.

  90. 90
    ace inhibitor on 26 Jun 2014 #

    @88, rhythmically awkward lyrics visually presented as blocks of prose = an old Wire trick (not Nicky)

  91. 91
    Ed on 27 Jun 2014 #

    @88, @90 And occasionally Gang of Four, too. Scansion = repressive instrument of hegemonic late-stage capitalism.

  92. 92
    23 Daves on 27 Jun 2014 #

    #89 – True story about “Get A Knife Between Your Teeth” – Tim Gane didn’t understand how wah-wah pedals worked, so had to get somebody else to operate one for him while he played the guitar. Not too sure how all that came together when they had to play it live (if they ever did). This could be another reason the whole thing sounds a little stilted and awkward. Got to agree with you, though, it is one of their finer tracks.

  93. 93
    Andy M on 27 Jun 2014 #

    @86 Your comment’s made me realise I’ve been making this mistake for years! What with Mclusky being Welsh as well.

  94. 94
    James BC on 27 Jun 2014 #

    Snow Patrol lyrics often read like blocks of prose also – long run-on sentences that seem to only fit the tunes by coincidence (How To Be Dead is a good example). But Gary Lightbody always makes them scan – a quite impressive talent.

    I suppose there must be at least a faint Manics influence there. Not on subject matter of course.

  95. 95
    Another Pete on 27 Jun 2014 #

    The ‘4Real incident’ is easily Norwich’s most rock n’ roll moment.

  96. 96
    fivelongdays on 27 Jun 2014 #

    …as well the most powerful, iconic, significant and beautiful statement in Rock’n’Roll, full stop.

    The Norwich Arts Centre is a disused church. Seems fitting.

  97. 97
    Another Pete on 27 Jun 2014 #

    Ideally there should be a plaque, after all there’s one on the Superdrug in St. Stephen’s Street as the place where Mohammed Ali signed tins of Ovaltine in 1971.

  98. 98
    Ed on 29 Jun 2014 #

    As an example of gormless BNP campaigning that is very funny, but it is still only my second-favourite of theirs, behind this all-time classic: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/4935429/BNP-uses-Polish-Spitfire-in-anti-immigration-poster.html

    Incidentally, late to this, I know, but I agree with all the people spotting contemporary relevance here. Civil war in Europe was an extremely live issue in the mid-90s

  99. 99
    Cumbrian on 30 Jun 2014 #

    This could be long. I’m just going to start and see what happens.

    It’s probably better to discuss the, by this point, dual nature of the Manics fanbase when we get to the first new #1 of 2000 but I will cop to the fact that I was a late comer, never was a mess of eyeliner and spraypaint, and was more likely to dress like the band post Richey’s disappearance. The idea that they left their original fanbase behind was a nonsense as far as I could see though – whenever I saw them live, they were still there, down the front, Nicky was still wearing feather boas, glitter and leopard print with the void to his right beyond James Dean Bradfield being a real point of concentration for the old school fans. Maybe these fans didn’t appreciate the stuff from this era as much (they certainly, in my experience, didn’t appreciate people like me starting to turf up at their gigs) but to my ear, though the music may well have changed, it was just as laceratingly painful as what had gone before.

    Everything Must Go in particular contains such massive reservoirs of survivor guilt, it’s like listening to an open wound. From wanting to run away from it all to the other side of the world, to pleading for the fans’ forgiveness for carrying on, using their lost friend’s lyrics to provide the actual and emotional centre of the album and it all resting on “all I wanna do is live, no matter how miserable it is”. Richey might have carved it into his arm but the whole band is for real. So they weren’t doing the glam metal from their debut or the harsh textures from The Holy Bible. So what? That whole album is them having to move on, carrying the burden with them but also requiring the fresh start – and if the music opened them up to a new audience, then so be it (though even that had the tinge of regret to it – I remember seeing an interview with JDB where he says he wishes he had brought music that sounded more like NIN to fit Richey’s lyrics in his last days, coupled with the reflexive duck of the head and the aversion of the eyes from both interviewer and camera).

    I don’t need the Manics to bear the souls but I think they’re better when they do, directly and honestly. They have written (and continue to write) about events but I like it best when they write about themselves, so Tolerate… doesn’t do it for me. It feels to me like it is groping around for the right lyrical feeling and never really quite gets there. Musically stately after an arresting opening, I found it interesting that Tom identified a gap between reputation and reality there. The Manics’ reputation with their fans is, I think, definitely at odds with the reality as presented.

    On a separate note, it’s interesting to me that comments have picked up on the Manics roots in metal/glam metal. New Bunnied Welsh Band, from memory, made great play of them getting together, not through Britpop, but through a shared love of hard rock/metal. There’s also a bunch of latter day Welsh metal bands (Bullet For My Valentine, Funeral For A Friend and another band, now famous for the most wrong of reasons), which make me think that there is a bit of a thing for metal in the Valleys. I don’t know the area well enough to know whether this is just confirmation bias on my part. Maybe someone more plugged in can let us know whether this is actually the case – and why?

