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Feb 15

MANIC STREET PREACHERS – “The Masses Against The Classes”

Popular64 comments • 4,809 views

#845, 22nd January 2000

masses classes “All over the world I will back the masses against the classes” – William Ewart Gladstone.

Hello, it’s us again. Welcome to Popular. Welcome to 21st century pop music, now fifteen years old and dreadfully teenager-ish in its surly refusal to admit to any pigeonhole you might want to place it in. Putting the pop culture of this century’s first decade into a historical context is an unsatisfying job: it’s wriggly and shapeless. Some would gloomily have it that pop descended into an ahistorical inertia in the 00s, cycling through a tatty parade of old signifiers. Others would point to this tribe or that as keeping its vital spirit alive. From either perspective, trying to grab onto this century’s music through its number one records seems a strange proposition.

Maybe Gladstone can help. His famous placing of bets is no kind of socialist endorsement: he was appealing to his notion of a spirit in “the masses” that transcends factional (class) interest – the surges of support for a noble cause that led, in his eyes, to many of Victorian politics’ grand reforming moments, and overturned any partisan support of particular classes for the status quo. By focusing critically on only the best-selling record of any given moment, I’ve tried to place myself to pick up on as many of pop’s broad-based swells of sentiment as I can. There’s a nagging feeling that those kind of hits – the ones that stick around and define a summer, a winter, or a year – are more genuine and worthy of note than the mayfly one-week wonders that might surround them. But this is misguided. The pop charts have always also been about the classes – a mess of overlapping factions and specialisms that sometimes, somehow, get their message through. And the format of Popular also forces me to pay attention to this jabber of enthusiasms that a smoother history might overrule.

So number ones are a volatile balance of the masses and the classes, and that’s why I like to write about them. Still, though, 2000 is a shit of a year for doing it.

There are forty-two singles to cover, more than any year before or since. This berserk turnover is no accident: let’s remind ourselves of what getting a number one took at the turn of the 00s. In general, a hundred thousand sales would do the job. Pick the right week and you could hit the top on barely half that. Competition for number ones was planned to a degree, with release dates shifting back and forth to give bands with strong fanbases the best chance of a week’s glory. Those fanbases knew exactly what was coming, because singles were released to radio weeks in advance so they could build or mobilise an audience. On the relevant Monday, multiple formats in the main record shops helped fluff performance and ensure a high entry and peak. It was an unromantic business: marketers and fans united in what amounted to a business planning exercise, with all the thrill of a well-ordered Gant chart.

With hindsight, you notice two things. First, it’s astonishing the charts of the late 90s and early 00s are as representative as they are. There is a ridiculous number of number ones, but no more injustices than usual. Big records have always missed number one, whole styles have been neglected, but this period is no worse for it than any other. The masses remain in full voice.

The second curious thing is that this system, far from being sewn up, was ripe for gaming, vulnerable to the influence of faction. If you had a big enough fanbase, and picked the right week, you could get anything at all to number one. The charts have never been more open to the possibility of pop theatre than in the 00s: it might have been a golden age for wannabe Maclarens. But almost nobody took advantage of it. Of course, once bands built the kind of support to make trolling the charts a live possibility, most of them simply couldn’t be arsed any more.

It wasn’t just the innate conservatism of the act with an audience to please, though – the very idea of the charts as something that should be “subverted” seemed to belong to a prior age. One of the things that happened after punk was that the relationship of the underground and the mainstream changed. British psychedelic and prog bands didn’t shun the singles charts quite as much as lazy history might summarise, but there was hardly ever an ideological angle to their occasional visits. Punk, and the Pistols specifically, altered that. The near-miss or spiking of “God Save The Queen” became a feat to emulate, a crime to avenge. By 1980 the charts were highly winnable territory – former or tangential punkers like Adam Ant and Paul Weller going straight in at No.1, then pop itself restaffed by the eager and glorious theorists of the New Pop. A series of peaks – of fondly recalled victories – followed: Paul Morley and Trevor Horn’s tactical conquest with Frankie; 4AD getting M/A/R/R/S to the top; the situationist pop chaos of the KLF; the Battle of Britpop. And all these became rolled up into a general sense of an era when the charts “mattered”. But you got the feeling that to many, they mattered because of this possibility of minor, nose-tweaking shock – the classes winning out against the masses, if only for a week or two – and their day-to-day operation was a mere backdrop to that.

