Friday, December 29, 2006

Manic Street Preachers Discography - Part Nine: Lifeblood (2004)

Righty ho. Here we have it, the last Manics album so far. Next year will see the release of yet another one, to be called Send Away The Tigers, which from the few songs the band have played live seems to be yet another attempt to return to those fabled rock and roll roots (and to be honest, a rather bad attempt). Indeed for the last few Manics records its been hard to tell what the band are trying to do; whether they're following their own muse, or doing what they think their fans want, or trying to win back the hearts of the critics or press. Lifeblood is a rather interesting piece of the Manics puzzle, and one that certainly deserved more attention than it got on its initial release.

Produced by the legendary Tony Visconti in New York and Dave Eringa (Everything Must Go) in Wales, it's certainly a different sounding record to Know Your Enemy, and to my ears it's also a far superior one. It entered the UK album charts at number 13 and spent only two weeks in the top 75, making it the band's least successful record of their career.

The record opens with 1985, a track that betrays a definite New Order influence, both in terms of the use of synths, which continue throughout the record, and in terms of the overall shiny mixture of very poppy melodies with an underlying sense of melancholia. Visconti has constructed a rather nifty wall of sound that despite maybe sounding a bit too polished, manages to make the record sound a lot less plodding than Enemy. In places 1985 even sounds a little like Adore era Smashing Pumpkins, which is a very good thing indeed. It is. As for any huge lyrical revelations, it's sort of lacking (but then thats to be expected in light of the last few records. 'God is dead, like Nietschze said' is a bad line Nicky. A bad line.

The second song, and the first single from the record, is The Love Of Richard Nixon. Even more electrotinged than the albums first track, it surprisingly reached number 2 in the UK Charts despite sounding nothing like the band had ever released as a single before. The mega-twee casio riff during the chorus is very odd, and although it's not a patch on the leadoff singles from most of the bands other records, overall it's pretty enjoyable. The subject matter is rather irrelevant to be honest, just about everything that could be said about Nixon has been said, and so it's a lazy choice. A nicely produced guitar solo. Other than that, it's over so quickly it doesn't leave much of an impression.

Empty Souls was the second (and last) single from the record, and in my opinion its FAR better than the first. It's success relies on one solitary shining enjoyably shimmery piano riff, and yet this one little bit of inspiration lifts it above its surroundings so easily it makes you fester for more Manics songs of this type; ie ones where the band isn't running on indie automatic. The single reached number 2 in the charts, which is interesting in itself considering the first and second singles from any mid-level bands new album seldom stay at around the same position. In fact it's very odd that the record company decided not to release anymore, and to give the album up as a lost cause. Anyway, Souls chugs along in a very satisfactory (though never truly exciting, if we're honest) way, and for its 4 minutes leaves us happy and semi-fulfilled. Before we move on to...

A Song For Departure. Which is... quite nice, I suppose. Understated, mid-paced, it's pleasantly constructed and yet never really exciting. The lyrics also seem rather unsure of themselves. 'This is a song to break your heart to'. Hmm. Maybe if it was a little more exciting/emotional/interesting? An okay solo, but not enough to lift it above the line of averageness.

Next we have I Live To Fall Asleep. Which is instrumentally quite lovely, very nice production on the piano anyway. It's melodically good, with a nice key rising progression bit before the chorus, but again (and I don't want to sound like i'm repeating myself) it never really grows, or gets anywhere vital, or HITS ME like it SHOULD. See the thing with the reviews of these last 2 or 3 Manics records isn't that i'm forced to repeat myself, but that the band are repeating themselves, and so there's little I can really say about such uninspiring songs. Don't look at me, i'm irrelevant.

To Repel Ghosts is one of the most upbeat songs on the album, with a good shimmery PIL-like guitar riff throughout and some nice echoey backing vocals popping up every now and then for effect. Dum de dum de dum. You see the problem with this is that i'd rather be listening to the new GBV/Pavement/PIL/Uncle Tupelo stuff I got for christmas. At the moment, and i'm not sure whether i've said this to anyone before, Lifeblood is sounding a bit too Snow Patrol for my liking. Shiny, shimmery, anthemic, but soulless and tired. And i'm only half way through the album!

Emily, supposedly about Emily Pankhurst, is...okay. The synths are hilariously King Crimson (not a bad thing), and don't really suit the subject, and some of the lyrics are incredibly stilted, but it's still quite interesting. The 'It's what you forget that kills you' bit is very nice, I have to say.

