Friday, July 21, 2006

MP3: Manic Street Preachers Discography - Part Two: Generation Terrorists (1992)

This post has taken a little while to come, and the main reason is really tied into the nature of the album itself. It's just so bloody big. 18 tracks, 6/7 of which were released as singles. I guess it tied into the audacious and contradictory nature of the Manics in 1991/1992 that their first album should be a double. At this point, as i've already mentioned, they claimed that it would be their only album, would reach #1 in the American and British charts, only for them to split. That didn't happen, and I think some of it can be tied into the overly ambitious nature of Generation Terrorists. It's got some moments of absolutely genius, and some moments of REAL filler.

As the band prepared to release the album, they were fast becoming one of the most talked about bands in Britain. One of the most notorious incidents in their history, known even to many casual non-fans, and obsessed over by all major Manics obsessives, occurred when journalist Steve Lamacq told guitarist Richey that he wasn't sure whether the band's image and manifesto was really genuine. In reply Richey carved the words '4 Real' into his arm using a razor in front of the shocked journo. It's a seemingly small moment of (perhaps very foolish considering the copycat tendencies of some fans) rock and a roll history, but one that would foreshadow some of the problems that would occur in the future.

Shortly after the release of the Motown Junk single, the band would release another single, You Love Us, on Heavenly. Another audacious and brilliant slice of rock, it stands up today as one fo the bands classic singles (and i'll take another look at it when i get onto the album proper.) The Heavenly version is also noted for having one of the best music videos the band would ever make, a Clash aping montage of sloganeering and live footage that they would later reuse as a backdrop on tours. There's a link to it below.

The album took around a year to prepare, and was finally released in February 1992. The original title was set to be Culture, Alienation, Boredom & Despair, a line from the song Little Baby Nothing, and a title that I vastly prefer to the chosen one. It reached a rather good (but still not number one) #13 in the UK album charts. You can get more info on the sleeve and some other anecdotes on the creation of the album at Wikipedia, but for now i'd like to just focus on why I think the album, though clearly flawed, is so notable. The main reason is that within a year of the frankly shoddy New Art Riot album, the band, and mostly James (because Sean is just a decent drummer, Nicky is musically pretty useless and Richey doesn't come into it) managed to create a double album that is for the most part incredibly enjoyable. For a 23 year old (James' age at the time), this feat is pretty bloody impressive, especially on some of the instrumental moments on Little Baby Nothing or the final conclusion of Condemned To Rock 'N' Roll.. Nowadays the album seems musically quite stuck n its time. The Guns N Roses influence is very very obvious, and even attempts to branch out, such as on the Bomb Squad remix of Repeat, are also stuck in the era due to the fact that hiphop also (obviously) moved on to other sounds. But anyway, let's talk about the tracklisting. This may take a while.

As I said Slash N Burn (a single), gets us off to a pretty typical start. The guitar sound is very Slash, but luckily none of the riffs or melodies are actually stolen, so the Manics shouldn't feel too guilty about things. The fact that a lot of the songs here are slower than their New Art Riot counterparts again goes to show how much James had developed; he can let things go at their own pace and put the melodies/riffs up front without covering things in distortion or smothering them by going too fast. I can't say any lyrics specifically jump out at me, which is a shame for the albums opener, but stuff like Madonna drinks Coke and so you do too and Drian your blood and let the Exxon spill in have a nice poetic note to them (and make quite fair points too). The next songs title alone is enough to show when the album was made, as a few of the banks have now changed their names (and one has even stopped running). Natwest-Barclays-Midlands-Lloyds starts fantastically, and again when you realise that James is playing and arranging all of the guitar here, it's verrrrry impressive stuff. The chorus is pretty fun, and the muted guitar during the verses is very very METAL! The echoed drums also add to the 80s rockness of the whole thing, but luckily James voice is in good enough form to make sure that you still remember that this is a British band we're listening to. Actually my favourite part of the whole thing is the lovely piano outro, which hints at better things to come (notable Little Baby Nothing). Third up is Born To End, and again the Guns comparisons are obvious. The problem with some of the album being quite derivative is that when you have 18 tracks of it, you're much less likely to get through to the end of the album without becoming a little bored. Luckily Born has a reaaally nice chorus rhythm, and a stunning solo. Really transcendent guitar work here from James.