The Manic Street Preachers, on the threshold of the 21st century, are almost the last in this tradition. They had the opportunity – a band with enough fans to do something in that torpid millennial January. They had the motive – a band with a long-standing interest in quixotic pop gestures, and a fan’s love of theatrical subversion: they’d even called one of their videos Leaving The 20th Century, after a Situationist slogan. They also had the method – “Masses Against The Classes” was a limited single release, to be deleted after a week, guaranteeing it a compressed sales burst and a high debut placing.

But did they have the song? And who were they actually aiming it at?

It’s very doubtful that “The Masses Against The Classes” is meant as any kind of coherent statement, even more doubtful that you can parse it as one. The Occam’s Razor interpretation is that they wanted a Number One, saw a way of getting it, and slapped a Chomsky quote at the start as a bit of decorative brand-building and because it tickled Nicky Wire. If you take the perspective that a Cuban flag in HMV was an inherent pop good, and the Manics are fixing the charts to provide an alternative to complacency – then “Masses” works as an unfocused blast of wrath. It’s better – a lot better – than Westlife’s “Seasons In The Sun”. High praise, eh? But let’s offer the band the respect of at least trying to read too much into it all.

The quotes it’s topped and tailed by – Albert Camus bringing up the rear – sit in uneasy relationship. “This country was founded on the principle that the primary role of government is to protect property from the majority, and so it remains.”; “A slave begins by demanding justice, and ends by wanting to wear a crown”. Side by side, Camus’ fatalism makes this a glum pairing: the liberation of property (which a slave, by definition, is) inevitably ends in the re-establishment of government, and the cycle begins again. The title – Gladstone’s invocation of the historical spirit of the masses, magically separated from their economic interests – offers some kind of way out, however mystical. Break the cycle by backing the decent impulses of the masses against the classes. It’s not an analysis I would agree with, but that’s how the salad of sources works together, for me.

That’s the title and the quotes. The actual song, meanwhile, takes a rather different approach: it’s a haters-gonna-hate sneer. “Success is an ugly word / Especially in your tiny world”: A lot of people, it seems, didn’t like the furrowed-brow AOR direction the Manic Street Preachers had taken themselves in for This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours, and the band, in the grand tradition of successful bands throughout history, interpreted boredom as envy. “The Masses” has them striking a defiant pose. Their grumpy old fans are the petty, factional classes, and their stadium-rockin’ newer ones are the noble masses.

It’s a nasty little record by this reading, but to really get how nasty it is, consider what it sounds like. This angry defense of a change of direction is packaged up in a song that’s a deliberate callback to their very first records. The early Manics single “Masses” reminds me of most is “You Love Us” – snotty, scrappy, and the kind of audience- and critic-baiting statement of belief that feels terribly 1992 but no less electric for that. “Masses” is determinedly uglier, though, janking and grinding along on its basic rock undercarriage like a car dragging a broken exhaust along a road. The early Manics never sounded quite this loud, either – boosted by compression steroids into a very deliberate kind of rawness, though compared to those early records what’s been gained in power has been lost in swagger. So what we’ve got is a song played in a manner designed to excited the band’s old fans, powered to number one at a time and using a gimmick that calls back to the Manics’ early theatrical streak, but which is actually a brutal dismissal as elitists of the very people most likely to get enthused by those things. Now there’s subversion. Oof.