    The Manics not having choruses but having slogans? Maybe. I’d chime in but I would guess you don’t want to see my face, nor hear my words, so why don’t I just

    FUCK OFF!

  100. 100
    fivelongdays on 30 Jun 2014 #

    @99 – a love for Rock and Metal isn’t a specific Valleys thing, but there is a very strong trend for die-hard Rockers/Metalheads in small towns, places where cool people don’t live, The Provinces et al. The Manics and New Bunnied Welsh Band are great examples of this.

    (NB this tends to manifest itself among the Provincial Upper-Working and Lower-Middle Classes).

  101. 101
    Cumbrian on 30 Jun 2014 #

    100: If only that were the case in the provincial town I grew up in. I didn’t have much of an ear for Happy Hardcore, Rave, Gabba or any of the other various stripes of electronic music that made up the dominant musical culture in the town I went to school in. I think I mentioned in another thread (probably the Stiltskin one?) that the Britpop/Indie kids basically teamed up with the, very few, Metalheads at my school, shared the same spaces, clubs, etc, so Metal was marginalised even within the part of the culture that was more open to it.

    I’ve a sneaky regard for hard rock/heavy metal to be honest. I quite enjoyed Metallica being on the TV this weekend – probably one of the only times that Metal has had a prime time slot on the BBC since Motorhead were on The Young Ones – and note with interest Bunnied Sheffield Band dropping excerpts of War Pigs into their gigs and associating with QOTSA (who have somehow got big enough to sell arenas out in this country – when I first went to see them, they were only playing places like Koko or Brixton Academy). It feels to me like the time is right for heavier stuff to make a push.

  102. 102
    Fivelongdays on 30 Jun 2014 #

    @101 – to make it clear, what I should have said was ‘very strong trend for Rockers/Metallers to be from small Provincial towns’ – it’s not like they’re overwhelingly rock, but the people who are from places that aren’t allowed to be Cool tend to have that sort of background. It’s people who come from Trendy areas/posh upbringings who tend to dislike it.

  103. 103

    Simon Price is from Barry in Wales, which is neither trendy nor posh, is it (I don’t have much of a feel for South Wales)? As a midlands kids — which was a metal heartland in the 70s, as well as roughly speaking its birthplace — I somewhat agree about metal fandom as a sustained manifestation of defensive anti-cool pride since the early 80s, tho I think it’s shifted and mutated over the years. “Indie” certainly wasn’t a public school thing in the 80s, and has often taken anti-cool form (it’s kind of central to Dolls-fan Morrissey’s ethos) ; and metal and prog often have been pretty popular in posh schools. The post-punk vanguardistas at NME in the late 70s were almost all of them self-taught working class intellectuals/school drop-outs (though of course they’d by then jumped ship from uncool birthplaces like Bangor or Norwich to London).

  104. 104

    … which is a v boring way of saying “it’s complicated”

    #notallposhkids :)

  105. 105
    Tim on 30 Jun 2014 #

    Regarding the scansion in McCarthy’s lyrics, I think Malcolm Eden was always very open about his stylistic debt to Bertolt Brecht, part of which was a pleasure in lines which don’t scan “properly”.

    And I also tend to think that the brand of indie which (some of) the Manics liked – they talked about being particularly into McCarthy and Big Flame, IIRC – was more suburban / provincial than metropolitan. I can say with absolute certainty that no cool accrued from being into those bands in my provincial town in the mid-80s.

  106. 106
    Your Brother, The Astronaut on 30 Jun 2014 #

    Re: discussion of metal/rock and provincial towns.

    This is all purely 100% anecdotal as i have very little to compare it to but…I imagine the wave of metalish bands from Wales in the early 00s is very much to do with just the regular mechanics of musical scenes in highly isolated places breeding bands with simillar influences.

    Certainly an element of ‘anti-cool’ posturing but the lack of any outside influence has a major impact. As a teenager I had tastes which were very firmly anti-Metal but spent most of my Saturday nights watching local metal bands of various shades. In a city (or just a larger town) I would have probably been hanging elsewhere (as would have probably 45% of everyone else) but the lack of choice allowed marginal styles and genres to gain critical mass. (and no, doubt, create a degree of Stockholm syndrome; not entirely sure certian bands would have made it into my CD collection otherwise).

    With the internet etc. I’m not entirely sure provinical vs. urban has such a major impact anymore; at least on the logistics of impact, group-forming and tribalism.

