Manic Street Preachers – If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next (CD One)

Last night, in the bar, my girlfriend spilled her beer on me and my pants. Faced with wet pants, I did the only respectable thing: I went to the bathroom, took off my shoes and pants, and dried my pants at the hand dryer. You should’ve seen the looks I got! But I stand by my decision, consarnit.

God I hate myself. Why oh why can’t I spend a night being social without spending my first eight waking hours the next day obsessed that I said something horribly wrong and everyone hates and put up with me because they feel guilty? That I “know” that people like me just fine (and in fact don’t care about my neuroticism) is nice and all, but it FEELS overpowering and awful. I want to lie in bed and cower and pull blankets over my head and stay way for weeks. That, or move far away to where nobody knows me and my not-particularly sordid past. Oh god it feels like I can barely stand up from the weight and I’ve been awake for three hours already. And this is a weekly occurrence for me, if not bi-weekly. I remember days at work avoiding my co-workers’ eye contact as if they were there last night, watching me be gregarious. Shame! Shame shame shame!

To distract myself from how I’m a useless person and nobody wants to hang around me ever ever ever and I should kill myself now to make the world a slightly better place, I shall discuss some Manics song. This is a heck of a single! IFTTYCWBN is still a great song, one that I’m happy to listen to a few more times for reviewing’s sake. Nicky isn’t a great lyricist, but “if I can shoot rabbits / Then I can shoot fascists” is a memorable winner. I know it’s ostensibly about the Spanish Civil War, but since that’s only one line it’s better read as generalized outrage at the political spectrum – it’s big and “aaah” filled and stringsy and cumbersome and sweeping, but easily catchy enough to pull it off. Galvanizing. Even if they say “if you tolerate this THEN your children will be next” in the chorus, making the title of the song a big fat Welsh lie.

And the B-sides! I understand artistic growth and all, but you’ve got to know your strengths. Lyrically, Nicky is easily at his best when he’s matter-of-factly spreading the word about injustice, like a grown-up Zach de la Rocha with a UK perspective. Musically, the Manics are at their best when they’re an alternative rock band like it makes a difference in the world. Because they’re really good at it! Try getting that piano hook to “Prologue to History” out of your head, and I rarely find piano hooks acceptable in rock songs. Listening now, there’s huge gap in modern music between unmemorable indie rock and memorably bad corporate rock. These guys could write a song like motherfuckers and do it while making you feel guilty for not being sufficiently involved in politics (or not killing yourself, but they were past that at this point).. And vocally, Mr. Bradfield is at his most interesting and original when yelling, firstly because it showcases his cute Welsh accent, and secondly because he can yell in tune and on key like few others.

So come here for a reminder of what a politically-charged, rock song, yelling good time you can have with the Manics. “Prologue to History” is a winner even if I don’t know what ethnic cleansing in the Highlands I’m meant to remember, and “Montana/Autumn/78” is almost as good even if I don’t know what happened in Montana in autumn in 1978.  They’re unabashed 90s rock songs, and if they along today they’d be just as good. Beats the hell out of having JDB repeatedly croon “be natural” at you over “stirring” strings and gentle guitar chords. Ugh. Well, the Manics didn’t “sell out” (though the album did sell in England like a motherfucker) so much as they got away from made them an interesting band. It’s sad that these B-sides were all the urgency they had. And that’s my truth!

9/10

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