Luckily the slight monotony of sound finishes for a bit with one of the most stunning songs the band have ever produced. It's no wonder that it still gets played at practically every show they perform, because Motorcycle Emptiness is incredible storytelling. It's also infuriating because compared to other songs on the record, Nicky and Richey manage to get every single line of the lyrics sounding brilliant. James music is absolutely beautiful, the production is very warm and doesn't sound too timebound. The music set behind the lines Just like lungs sucking on air/Survivals natural as sorrow just fits the words soooooo well. Again, for a 23 year old, you just think how the hell did he write something so good after writing Teenage 20/20 so shortly before. The repeated refrain of All we want frmo you are the kicks you've given us also = ace. The song is also notable for having what I think is the best video the band ever produced. A sort of alienated, Welsh Lost In Translation style walk through Japan, with bits of time-lapse photography obviously influenced by Reggio's Koyaanisqatsi, it's sheer perfection. Again there's a link below, and if you have or haven't seen it, you need to watch it again. And again.

You Love Us follows, and brings up the records momentum again. I think i'm suffering slightly from having heard it faaaaaar too many times now, but it still stands up as being a lot of fun, despite being slightly embarrasingly earnest. I know it's meant to be a slight piss-take, because obviously at this point a lot of people hated the band, but really the band only deserved to write the song after writing the far better Holy Bible record... Still, the lyrics are suitably anarchic and the guitarwork is flawless. The new coda tagged onto the end of the song (different from the Heavenly version) again features more very very fine guitarwork from James.

Something notable about the next song, Love's Sweet Exile, is the fantastic use of a reading of Nicky's brother Patrick's poetry over the beginning. Tied to James guitar and vocals, it's one of the best intros on the record. (Patrick would later go on to release an album of his readings backed by music from the Manics and Super Furry Animals, amongst others. It's...okay.) The singing of the songs title over the metallic riff at the start and during the verse is also completely transcendent. That shit is damn hard to play, trust me. Next up is one of my very favourite songs on the album, Little Baby Nothing, a softish metal ballad featuring vocals from notorious ex-porn star Traci Lords (notorious because it was discovered that many of her films were made when she was 16). The band had originally tried to get Kylie Minogue to record the vocal, which would have been absolutely perfect, being as it is about the exploitation of women by men, but sadly she declined. The fact that James would later write a group of songs for her, some of which she would even release as singles, is a funny coincidence. Whether it's a coincidence that they completely failed, being some of her worst charting singles of all time, it's hard to say. *cough* Traci Lords vocals may be semi-awful, but the arrangement is so beautiful that it hardly matters. A lot of people go on about how the Manics were better when they actually 'rocked', but some of the best moments on GT are actually the quieter ones. The ending, with You are pure, you are snow, you are the useless sluts that they mould/Rock 'n' Roll is our epiphany/Culture, alienation, bredom and despair is as i've said before, a bit of a manifesto.

I've always thought that Repeat was a big mistake. The bomb squad production does NOT WORK without P.E., and especially when the lyrics are some lumped together shocking slogans. The album has two versions of the song. Ouch. To this day, I can't listen to the whole four minutes. It's painful. Tennessee is more soft rock, and at this point (track 9), the lethargy starts to settle in slightly. It's only the brilliance of the few singles that makes it possible to get through the second half of the album, despite some flashes of brilliance in even its lesser songs. The funk metal of Another Invented Disease is mostly unsuccessful, except for the pre-chorus riff, which is just a metalstep below prime Metallica. Well, prime Black-album Metallica. YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN METAL FANS! Ahem sorry turned into Prindle there. Luckily the next song, Stay Beautiful, is a stunner. As songs about being 'all broken up at seventeen' should be, it's fast, funny, rebellious and, importantly, not too long. The intro riff is Greatness itself, and despite the silly chorus guitar noise (also works better live you see, where you can swear without being sued by the radio authorities), it's one of the albums best, and the solo is wonderful. It's joyful and stupid and fun.