“I guess at heart I remain some kind of a crinkly English situationist who wants to have his MTV and critique it too. I am reminded of the story of how high priest of situationism Guy Debord rushed over to London from Paris in the 1960s when he heard that a trained guerilla combat unit was ready for his inspection in Ladbroke Grove. He was directed to military headquarters on the All Saints Road where he discovered a young guy watching Match Of The Day on his sofa with a can of McEwan’s Special Export in his hand…. Debord, quite naturally, stalked off in a rage.”
– Steve Beard, Aftershocks: The End Of Style Culture

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Comments

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  1. 31
    Billy Hicks on 3 Feb 2015 #

    Random fact you won’t see anywhere else, a poster advertising ‘Forever Delayed’ remained at Staples Corner Road in North London for a whopping *ten years* until McDonalds ruined it by covering it up with directions to their nearest in the summer of 2012, possibly for those coming off the M1 visiting Wembley for the Olympics.

    A part of my youth died a little when it went. It was always reliably there on my bus ride home from Brent Cross Shopping Centre, the title of the album becoming more ironic as the years rolled on.

  2. 32
    Fivelongdays on 3 Feb 2015 #

    STATEMENT.

    The Manic Street Preachers ended the 20th Century with their Millennium Stadium gig. 70,000 stayed overnight in Cardiff for what was, is, and forever will be the biggest outburst of Manics Fandom ever. (I’m on the video/DVD – you can hear me describe them as ‘the most lyrically honest band in the world’.)

    And they started the 21st century by making a powerful statement. As has been noted, this is the Manics at their most self-mythologising – they are the only thing left to believe in, at least as the twin aberrations of the New Acoustic Movement/Indie Betwetters and Nu-Metal/Fake Freaks who were now taking over (I’ll have plenty more to say about that, maybe, one day). They were also turning against THEMSELVES – TIMT was a decent album, but there were some really dull moments on there (Hello, The Everlasting), while this is the Manics showing they are NOT some shitty little indieschmindie band, but a big, dramatic, glamourous ROCK’N’ROLL act.

    So to see them play this while we were all willing, and hoping, and praying it would get to number one was something. And it getting to number one was something, a kick in the face for those who would deny Reality, Truth and Intelligence in this new (?) age.

    Personally, I prefer it to ‘…Tolerate…’ – it hits my rocky nerve, and it hasn’t been quite as overplayed. In fact, it’s not even guaranteed to make their live set, as anyone who saw their fantastic Holy Bible shows before Christmas will attest to.

    After this? Well, it would have been nice if ‘Found That Soul’ and ‘Your Love Alone’ had magically got to number one, and it would have been even nicer if they’d bothered to release anything from ‘Journal For Plague Lovers’ (their second best album and the second best album of the noughties) as a single and it had hit the top. I’m not-so-secretly glad we won’t have to discuss the band-kung-and-the-gang-b-side atrocity that is ‘The Love Of Richard Nixon’, though.

    So, yeah…

    This is The Manics. This is a Number One single. This is a 10.

    ——————————————

    On a more personal note, this was ALMOST the last time I listened to the Top 40 with a sense of nervousness and excitement about what was going to be number one. This was ALMOST the last time I bought a single to get it to number one. I was 17, about to turn 18, and the charts didn’t appeal as much to me as they had done a few years earlier.

    I suppose this is as good as any to say farewell to Popular. Off the top of my head, I think there might be 15 or so number ones, at most, between TMATC and whenever Popular’s present may be, that I want to say something about.

    So, yeah, I guess that, to all intents and purpose, this is it for me. I’ll still be lurking – and I’m sure there’ll be some debates I’ll want to take part in – but I’m basically retiring from my role as a League Two Popular Comments Regular (™).

    Thanks, Tom, and see you later.

  3. 33
    Rory on 3 Feb 2015 #

    Quite amazing to realise how little the Manics meant to the Australian charts. This is My Truth spent four weeks in the album chart, peaking at number 14; Know Your Enemy spent a single week at number 20. Only two of their singles made the top 50, for a week apiece (“A Design for Life” at number 50 and IYTTYCWBN at number 49). This? Nada. I wasn’t even aware of it until years later – possibly when checking the list of 2000s number ones at this very site – even though I was a fan of their albums from Everything Must Go onwards. Must be because I bought Lipstick Traces rather than Forever Delayed.