Glasnost is...another song? Cor it's a good thing we're on the last proper album review isn't it? Except for the exciting bsides and rarities post i'll be doing next of course, that'll be uber-fun, I promise promise promise. Seriously though, if any of the Manics fans out there want to correct me on my AWFUL opinions and enlighten me as to why i'm wrong, then please do. That's the good thing about this lovely blog world. But I doubt you can (correct me that is) ;-).

OKAY! ENTHUSIASM! Always Never has a funny funky intro that really sounds like...a Wham song...or a Steps song...I forget which. But something very poppy. I know your game Bradfield. It's actually quite a nice change of pace, quite fun and enthusiastic, and you can't really go wrong with a bit funk. Well not too far wrong anyway. It slips down quite easily, like a fruit pastille after a good long suck so you've got all the sugar off. K?

Solitude Sometimes Is sounds a bit like the rest of the songs on the album. In one ear and out the other. Like a Charlatans bside, or an Embrace career. The same can be said for the next track, 'Fragements'. The lyric runs 'The fragements fail to hold me', and well, they do. The last few fragments of the old Manics died a long while back, and there's no real comparison between the band you imagine when you listen to this record and the one you heard on the first three records.

So finally we have Cardiff Afterlife, which is the best closing track on a Manics record for a while. Admittedly that's not really a big boast, but at least it's something. And at least Nicky isn't singing.

Phew. The end. But not the end. The next album is coming soon. The first single will be called 'I'm just a patsy.' Or a pasty. Someone must have made that joke first? Want to see some videos?

The Love Of Richard Nixon (music video)
The Love Of Richard Nixon (live on TOTP)
Empty Souls (music video)
Empty Souls (live on TOTP)
Emily (video by Patrick Jones)
Solitude Sometimes Is (video by Patrick Jones)
Fragments (video by Patrick Jones)
Cardiff Afterlife (video by Patrick Jones

And here are some songs from the album. Enjoy.

Manic Street Preachers - Cardiff Afterlife
Manic Street Preachers - Empty Souls
Manic Street Preachers - I Live To Fall Asleep

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)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, try as I might I can never muster more than a 'meh' in response to this album, which is - I'm sure the band would agree - infinitely worse than hating it.

I'm bouncing from one foot to the other like a child in need of a toilet in anticipation of the b-sides post!

9:32 pm, December 29, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lifeblood was a bit shit, wasn't it? I mean, Bowling For Soup had songs called "Emily" and "1985".

Looking forwards to the Bsides thingy - I hope "Patrick Bateman"'s in there.

9:33 pm, December 29, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I beg to differ. This album is definitely not as big as one of the first 4 Manic albums (you said 3 in your review, but Everything Must Go is a brilliant record), but I find it a lot better than the last two records. The Manics sound a lot more relaxed here, like they have nothing to prove, like the ghost of Richey isn't hovering above as much anymore. In the beginning I also disliked the record. Suddenly a year, maybe a year and a half after its release I started listening to it again. And to my surprise, the more I listened the more it grew on me. Do you know why? It's because listening to one of those first 4 usually requires a certain emotional charge, while you can listen to Lifeblood without having to feel like the World is crap. However, it's not exactly your average sunshiny record either. It's a simple record with a more sort of current British rock sound, but one that still has that Manic Street Preachers fingerprint on it. Also, JDB really exercises his pop-rock muscles on this album, far better in my opinion in comparison to his solo effort. Like you said, the stronger songs are on the first half of the record (as it is on most records by any band, the a-side hasn't really gone away, has it?), while the second half is weaker, but it still makes for a good listen to me. It's also quite interesting to see how an average album by the Manics sounds better than quite a lot of the new bands that are making records in Britain these days. So try to go easy on your expectations of the album, sit back, and you just may get to enjoy it as well.

4:47 pm, January 22, 2007  
Blogger Robert said...

Lifeblood is one of my favourite Manics albums. It is as inconsistent as any of them but when it is good it is some of their best. The Love of Richard Nixon is awesome and Cardiff Afterlife feels like the Ritchie song that they have been struggling to make on the last two albums. Tracks like Emily might be unfocussed compared to Holy Bible type tracks but lyrically they aren't as rammed and pretentious as the earlier stuff nor are they as self-consciously affected as Everything Must Go and later.

In a way I feel Lifeblood is an album put together by a functioning musical unit that finally seems to have dealt with its twin legacies of massive success and cult status.

JD Bradford is always going to be a bit of a musical genius but I think you can point at his solo effort to show that The Other Two do actually bring something to the mix and can result in something special.

9:31 pm, January 30, 2007  
Blogger An Edwardian English Gentleman said...

Sure I'll stop talking about Richard Nixon, when you stop talking to me about Jesus.

8:12 pm, June 06, 2008  

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