Playing God
The Manic Street Preachers: This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours

this was popularly seen as the moment the Manics became irrelevant. But despite being preceded by their two best releases: Richey James’s black-hearted suicide note The Holy Bible, and the powerful, optimistic post-Richey comeback Everything Must Go, This is my Truth… was actually their greatest commercial success. Because of the quality here, though, a lot of those buyers seemed to be very disappointed with the purchase. Everything Must Go was the admirable album: rather than milking the situation (it was made in the aftermath of Richey’s unexplained disappearance, and band manager Philip Hall’s death) the band looked forward, rather than back. On This is my Truth, though, they resorted to the dour navel-gazing that many expected on Everything Must Go. As such, the record represented a step backwards.

On reflection, This is my Truth has the makings of a powerful follow-up. It was only on 2001’s ugly, overblown Know Your Enemy that the group went beyond redemption. This is my Truth can be salvaged, so long as the listener is willing to focus on the more graceful, involving material, and ignore the over-produced dross.

Of course, a lot of this stuff has to go. Six of the original thirteen tracks are not good enough: “My Little Empire” (Nicky likes housework), “I’m Not Working” (Nicky doesn’t like flying), “You’re Tender and You’re Tired” (the kind of tune Bradders could knock out on his tea-break), “Be Natural” (not even adequate b-side material), “Nobody Loved You” (trite, sentimental tribute to Richey) and “SYMM” (their worst song by far).

So, to the new-and-improved record:

1. The Everlasting
A much derided song—mostly for the awful Phil Collins-esque social commentary (“The world is full of refugees / they’re just like you and just like me”). But, it’s actually a classic Manics stadium song. Sweet vocals from Bradfield, a heart-swellingly romantic chorus and a soaring string section. Musically, the band at their best.

2. If You Tolerate This, Your Children Will be Next
Initially, this sounded like a mediocre return single. Repeated playing on the radio revealed hidden charms, though. Contains some elegant ripples of guitar, and the lyric is a reasonably dignified homage to the slain soldiers of the Spanish Civil War. This one’s a keeper.

3. You Stole the Sun From My Heart
This one possesses an exuberance that is absent from too much of the record. A real blast of melodic sunshine—contains one of Bradfield’s best ever choruses. Hit the Top 5 after the group performed it at the Brits—and can comfortably rub shoulders with the band’s other hit singles.

4. Ready for Drowning
Definitely could have been a single: a rich, anthemic rock song. Labours under the weight of the over-production, but the band’s assured melodic knack keeps it afloat. The lyrical ruminations on what it means to be Welsh are wistful, but devoid of substance.

5. Tsunami
Here’s another terrific single. This one has a nice Eastern flavour. Only reached number 11 in the charts, this one may be a lost Manics classic. The jubilant “in-between-in between”s are the album’s magic moment.

6. Born A Girl
Nicky Wire grapples manfully with his gender confusion. This is navel-gazing, no question, but the haunting musical backdrop saves the day. A dark acoustic ballad which isn’t actually acoustic at all—James strums gently on his electric guitar. Interesting to hear a chap as laddish as Bradfield sing lines like “I wish I had been born a girl / and not this mess of a man.”

7. Black Dog on my Shoulder
Some great shuffling drum-work from Sean Moore here. This may be the Manics at their most middle-of-the-road, but it’s rather well executed. The sound of a band settling gracefully into their cosy middle-age.

8. Prologue to History (b-side to "If You Tolerate This…”)
The tortoise pace of the album’s second half really drags, so it would have been sensible to put in more frantic rock songs. This b-side became a live favourite, and it’s hard to see why it wasn’t considered to be up to album standards (especially when you consider some of the stuff that managed to make the cut). A mixture of early-90’s baggy piano and standard Manics stadium anthemics, it is actually one of their most glorious songs. Nick is actually on fine lyrical form: self-deprecating, funny and full of mischievous charm.

9. Montana Autumn ‘78 (b-side to "If You Tolerate This…”)
A slightly less thrilling rocker in the “Prologue to History” vein, but still damn good. Another burst of energy that would have kicked the album out of its second-half doldrums.

10. Anniversary to No-One (unreleased)
It may be awful, but there is no way it could be more awful than the album’s actual closer “SYMM”.

By: Kilian Murphy
Published on: 2004-05-25
Comments (5)

Today on Stylus
October 31st, 2007
October 31st, 2007
Recently on Stylus
October 30th, 2007
October 29th, 2007
October 30th, 2007
October 29th, 2007
Recent Music Reviews
Recent Movie Reviews