    Apart from one or two previous listens, this has been my first repeated exposure to the song… and I like it. I’m not sure I buy Tom’s “sneering at their old fans” reading, and without that there’s a lot to like in this blast of punk rawness. (Do I detect a hat-tip to the 1990s’ reinventors of punk at 1:10, when the guitars drop for a few seconds? Smells Like Nirvana.) Maybe it’s Manics by numbers, or maybe it’s just the Manics doing one of the things they do best. Either way, 7.

    One of the other things the Manics do best, for this late-Manics fan, is all the stuff that people seem to be bagging in this thread. I loved This is My Truth, and “The Everlasting”, and Know Your Enemy and its singles, and their near misses for the top spot in 2004, and Lifeblood – man, did I love Lifeblood – and then I stopped paying attention for a bit; but then came Postcards for a Young Man, and that was great, and Futurology is pretty good too. I don’t suppose they’ll ever bother the top of the singles chart again, but I’m glad they haven’t packed it in yet, and doubly glad they didn’t follow through with quitting after Generation Terrorists.

  4. 34
    Tom on 3 Feb 2015 #

    #32 Thanks Fivelongdays – glad you’ll still be lurking, and cheers for all your comments over the years.

  5. 35
    Fivelongdays on 3 Feb 2015 #

    @33 – You really do need to get yrself Journal For Plague Lovers, for reasons I’ve explained above.

    I’m still glad they’re still going, but if they’d split after JFPL, it would have been somehow fitting.

  6. 36
    Rory on 3 Feb 2015 #

    @35 I did buy it at the time, and listened to it once or twice, but it didn’t click and I moved on. Will go back to it, though, and try again. Ditto Send Away the Tigers.

  7. 37
    JoeWiz on 3 Feb 2015 #

    Welcome back, Popular. I was 16 when this decade started, ten years worth of my salad days were coming up, and the first two years or so, before I went to university, were spent studying the charts closely, so hopefully i’ll have a fair amount to say about the next 100 records or so. Not that much of it will have any insight.
    At the time, I steered clear of pre Everything Must Go Manics, the sheer intensity of Holy Bible was all a bit much for me at the time, I was much happier with TIMTTMY and its lumbering, overwrought safeness. This was far too reminiscent of the early period for me to really like, and even though its perfectly listenable today, its all a bit po-faced and right on for me to really like.
    Good to see Landfill Indie getting a mention…

  8. 38
    Mark M on 3 Feb 2015 #

    On the subject of the Cuban flag, I’ll spare you my customary rant about the British left and Latin America – it’s probably on various Freaky Trigger comment threads, but certainly comment 24 on the Ricky Martin one. Anyway, I believe the Manics wised up after actually going there in 2001.

  9. 39
    Chelovek na lune on 3 Feb 2015 #

    I’m really not getting the admiration for “Your Love Alone…” – to me it’s pretty much a career low point, certainly outdone in the “mainstream pop rock” strand by numerous other songs, starting with “It’s Not War (Just The End Of Love”. “Empty Souls” I could have tolerated as a no 1 (although really: it’s still not a patch on this one), “The Love Of Richard Nixon” – is, at least, kind of admirably experimental…..I guess?

    No 2s aside…yes, “Journal for Plague Lovers” is a fine album, but does push to the fore perhaps too much all the obvious Richey shortcomings and frustrations – too much of the synthetic cubist-type cut-up lyrics that attract attention but are usually too incoherent for their own good. I do wish they’d released a single from it – I think my favourite track i one of the less extreme, less in-your-face ones, “This Blood Sport Severed”, but there are more gripping options that might have done better on the charts…perhaps.

