LipstickTraces

Manic Street Preachers – Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Manic Street Preachers

So we come to the Manics secret History. A collection of 35 b-sides and rarities is named “Lipstick Traces” after Greil Marcus’s book of the same name that describes the story of The sex Pistols on the road. Its contents is as musically varied, personal, political, contradictory and tragic as the history that the Blackwood band the Manic Street Preachers have endured. Beginning with “Prologue to History” that’s musically a throwback to the rhythms of Madchester, coupled with Nicky Wire’s pleading political lyrics , and a creeping fear of his own irrelevance “Today a poet who can’t play guitar, Tomorrow Steve Ovett has injured his calf,Next year the world’s greatest politician,Yesterday the boy who once had a mission.” Of The two “new” tracks “4ever delayed” is a soaring piece of Emotional stadium rock that makes up for what it lacks lyrically with world-weary verses, and a sky-scraping guitar led chorus. The second ‘Judge Yr’self‘ the last composition to feature missing lyricist Richey Edwards, is a fearsome slab of post Holy Bible rock, with a pile-driving riff and stuttering vocals welded to lyrics by Richey that depict him inspecting his own self-inflicted wounds “Heal yourself, Hurt yourself, Judge Yr’self” roars James in Nirvana ‘Inutero’ style outbursts. This track leads you to wonder what would have happened if Richey had stuck around? Would the Manics have imploded in hate or again rallied against everything around them, what is clear is that after Richey departed the scene the Manic’s became a different band one touched by tragedy, and loss.

This tragedy is touched upon in tracks like “Sepia” a wide screen reminiscent strum that’s words call to mind sadness, Hollywood Films, and Richey himself, “Just like the moment, In Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, I’m perpetually stuck in a sepia film, But bleeding inside I manage to keep it all in, I keep it all in.”

Of the “classic” b-sides included here, the highlights are “Comfort comes” with its rapier guitar line, militaristic quick step drums, claustrophobic spitfire vocals from James Dean Bradfield inhabiting Richey’s lyrics that plead for comfort anywhere. “Spectators of Suicide” with its beautiful piano line that’s married to a whirling guitar lick and world weary lyrics that depict a country and culture on its knee’s. ” Donkeys” also touches upon an important theme in the Manic’s work, depression Richey long battled with this illness, and Nicky Wire has often had to fight the Black dog from his door. The tracks gentle delivery and spindly guitar line are the perfect backdrop to perhaps the most realised encapsulation of depression and melancholia in the Manic’s catalogue lines like “Sweating and sickly, Donkey’s don’t allow their tears, No emotion never feel, And drown themselves in whatever” perhaps give away the fact that the donkey’s in the song are often themselves. Of course the politics is here too,on older tracks like “We her Majesty’s Prisoners” that attacks the vulgarity of the English Monarchy daubing it a “Ceremony rape machine.” More recently on a track like “Socialist Serenade” slams the New Labour government charging it with forgetting its socialist roots in the final kiss off “Change your name to new, Forget the fucking Labour.”

The tracks that encapsulate the Manic’s Clash esque proto-punk of the early Generation Terrorist days come in “Strip it down” and “Sorrow 16” both are clever slices of energized Glam-punk rock cloaked in a kind of edgy and alienated despair.

Like The Smiths before them the Manic’s have always operated upon a policy of applying quality to most of their output including their bsides. In fact at times some of their b-sides overshadow some of their singles or album tracks.They oftentimes have shown a way toward the future for the band, delving into their various styles and reflecting different moments in their career. This is a decent collection of those with notable underbelly of excellent quality in the first section of the album’s tracks. Unfortunately, one major criticism of this collection is the odd inclusion of some more recent tracks like the superfluous “Just A Kid” and “Horses under Starlights” that do nothing more than prove the Manics have never been afraid musical reinvention. These tracks should have been replaced by a few on the far superior list of omissions including ‘Never Want Again,’ ‘Patrick Bateman,’ and ‘Too Cold here’ all coming highly in the fan vote poll.Lipstick.. comes with a second disc of covers of varying quality that reflects some of their influences(Mcarthy, Guns and Roses, The Clash) and some of their favourite cult records (‘Take The Skinheads Bowling’, ‘Been a Son’ , ‘Velocity Girl’) alongside some of their most treasured acoustic reimaginings (“Can’t Take My Eyes off You’ , ‘Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head’, ‘Bright Eyes’, ‘Last Christmas’ ).

It does make you wonder why they even bothered putting it out to the fans to chose if they weren’t going to listen? Still, that’s the Manics ever contrary, maybe they should have followed Blur or The Cure in releasing a box set of ALL of their bsides now THAT would have been more interesting. So whilst Lipstick Traces holds treasure, it’s far too fleeting, traces of what the Manics were and still are, and what they mean to their ever loyal fans. Let’s hope there comes a point when everything in the vaults gets released including those early Heavenly cuts and the demos from late 80s, and only then will we get to see the full picture of a band that have spanned various genres.One that has inhabited various styles and always been a band that have lurched from brilliance to clumsiness, flag burning to flag waving, glitter and eyeliner to jeans and tshirts, tragedy and triumph, poignancy and proficiency, they are the Manic Street Preachers one of the most memorable rock bands of the 1990s!And despite it all, I’m still rather fond of ’em…

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.