Manic Street Preachers – Gold Against the Soul

Out with the lovable combination of hair metal and The Clash, in with a grating attempt at grunge and stadium rock! Yes, everything here is “big” and space-filling. An unfortunate attempt to sound accessible hardly balances with the drums not sounding shitty and nothing being laughably dated.

See, MSP (or “The Preachers of Manic Street” as their fans know them) really wanted a hit right then. The first album bombed outside of England, so they adjusted their sound and pretended what they really wanted to do was sound like rockers from Angsttown, New York. Not that I’m doubting the lyrics’ genuine misery, they’re usually the good part, but musically every song here shouts “play me! Play meee!” in a far more cloying way than this album’s predecessor. Christ, a bunch of these songs feature strings, for fuck’s sake. Just listen to the terrible adult-rock switch on the chorus of “Life Becoming A Landslide” or the Stone Roses-type dance-rock of “Roses in the Hospital” or the Pumpkins-lite “whiny lead guitar playing angst notes over a mid-tempo riff” that starts “Sleepflower” or “Nostalgic Pushead” attempting to gain fame by winning the coveted “worst song title” ever award, or the crap horror movie guitars on “Yourself” or the quasi-funk of the title track …nearly every song tries a new way of being successful. And it worked, of course, because everyone in America now remembers Manic Street Preachers.

So, this is a bad album. The main culprit is once again narm, but the fault here is with the music, whereas with the first album I mostly blamed the lyrics. This one’s almost entirely a litany of personal problems – insomnia, drug abuse, self mutilation, general self loathing – those themes are actually pretty jivin’ if you ask me. It’s a bit much to be clubbed with them repeatedly, but go for it. JDB’s singing is still impressive as well – dude can sure scream on note, which is not something oft-duplicated for so many long notes. The problem is that nearly every song irritates my penis musically. Usually it’s the desires for success I listed above. Then there’s the part where half the songs are filler. The only truly good song on here is “La Tristesse Durera”, a depressing song about war veterans that doesn’t try to do too much and has a fantastic slow build to the final chorus. Then there’s a silly piano coda thing, but nerts to that, it’s a winner. “Roses in the Hospital,” aside from the part where it’s a silly pop song about putting yourself in the hospital, features some great moments too. But that’s about it. There’s better stadium rock everywhere in this world. The space for severely depressed, uncatchy Journey is pretty small.

Other than that, the price of admission is only partially justified by some the lyrics. Richey tries to show just how dark and miserable he and the world is with every line, so it’s a bit much, but check out some of these witty ditties:

“My idea of love comes from a childhood glimpse of pornography” – hee!

“Life has been unfaithful / And it all promised so much” – Ha-ha!

“Too many teenaged holes to fill” – Hey, that’s kinda creepy, guy who was known for taking multiple teenaged girls backstage after shows

“I try to walk in a straight line / An imitation of dignity / From despair to where?”

Well I dig it. But look, the musical annoyances are constant and gah-inducing. Stay away from most of this, or you may find yourself mumbling about “losing pieces of sleep.” I mean, come on, I’m an insomniac and I think that’s a stupid way to describe insomnia.

4/10

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