    As for the more recent stuff, I think “Rewind The Film” is an absolute stunner – the least “Manics” Manics album, arguably, stripped down and the brass section played up – two great singles (their first since “Motown Junk” to miss the top 75), “Show Me The Wonder” (lyrically referencing back to “Found That Soul” as blatantly as TMATC does to “You Love Us”) and the quite, quite gorgeous “Anthem For A Lost Cause” (the videos for both of these, and the album title track form a trilogy set in the mining communities of South Wales – and well worth seeking out in their own right).

    “Futurology” grips me less than “Rewind The Film” – but it does provide evidence (in “The Last Jet To Leave Moscow”) that they realised that the whole idealization of Cuba thing was really bloody silly (I see Castro is currently ranting that Islamic State is a plot of the West…) – there are few half-decent tracks, but it is too polished for my taste overall.

    It has, however, been an immense pleasure to grow up with the Manics, and see and hear them grow up with me. Back in 1991/92, as a teenager (wearing lipstick to see them at the Kilburn National) I don’t think I would have imagined they would still be a going concern, let alone, basically, a seriously vital band over two decades later.

  10. 40
    PurpleKylie on 3 Feb 2015 #

    I remember first watching this on TOTP the week it went to no.1, more specifically, it was their performance of it from the Millennium Stadium gig that was played on the show. I still play it every now and again on my iPod if I’m in a real “angry rock” mood and it still gets me going after all these years.

    I wish I could write an incredibly eloquent essay about it but I can’t really add anything that a lot of other people in this thread haven’t already said, plus I’m not as well-read as most other Manics fans. I love how this was the first new #1 single of the 21st century, it’s a shame the rest of the decade got swamped with so much mediocrity in Number One Land. In a way I also kinda find it amazing that a band who came from a small town 10mins up the road from me had a #1 single, in a way I guess it’s more special than a big city like London or Manchester that have spawned dozens of bands.

    The whole TIMTTMY era isn’t one of the most fondly looked upon eras for Manics fans, but for a 10-12 year old girl at that period from 98-2000 it was a good introduction to them and it’s a fond bit of nostalgia to me. Of course I wouldn’t dive into the whole manifesto of the band with the whole Holy Bible era until I was in my late teens, when I could be able to handle all that dark, literary material.

    Call me a biased fangirl but it’s an easy 10.

  11. 41
    flahr on 3 Feb 2015 #

    METAL [8]

    “Your Love Alone”, “The Love Of” are both okay by me, although of course as with basically everything pre-2012 I didn’t hear them at the time.

  12. 42
    anto on 3 Feb 2015 #

    I would say the Manics have continued to evolve. Their output might have been patchy over the last 12 years or so, but never boring – Exploring many of the facets of their sound but never losing sight of what drew their audience to them in the first place.
    I hold a special affection for ‘This Is My Truth…’ I like the stillness and introspection of it, which was necessary after the two albums and four years preceding it.
    After I left school I went to live on the North Wales coast for a short while and it’s one of the records that reminds me of that time.

  13. 43
    Tim Byron on 4 Feb 2015 #

    Like Rory, I was enough of an (Australian) Anglophile to discover the Manic Street Preachers circa Everything Must Go despite them being largely ignored at the time here. I think I perhaps remember seeing a video for ‘Australia’ being played on Red, Foxtel’s music channel of the time, and thinking it was alright (the irony of an Aussie Anglophile being exposed to a too-British band singing about a paradisiacal Australia). And then I found Everything Must Go secondhand at a charity shop and loved its sadness and passion and cinematic sweep. I was keen to hear ‘If You Tolerate This…’ (which received Triple J airplay) and liked it but was a bit more bored by follow-up singles. And then the band dropped off my radar; I don’t think I heard ‘Masses Against The Classes’ (or indeed subsequent stuff) until I eventually won a cheap bid for Forever Delayed on eBay on a whim a couple of years ago. I had no idea it was a #1 in the UK until just now, and when I was listening to Forever Delayed it didn’t really stand out. Listening now, the only bit that really stands out is the ‘Twist And Shout’ bit they use to top and tail the song, but the rush of the rest of it is nice enough. The Chomsky quote at the start feels very 2000, from a time when the left seems more idealistic and utopian, when the right wing felt very weak (in a 2015 world where we recently experienced a Republican candidate saying essentially the same sentiments out loud in front of people – Romney and his 47% – the Chomsky quote no longer has the shock value it once had). I feel it’s more than a 4 but not much more. 5-6 maybe.

