Manic Street Preachers – Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of

A great big honkin’ 2-CD B-sides compilation, as was the fashion in the early 2000s. There’s also a song called “4 Ever Delayed” to remind you what 5-year period you’re dealing with here. The Manics sure were gregarious ignorant lovable Welshmen, and being exceedingly imperfect, the medium of the B-side works pretty damn well. See, here the blemishes are to be taken in stride. And the B-sides are often almost as the good as the album songs; they’re sure as shit less pretentious, for one, and less produced for two, so not competing for single release means added respectability.

Which is a cop out from expecting constant great song quality, but lick my love pump, I’m not going to consider a group of B-sides in the same vein as a bunch of A-sides. Besides, I only said that as an aside. Lawlawlawlawl!

The title comes from some combination of the band’s old adorbz cross-dressing early dayz and a Greil Marcus book tying rock’n’roll to culture as a whole, but luckily that’s the extent of the abject overstepping of their bounds. Also, it’s not a god damned history at all, unless your version of history involves events in no discernable order, with a few new stories thrown in as if they happened in the past. But I think such a historian would be fired. Can you IMAGINE? God, Josephus would have that guy’s ASS. Or maybe that girl’s ASS. And Josephus was a crap historian. I mean, those events were so biased they make Sean Hannity look like a see-saw. Of course that’s just my opinion, I might be wrong.

So what we have here is first a CD of originals, including two new songs, and a second CD of covers, including three newbies. Neither are remarkable, but neither are without their charms. As usually happens with such compilations, the first complaint is to the selection and amount of songs. The first CD has a solid twenty songs and plays over an hour, but there are some stinkers in here, specifically the album-closing porkers “Valley Boy” and first world problem facepalmer “We Her Majesty’s Prisoners”. The second record is only 45 minutes long, and it’s not as though they didn’t have other covers to release here, so I’m not sure what they were trying to pull. There’s only one gosh darned song from the “The Holy Bible” period and natch it’s one of the best on here.

But I did mention charms, and the surprise here is that the Manics are able to magick up so many great moments, even amidst largely unmemorable songs. Dig how the intro of “Sorrow 16” plays the next chord while the last one is still ringing, or the entertaining speed-up on “Sculpture of Man” or pulling sadness from the drama on “Spectators of Suicide”.  That’s to say nothing of the steady plusgoodness of “Prologue to History” and “Horses Under Starlight”. A lot of it isn’t the most exciting ever, but this is a B-sides collection. It suffers from buried hook syndrome and one-hook-song disease, but this sort of consistency is admirable.

I saved a whole paragraph for the disc of covers.

No, two whole paragraphs! The Manics are unable to cover any song in any emotion other than utter seriousness, and the success of the cover in question tends to depend on the song’s temperament. “Rock ‘N’ Roll Music” and “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” not so much, but loud Clash covers and a Paul Robeson cover very much so. Two of the best covers are the melodic as fuck politic rave-up “We Are All Bourgeois Now” and The Rolling Stones’ “Out Of Time”, though in the latter case it’s just a matter of pulling hooks out of the Stoney air. Alas, the cover CD has a few too many acoustic forgettables, and that Nirvana cover should have stayed in the closet.

And where the hell is “Suicide Alley”, the band’s first release ever? That song is killer. No matter, this is a worthwhile release, even if the new original songs are misses and the boredom can set in if you stop paying attention, particularly on CD one. But the flaws are forgivable given the context; you’ll just spend your time wishing they’d play nice more often and focus on what we want to hear and yell at us more often. JDB is still the band’s real weapon, and quite a few of these are just that fine fellow. Though those often are the lame ones. I don’t know, but they sure as sugar pull off covering a gospel song and that’s pretty impressive. Nowadays, one hopes, they’d do right by their fans and release a comprehensive $44.99 box set and make their fans happy, since casual viewers wouldn’t want this anyway, but this was the fashion of the time. Me, I miss Montana/Autumn/78.

7/10

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