The album that turned me off the Manics as a teenager! And probably for the best, too. Teenaged boys should never identify with identifying with Richard Nixon. Plus I was getting pretty fed up with any mention of “souls” in music, preparing as I was for being a little shit that liked to fuck with my campus Christian organizations (mine was tactfully called “Campus Crusade for Christ,” presumably to make brown people feel as bad as possible). It’s telling that eighteen year-old me was getting a bit old for some of the Manics’ stances, but more important that this album threw out the band’s musical past, aside form their last single, in favour of a Britty electro-rock sound that sounds more like Coldplay’s “Clocks” than anything else. Or maybe The Cure with silliness.
At least it isn’t narm. What is here is passable music, but it sounds dated by the time the sound has left your other ear. It’s all muted pianos and drums made to sound like drum machines and cavernous backing vocals and atmospheric and missing the melodic hooks that held together the tortured English and frustrating politics. The softer sound makes it much harder to stomach line after line that sounds incorrectly phrased. The politics are appropriately toned down, but what is here – mainly an ode to Richard Nixon called “The Love of Richard Nixon” – simultaneously flies as true as an 1800s musket-shot and is the most interesting thought here.
I don’t have much to say about this album because this album says so little to me. It’s rarely bad (maybe “Always/Never” and “Cardiff Afterlife”) but the moments of goodness are fleeting and sound derivative. For once they were in front of a musical trend, but this is nobody’s best example of synthy pop music. If you’re going to do that you have to be cute or dancey. This is neither, and for a young Myles the Manics faded from my perception. By the time I came back I’d seen so much of my little world that I’m glad to have broken up