    Bands doing ‘reclaim old glories’ songs, trying to emulate their first couple of albums, very rarely pull it off, do they? I feel like there’s a sort of electricity you can hear in the music when a sound is in the right place at the right time, when it feels like something new, something vibrant. You can hear that electricity 50 years later in the Beatles, or 30 years later in Kraftwerk, in hundreds of other songs/bands. And try as bands might, they just can’t get that electricity when they try to go back to their roots.

    It’s funny, listening to Forever Delayed – ‘Motown Junk’ and ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ (which I’d also never previously heard until recently) immediately jumped out at me as having that electricity, and I had no idea until reading this thread they had a seemingly treasured place in the Manics mythology; in my head, the Manics had an interesting-but-not-entirely-successful ‘trying to be Guns’n’Roses phase’, then the interesting spiky Holy Bible phase, then commercial success, then slow decline – I was surprised that what I thought was the ‘trying to be Guns’n’Roses phase’ was as listenable as it was.

  14. 44
    will on 4 Feb 2015 #

    Fooled by the ‘limited edition’ ruse, I bought this the week it came out too. Looking back I think I liked the idea of it – the Manics getting angry, returning to their punk roots – better than the actual record. It’s messy, a bit incoherent and ultimately, not as good a song as You Love Us or Stay Beautiful. (Or indeed anything off Primal Scream’s XTRMTR, which came out around the same time and seemed to do the whole ‘indie stalwarts shaking their fist at the establishment’ thing with so much more style.)

  15. 45
    James BC on 4 Feb 2015 #

    I told off a Manics-fan classmate for selfishly buying this in two formats, thus depriving another Manics fan of a copy. Did the band’s socialist principles mean nothing to him.

  16. 46
    23 Daves on 4 Feb 2015 #

    #44 – Yes – that really kicked this little single into touch, and was seldom off my stereo for months (though I don’t return to it often these days).

    Oddly, the first half of 2000 felt like a period when some sort of left-wing political swing might happen. Ken Livingstone getting into office as an Independent (rather than Labour Party) London Mayor felt in some way significant, like the “proper” left of Labour breaking away and winning, but looking back wasn’t actually as significant as it first appeared. He quickly returned to the party when the opportunity arose, and the whole “Independent Ken” phase rarely gets mentioned these days.

    The Mayday protests were also particularly charged that year, or at least dominated the media. I seem to remember other bits and pieces kicking off too, which made me wonder whether Labour would shift slightly leftwards in response. A few years later, the Gulf War protests kicked off, Blair ignored everyone, and we were left in no doubt that it would never happen.

    To have this single and “XTRMNTR” out right at the start of the year made me feel as if, in both popular culture and politics, changes were afoot. But really, both were just the old guard sounding off in their usual ways, to greater or lesser success, and not significant of any wider trend. I genuinely found that disappointing.

  17. 47
    Mark M on 4 Feb 2015 #

    Re46: Also early that year (and relevant in this context!) there was the successful coup against Alun Michael, who had been inserted into the job of First Secretary (now First Minister) of Wales by some extremely crude Blairite strong-arming. That was partly a left-wing reaction, but also a nationalist one. It was a clear parallel to London, both showing that while New Labour was committed to genuinely radical constitutional change, Tony/Mandy/AC were hoping they could do it while maintaining control by inserting their people to run the newly devolved places. The backlash in both cases showed that voters wanted an actual transfer of power.

    I have a feeling that IndieKen picked up quite a range of votes, including from people who weren’t necessarily to the left of the cabinet. My mother, for one – my father, who was in a Labour activist phase, was furious with the both of us.