So Dead works a lot better than some of the albums other more average tracks just because the lyrics work a hell of a lot better, and because again it's not so obviously a 'heavy' song. After that, a repeat of Repeat. Spectators of Suicide is too long. Slow, and not good. It's a shame, because I used to love everything about the album, but listening to it now, with a bit of hindsight and a wider musical palette, I can see why it wasn't a huge success. At this point the aesthetics were often better than a lot of the music, and it wouldn't be until The Holy Bible era that they would really match each other. The next song is by FAR the worst thing on the album. A cover of a song called Damn Dog by a band called the Sleez Sisters. It is fucking horrendous, and i've never ever heard it defended. Not once. AWFUL. We'll move on. Actually no, let's first ask why the band would set themselves up to be ridiculed by putting in a song that is so clearly filler? WHY???? Okay i'm done. Crucifix Kiss for me is a genuine highlight, with another great intro from Patrick Jones, but that may be due to the anti-Christian nature of the lyrics, which as a young teenager I was obviously into. Luckily, I can look past them a bit now and the music still holds up.

Never fear readers, we're almost at the end. And the end is good. The second to last track is Methadone Pretty, and sadly its a repeat performance of themes and melodies from the rest of the album. The 'I accuse history', however, is good, so they should have stuck that in another song and have done with it. Luckily, very luckily, the band end the album on such a high that I can forgive them most of the bad stuff i've sat through. Condemned To Rock N Roll is an epic of November Rain proportions, and is almost perfect in every way. 6 minutes of absolutely incendiary guitar work from James, beautiful lyrics from Nicky and Richey, one of the best solos James has ever recorded. If this had been their only album, it would have been a fitting ending, so it's only a shame we have to sit through a bunch of bad songs to get there.

So there we have it. The band's debut. It did moderately well, but was very flawed. I'm open to any comments people want to give me on it, because I feel quite odd about it now. I used to be obsessed with it, but now I find it intermittently irritating, with moments of bloody brilliance. When its good, its incredible. When its bad, its beyond dire.

How about some videos? There are absolutely loads on youtube. The recommended ones are highlighted with an asterisk. As I said, the Motorcycle Emptiness is the must see.


Slash 'N' Burn video
Slash 'N' Burn (live unknown source)
Motorcycle Emptiness video*
Motorcycle Emptiness (live 94 with Bernard Butler)
Motorcycle Emptiness (TOTP)
You Love Us (Heavenly video)
You Love Us (Sony video)
You Love Us (TOTP - First ever appearance)
Love's Sweet Exile (video)
Love's Sweet Exile (live unknown)
Little Baby Nothing (video)*
Repeat (Surprise performance on The Word)
Stay Beautiful (video)
Random live footage 1992

Live at Sussex Uni, 1992:

Slash 'N' Burn (live Sussex Uni '92)
Natwest Barclays Midlands Lloyds (live Sussex Uni '92)
Born To End (live Sussex Uni '92)
Love's Sweet Exile (live Sussex Uni '92)
Repeat & It's So Easy (Live Sussex Uni)


Interview + Live at Marquee, 1991*
MTV interview 1992
Canadian TV interview
Interview on Rapido, 1992*
Rare archive footage, Japan 1992
Nicky/Richey interview, 1992
Bizarre Irish interview, 1992

I hope you've enjoyed this post (the biggest i've ever posted), and as I said, please leave me some comments! Here are four songs from the album, hope you like them...

Download: Manic Street Preachers - Motorcycle Emptiness - MP3
Download: Manic Street Preachers - Little Baby Nothing - MP3
Download: Manic Street Preachers - Stay Beautiful - MP3
Download: Manic Street Preachers - Condemned To Rock 'N' Roll - MP3

Discography: (click to buy @

New Art Riot EP (1990)

Generation Terrorists (1992)

Gold Against The Soul (1993)

The Holy Bible - 2CD+DVD (1994)

Everything Must Go (1996)

This Is My Truth... (1998)

Know Your Enemy (2001)

Lifeblood (2004)

Forever Delayed - Hits (2002)

Lipstick Traces - Bsides (2003)

Great Western - JD Bradfield (2006)

Everything Live - VHS (1997)

Leaving The 20th Century - DVD (2001)

Louder Than War - DVD (2001)

Forever Delayed - DVD (2002)

Sweet Venom (Book)


Blogger Chris said...

Hi Jamie

Thanks for the comment on my blog. Sure is a long post, this one of yours! But I'll read it over the weekend and probably will return with my comments.



