Manic Street Preachers - Gold Against The Soul (Deluxe Edition, Sony Music)

Manic Street Preachers – Gold Against The Soul (Deluxe Edition, Sony Music)

Gold Against The Soul is my favourite Manic Street Preachers album.”

Said no-one ever. But why not? It’s a question that has baffled me for decades, largely because it most certainly IS my own personal favourite. What’s not to love? Opening track ‘Sleepflower‘ carries the sleazy, dirty rock ‘n’ roll of their debut over to its successor perfectly, and the thrill of ‘From Despair To Where‘ has never diminished even slightly in the 27 years since its release. A throbbing, pulsating, punch the air and scream-it-at-the-top-of-your-lungs rock record, if ever there was one. Easily one of the best songs of the nineties, and one which by all rights, ought to be considered their greatest moment, and it would be, but, y’know, this is the band who recorded ‘Motorcycle Emptiness‘, lest we forget…

So what IS the problem? Is it the commerciality? That doesn’t make sense either, given that Generation Terrorists, while gritty, angry and bristling with pent up frustration, was still a wholly accessible album. Hell, I even knew people at the time whose only musical purchases I was aware of, prior to that, were Paul Simon‘s Graceland and Mike And The fucking Mechanics, and even THEY loved Generation Terrorists. So how anyone could have a problem with the über-infectious hooks of singles ‘La Tristessa Durera (Scream To A Sigh)‘, the glorious ‘Roses In The Hospital‘, or the incredulous ‘Life Becoming A Landslide‘, I am at a loss to explain.

Perhaps some felt tracks like ‘Yourself‘ or ‘Nostalgic Pushead‘ aped the likes of Metallica rather too keenly? But once again, that appreciation was always there, albeit with a healthy nod to New York Dolls or The Clash swirling around too, in their fantastical melting pot. And I haven’t even mentioned the vibrantly brilliant title track that closes the album, nor the defiant hedonism of ‘Drug Drug Druggy‘ or the utterly brutal ‘Symphony Of Tourette‘. Quite simply, Gold Against The Soul is just belting song after belting song after belting song.

This deluxe re-issue comes resplendent in a hardback annual featuring the remarkable band photography of Mitch Ikeda, which, if any were needed, should be encouragement enough to invest your time and money, but that’s not all. Quite apart from all the various b-sides that are tagged on to the end of disc one (the lovely ‘Hibernation‘ and the fast and furious ‘Charles Windsor‘ particular highlights here, along with THAT Happy Mondays cover), the second disc is a treasure trove of demo versions and remixes that mostly do justice to – and on occasion arguably even SURPASS their original incarnations.

There isn’t a great deal of difference between the first couple of House In The Woods demos and the versions that made the final cut, other than the demos being somewhat tinnier and much rougher around the edges, though the ‘Live In Bangkok‘ version of ‘Yourself‘ included here is testament to just what a powerhouse band The Manics really are in front of an adoring audience, and ‘Life Becoming A Landslide‘ is a far more stripped back affair initially. And ‘Drug Drug Druggy‘, in its ‘Impact Demo‘ form, seems a little too cheerful for its own good. Both demo versions of ‘Roses…‘ have that urgent rock ethic that pervaded Generation Terrorists, which is interesting to hear in context with its ‘poppier’ final arrangement. But it’s the jazzified mash-up of the OG Psychovocal Remix which catches the ear most of all, where that song is concerned. It’s totally hypnotic. As is the 51 Funk Salute mix, for that matter. That said, I’m not sure we needed QUITE so many versions of it – out of the 17 tracks here, SIX of them are ‘Roses In The Hospital‘, which is perhaps a little bit too much overkill. Although one of them, granted, is that stunning Chemical Brothers take.

Quite simply, this is one heck of a re-issue, only let down (though it’s a tiny gripe in the grand scheme of things) by the latter observation, and the fact that, although the beautiful black and white photography is something to behold, I would have liked something to READ as well, damn it! But hey, who’s quibbling? This is, when you get down to it, a superbly packaged edition of what I will continue, defiantly, to cite as the Manics’ finest hour.

The deluxe edition of Gold Against The Soul is released on 12th June through Sony Music.

  1. I used to have a theory… a great band is a band who have released at least four albums, and the first four all have a claim to be their greatest. Velvet Underground, Pet Shop Boys and Manics all pass this test with flying colours.

    I’s struggle to write an essay justifying why Gold is better than Holy Bible, but Gold is my favourite Manics album too.

  2. This is my second favourite after The Holy Bible. I wasn’t a fan in 1993 so I don’t remember how this was received by the fans or the press but from what I can gather they thought it was a bit of a sell-out and erred on the slide of clean-ish American sounds. They’d lost their edge. The only song that I don’t love on it is Roses in the Hospital It’s an 8.5 from me.

  3. “from what I can gather they thought it was a bit of a sell-out and erred on the slide of clean-ish American sounds” – I think you might be right… which is pretty odd considering the Manics had stated from the very start that they would “sell out” and their first album had tracks like “motorcycle emptiness” which is as pop and mainstream a rock track as you can get. [Caveat… the lyrics are a bit odd compared to – say – Paradise City, and arguably however mainstream Manics are their “alternative” status shines through.

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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.