  18. 48
    Kieron on 5 Feb 2015 #

    The last single I bought in all formats the day of release. End of an era, of a sort.

    3/10.

  19. 49
    23 Daves on 5 Feb 2015 #

    Now I’ve actually thought about it, I think this was the last single I bothered to buy at all on its day of release. No other examples spring immediately to mind. This either means that major labels employed the “super limited edition, buy it NOW or not at all!” ruse less for singles as the years rolled on, or (more likely) that the acts they did this for weren’t of as much interest to me.

    I continue to buy many albums on the Monday of release, of course, but I can’t get much excited about CD singles. Or even over-priced £6.99 7″ singles.

  20. 50
    Andrew Farrell on 9 Feb 2015 #

    #29 – Stuart Maconie’s Cider With Roadies talks about (amongst other things) the thankless task of running up the NME page where they mailed questions out to bands and printed the replies – most of the “Thursday / Tea / Not sure yet” variety, and how before he heard a note of their music the Manics won his heart with an essay topped with an apposite quote for each answer.

  21. 51
    Inanimate Carbon God on 10 Feb 2015 #

    This is not the best Manics single by some distance. But for its timing, its spirit and its unapologetic visceral thrills, it’s a 9. A crying shame we can’t discuss them again.

    I will return to say more about this in the near future, but it would probably give the next TPL entry a run for its word count.

  22. 52
    Mark M on 10 Feb 2015 #

    Re50: I can well imagine that. They would have been young and eager then, mind – Maconie left the NME in late ’92 or the start of ’93.

  23. 53
    Tommy Mack on 11 Feb 2015 #

    I’ve spent the past week or so since I got new phone Spotifying The Manics’ last 15 year: a pleasant surprise, every album has something that invites repeat listen: Futurology and Rewind The Film in particular are blinders. Maybe the best overall albums they’ve done since Everything Must Go. Know Your Enemy doesn’t have much I’d consider classic MSP but there’s loads of interesting pastichey stuff that still feels like it has their drive and passion to it. Lifeblood feels hard-going: not a lot of fun stuff but more worthwhile than the gruelling back half of TIMTTMY. Nearly all their albums are too long though, I really don’t know why a they’d pad nearly every album to 16+ tracks when they could put out normal length albums that would be considered killer classics.

    As for MAtC, listening to the studio version rather than live, it’s grown on me a little: decent chorus and some billion dollar rawk production bringing James’ rasp out nicely on the chorus but it’s never going to be among my favourite 21st Century MSP hits, let alone if we bring the 90s stuff in too.

  24. 54
    Tom on 12 Feb 2015 #

    My favourite late Manics song (that I’ve heard) is “Postcards From A Young Man”, which has some of that mix of weariness, cynicism and pride Izzy was talking about on the “Go Let It Out” thread. It reminds me – and here’s a comparison I expect the MSPs would not appreciate – of the best of solo Morrissey.

  25. 55
    weej on 12 Feb 2015 #

    I hadn’t heard any new Manics material for a decade or more, but for some reason listened to ‘Walk Me To The Bridge’ last year and was very pleasantly surprised – it has this refreshing youthful energy to it, not something I’d expected, and in the end it even ended up (just about) making my top 50 tracks of the year.

  26. 56
    Erithian on 12 Feb 2015 #

    I was listening to “Futurology” just before this entry was posted and finding it a lot more listenable, even if you couldn’t imagine any of the tracks as number one singles today. Always something worth hearing on a Manics album. Ever since hearing “Love’s Sweet Exile” jumping out of the radio in 1991, I’d had a bit of a football-fan affinity with the Manics (a much younger work colleague was astonished that someone my age described themselves as a fan!) but TMATC was a bit like van-Gaal Manchester United – still your team but hard to really get behind. The intro and opening verse are vintage but it gets a bit muddy and incoherent after that. Still good to have a record like this at number one though – a bit of political rock to kick off the new millennium, just don’t get used to it.