12:49 pm, July 21, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

er.... comprehensive much?!

thanks for the post - old live footage of my favourite bands always makes me smile :)


3:30 pm, July 21, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice to read some in depth analysis, but I think you're wrong about 'Repeat'. It's one of the Manics finest moments, and has as much to do with a critique of Welsh nationalism as with the failings of the British monarchy. Which makes the later flirting with the Welsh flag all the more hypocritical.

And surely 'Repeat after me / Fuck Queen and country' is one of the great opening lines? Up there with 'The sea is calm tonight' from Dover Beach.

4:17 pm, July 21, 2006  
Blogger Robert said...

Thanks for a great post and such a comprehensive trip down memory lane with all your links.

The Manic's career really begins for me with Motorcycle Emptiness. Motown Junk was a decent single but didn't live up to the hype they were generating about themselves.

Traci Lords was notorious for making porn films while she was under 16 and then immediately on her majority. She was in this really wierd position of being both a "victim" of exploitation and a symbol of feminist empowerment at the same time. Kylie might have been the better musical choice but Lords was the right choice for the song. I've heard some of her techno output since, it's kind of sub-NIN but crucially lacking in the self-loathing of the first few NIN albums.

I think you're a little harsh on Sean, he may not have contributed much to the band musically but he can definitely perform and you can tell from the live performances that his drumming is vital to get the powerful rock sound they wanted on stage. The Word performance is perhaps the most telling where technical hitches result in them becoming the White Stripes to no appreciable musical deficit. Nicky's bass parts are more important on the records.

For me both Generation Terrorists and Gold Against the Soul are more a set of great singles. They desperately wanted to do the big concept album and singularly failed to until the Holy Bible. However the imagery (obviously based on their teenage collages) and themes were all in the place.

Some other interesting points about the album for me are that this is the last time you can hear much of a strong Welsh accent in James's voice. The only time it's there from here on is in his choral lines. It is also the last album to feature big concept or philosophy songs from here on in all the great tracks are autobiographical or biographical in nature.

James's sunglasses are completely shit at this point. Kudos to whoever persuaded him they were a bad idea. The Sussex Uni footage is also interesting at it shows how isolated he is when performing with the band. Seeing him here is to see him post-Holy Bible. I wonder if they ever gelled as a unit on stage at all.

On the subject of "Repeat" great live song (probably due to the stop-go nature of the riff) but shows its deficiencies on a studio album. If they hadn't got hung up on their own mythology they could have left it as a live-only song which actually would have made it more of piece of mythos (like Love Will Tear Us Apart not being an album track). The Bomb Squad do an alright remix but really how are a bunch of New York republicians meant to do much with stuff like "Fuck Queen and Country"?

My personal favourite track here is You Love Us because it is one of those songs that every band should have that explain everything you need to know about the band you're seeing.

11:28 pm, July 22, 2006  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Another great post. Must say, though, I actually like Damn Dog. Certainly I can still listen to it now, while some of the singles (Slash n Burn, in particular) leave me a little bored.

Interesting what you say abut James's guitar work. I saw them at Cardiff Uni on the GT tour and the most intricate solos were accompanied by strobe light, making it tough to see James's fingers. This led me to believe he was miming and someone else was playing elsewhere. This probably wasn't the case -- we now all know what a fine musician he is -- but it looked like it back then...

Condemned to Rock n Roll: utter brilliance. Comparing it to November Rain: a travesty.

Looking forward to the next part.

8:24 am, July 26, 2006  
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7:09 pm, July 28, 2006  
Anonymous Ido Schacham said...

Great over/review of the record, practically took the words out of my mouth. I've only gotten into it in the last two years so I didn't get a chance to obsesse over the whole thing as a teenager even though I do obsess over its good parts. One comment though, Nicky may not be anything musically, but you gotta hand it to him not only for the lyrics but also for the performances and the passion with which he seems to be playing, always into it. It may be just for show, but man, what a show. 10x and peace out.

9:51 pm, July 28, 2006  
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Anonymous the_peanut said...

Hey Jamie!

Just found your website and this (very good!!) article in particular. I did a little piece on the new MSP myself and linked here from it, hope you don't mind.

12:02 pm, May 03, 2007  
Anonymous JG said...

Nice post, but I have a Q I will try to stump you on...

There's a compilation disk that "Love's Sweet Exile" was on with other various emerging artists from that year.

Any idea what CD that was?

8:53 pm, August 21, 2007  

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