  107. 107
    fivelongdays on 30 Jun 2014 #

    @106 – what I meant to say – and sorry if I wasn’t hugely clear – you are more likely to meet Rock/Metal fans from the provinces/suburbs than from cities (obvs with exceptions), not that small towns/suburbs are all Rock/Metal hotshots. There’s also the correlation that a lot of people who get to the metropolitan areas turn into the worst kind of trendy hipsters (if you’ve ever seen northerners in London, you’ll know what I mean)

    I don’t think it’s “anti Cool posturing” either. It’s a combination of not really KNOWING what it is you are supposed to like and/or knowing/realising the Cool People in the city wouldn’t want you anywhere near them (a problem I, sadly, know only too well)

  108. 108
    tm on 2 Jul 2014 #

    Tim @ 105: wahey, who’d have thought we’d see Big Flame mentioned in Popular! Guitarist Greg Keefe now lectures Architecture alongside my Dad at Manchester Met, came to a couple of my own early gigs and introduced me to John Robb who would influence my own music making over the years if which more to come…

  109. 109
    Mark M on 2 Jul 2014 #

    Re: 103 – I’ve probably mentioned this before, but big at my posh school in 1988 (that’s 1988) for boys: The Clash, The Pistols, the Dead Kennedys, AC/DC, Bob bloody Marley and, of course, yer Floyd. For girls: Tracy Chapman, The Cure. There were some goffs/NMA fans.

    I’m sure lots of them ‘fucking loved’ hip-hop and house in years to come, but barely any did yet. And no one was a fully fledged indie kid in mid/late ’80s terms.

    Every school I ever went to had at least a few kids into metal.

  110. 110
    tm on 4 Jul 2014 #

    I found …Tolerate… so disappointing at the time. I’d loved EMG, having been only dimly aware of them during the Richey era, as far as I was concerned, they were picking up the baton for big rock anthems dropped by Oasis (not sure if this fits with the release dates for EMG and Be Here Now but I may have come late to EMG, I remember thinking Design For Life was a Rod Stewart single when I first heard it – did he cover it on that album he did with the Oasis and Primal Scream covers?)

    On relistening, having since got into Gen Terrorists and The Holy Bible, I can’t say my opinion of Tolerate’s changed much: as others have noted, the best part is the synthy sounding guitars of the intro. I guess it’s best heard as a transition record between the pure rock of their first four albums and the wider ranging genre-hopping they’d do on later stuff but for the most part it still sounds to me like another slow, sad, overlong, overproduced late 90s post Britpop dirge (albeit with much better lyrics than The Verve or Embrace et al). I agree it’s great to see them at #1 but if Design For Life I can’t imagine this getting more than a 5. There are at least five singles from before and after this that, had they reached #1, are possible tens for me though.

  111. 111
    tm on 4 Jul 2014 #

    Sorry, penultimate sentence should read ‘if Design For Life had got there first’

  112. 112
    ciaran on 4 Jul 2014 #

    The Manics were liked by several in my school but I could never take to them fully. 1 or 2 half decent songs but not enough to make me a superfan or anything.A bit like the Chilli Peppers – liked by so many but just passed me by.Another bunnied Welsh band would join this list of groups!

    The disappearance of Richey gave them a much higher profile and the singles from Everything Must Go seemed a bit more stadium friendly. Australia was even used as on a tourism advert at one point.

    I like IYTT a lot more than I thought I would. Just about the right tempo and not as loud as the EMG era. Certainly a cut above most of 1998’s Number 1’s (especially compared to the kitchen-sink throwing of Oasis earlier in the year.)

    7.

  113. 113
    Tom on 8 Jul 2014 #

    Awesome effort here, and one that teaches valuable lessons about JDB’s scansion. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zV4CTHUFhig&feature=youtu.be

  114. 114
    fivelongdays on 10 Jul 2014 #

    @113 – I’d absolutely LOVE to see some homophobic, neanderthal Chavsabian fan go ‘Football! I must watch it!’, watch it, then check out the original – and have to confront Truth. ‘Twould be hilarious

  115. 115
    Nick R on 15 Jul 2014 #

    James Dean Bradfield and Nicky Wire turned up on The One Show last week. You’d think they’d be there to promote Futurology, but instead, they mainly talked about the origins and meaning of “If You Tolerate This…”, so it’s worth linking to it here. (But it’ll only be on the iPlayer for less than a day now.)

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b047znw1/the-one-show-09072014

    They’re on it from about the 48 minute mark. The discussion of this song is followed by an acoustic performance of “You Stole The Sun From My Heart”.

  116. 116
    Cumbrian on 16 Jul 2014 #

    On Mertesacker Emptiness – it’s funny (re: Tom’s point) that I think JDB might have realised that his scansion is somewhat Germanic given “Europa Geht Durch Mich” from Futurology has just been released and Nina Hoss’ vocals (in German) fit the rhythm of JDB’s vocals from elsewhere in the song pretty well.