    I’ve just looked up the line-up for the Millennium Eve gig at the Millennium Stadium – Super Furry Animals, Feeder, Shack and Patrick Jones (Nicky Wire’s brother). I remember enjoying the gig on TV and presenter Jenni Falconer looking exquisite in a green dress! Apparently the gig set a European indoor crowd record of 57,000. Two days later an even bigger crowd at the same venue saw Andrew Lloyd Webber, Daniel O’Donnell, Bryn Terfel and Cliff (doing Millennium Prayer obv.) on “Millennium Songs of Praise”.

    Fivelongdays #32 – hats off for your contributions, but never say never when it comes to returning to Popular. You might call it retirement, but others are still stepping out of theirs many years on!

  27. 57
    Tommy Mack on 12 Feb 2015 #

    Tom @ #54 – Postcards… is a good shout: killer opening couplet and there is something of Moz about it (maybe more late-era Smiths, Sheila Take A Bow-type stuff than solo I’d say but then I don’t know his solo stuff very well at all). It’s Not War, the opening track on the Postcards… album is pretty cracking too.

  28. 58
    Shiny Dave on 12 Feb 2015 #

    It’s amusing to look at this piece of chart theatre as a near-dead art, when we consider that the *last* bunny of the 2000s – or did its unwitting opponent attain bunny status before 2010 arrived? – was a very similar piece of chart theatre, from much the same people? I imagine there’s a fair few common members of the groups who took this and that to bunnyville.

    I prefer Bunny Against The Cowell to this, which just feels messily simplistic on first listen, but I’m pretty sure it basically requires familiarity with Manics cultdom to make sense, and I wasn’t in that. Even now, it’s just a handful of the more “mainstream” singles (A Design For Life, The Everlasting) that I listen to. A heavily caveated 4 for me.

  29. 59
    Tom on 13 Feb 2015 #

    History repeats itself first as theatre, second as panto!

    (I did think about that other bunny when writing this, though my ideas about it might change completely by the time I get there!)

  30. 60
    Billy Hicks on 13 Feb 2015 #

    58 – Its opponent confuses things by being number 1 for w/e 2nd January 2010, which while dated for the new decade was the chart announced on Sunday 27th December 2009 so covers a full week of noughties sales. So whether Bunny McBunnyderry is the last #1 of the noughties or first #1 of the 2010s is something to be decided, I guess.

  31. 61
    FiveLongDays on 13 Feb 2015 #

    @56 – thank you! It’s only a semi-retirement, because (as I’ve said) there are some future number ones that I’ll want to talk about anyway and there’ll be discussions that I’ll want to take part in when I read the threads. It’s just that my personal tastes were moving far away from the sorts of things that topped the chart that this feels like a good plece to bow out (although I could have equally done the same with ‘Pretty Fly…’, ‘…Tolerate…’ or even ‘TDDW’.

    @58 I may – or may not – have been making a reference to Bunny Against The Spoiler in my original post on this thread. Suffice to say, THAT one is one of the ones I’ll be commenting on.

  32. 62
    Inanimate Carbon God on 13 Feb 2015 #

    @61 Wouldn’t miss that one for the world either! Even if the 2000s were a shit sandwich, at least the bread was craftsman baked and infused with the finest spices.

    [/Intentional Partridge]

  33. 63
    ciaran on 18 Feb 2015 #

    I knew this was the decade’s first Number 1 at the time but until recently I never heard it at all except recently in waiting for its place here.

    Its something of a post 90s hangover and the kind of thing that was more in line with early 90’s Manics. They’ve never been my favourite indie act and while it’s a bit patchy outside of the chorus it’s not as bad as I thought it might be. 5

    I’m surprised that they were still chart regulars after this right through to the mid to late 00’s because there wasnt anywhere near as much media hype for them as there was during the EMG/TIMTTMY era.

  34. 64
    Ron Keenan on 19 Sep 2017 #

    A great record. 8/10 imho. Thrilling, visceral and a return to form for the Manics. A huge sense of delight from me when singles as good as this reach #1.

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