    Also on Mertesacker Emptiness – I hope he’s feeling at least somewhat empty this morning, given how drunk he seemed at yesterday’s World Cup celebration in Berlin – he’ll need the space in his gut for hangover food. He wasn’t quite at Flintoff 2005 Ashes levels but he seemed to be enjoying himself.

  117. 117
    Patrick Mexico on 20 Jul 2014 #

    Hola/top of the evening to y’all, I’m back.

    First and foremost, I’d like to congratulate Tom on a heartfelt, well-researched and brilliant review of one of my favourite bands. A 7 is spot on – this isn’t quite my favourite Manics era. Problem is, in the 12 months since the Be Here Now/Diana tipping point for British guitar bands (especially Britpop guitar bands) who ya gonna call? Doubt it’s Hurricane #1.

    The Manics now had such a huge fanbase – both old militant fans and newer casual ones (albeit sometimes at war with each other – Richey’s disappearance a bleakly omnipresent pivot and borderline), plus the critical acclaim for the populist, but not totally uncompromising Everything Must Go, and thus such, they had a golden opportunity to reach the top even with music that could be the most challenging the charts had seen since post-punk. Shortly before his disappearance Richey Edwards left a note for James Dean Bradfield – “Next album: Nine Inch Nails meets Pantera meets Screamadelica.”

    Perhaps in 1998 it was too recently raw and painful for the remaining members to follow up this project, but the Prodigy struck gold with the above (albeit more staggering down the hard shoulder of the M25 in ALF pyjamas and less bunking off school to watch the TUC)..

    IYTTYCWBN did not “tear the music industry a new one.” It didn’t change the face of Western society. It didn’t make people rush out into the streets with Molotov cocktails a la Paris 1968. I’m quite sure it didn’t spawn millions of teenagers who would say “that record changed my life” – though some previous Manics hits quite probably did, including ADFL. However, in a year where the demographic of the single buyer became younger and more character and performer-centric rather than the best mid-90s British bands’ songwriting, satire and socio-politics, it’s an absolute triumph that the top spot was gained by a song of mature, stately, steely, peak Springsteen maturity. But – like much of the Boss’s work – there’s something moving but it could have been so much more. And also like a Springsteen hit, this was misunderstood as a nationalist anthem by sinister right-wing numbskulls.

    Indeed, if you are looking for 1998 analogies, check the euphoric reaction to Brimful of Asha and Your Woman – where a genuinely multi-ethnic, multi-cultural Britain seemed to be finally reflected on a global stage, and with wit, intelligence and humour in droves. Now think of the sad irony where the irresponsible management of “multiculturalism” by New Labour started sowing its unpleasant seeds which would cause many unpleasant events, a key one being the resurgence of the far right – just watch [I]White Tribe[/I], the 2000 Darcus Howe documentary where a few ominous rats are smelled. You realise Oldham’s problems won’t be cured by some guys from down the road reminiscing about playing in the garden and living forever, and the Dover Daily Mail readers won’t be won over by – well – any popular culture after 1963. I can’t help but admire the Manics’ “stand up to things you know are wrong, however hard it seems in such a brutal world” statements, given the last 15 years where the BNP, EDL, and Britain First have been constant elephants in the room – and even more pertinent with the often jaw-dropping UKIP and Tory naivety of about “newspaper cuttings of (the wrong?) glory days” and “We can’t be racist, we have Asian friends.”

    I just thought it could have been done with a musical palette a bit more rabble-rousing rather than the “wistful” soft rock template used by Travis, the Verve, Ocean Colour Scene and similar “Not very Exciting But I Listen to Them Because They’re Proper Music.” I’d rather not ruminate on its parent #1 album – let Marcello! – but Embrace would never have the confrontational frankness for Ready for Drowning or The Everlasting. It’s just a shame one of the most exciting bands in Britain were, for a while, lumped in with the dullest. Albeit with hugely mixed results, they’ve stuck around and outlived a lot of them to this day, so hats off to MSP!

    A final word on #113 – well, Kasabian are an unashamedly mainstream oriented band, but is there really any need for that blatant “Chavsabian” class snobbery? I very much doubt you’ve met many of their fans to warrant making that caricature, let alone in-depth discussion of gay rights. I know this will sound barbed but there’s an unfortunate duality with your post and the mocking of the traditional white working class which is the only social/ethnic group considered “fair game” for the middle class dinner party set to mock these days.. and is one of the things which fuels support for fascism… on this record of all records..

  118. 118
    Patrick Mexico on 14 Aug 2014 #

    The universal language of IYTTYCWBN… http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/reds-blues-march-premier-league-7611875

  119. 119
    more on 30 Aug 2014 #

    If anybody’s interested this video reveals how you can alter your ip to look at French TV channels like M6 Replay online from everywhere.

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