Contrary to popular opinion, the Manics' most successful album is also one of their finest and a very worthy addition to their canon. It saw the band building on Everything Must Go with a more diverse selection of songs incorporating string sections, piano, organ, cello and sitar, among various other instruments. Overfamiliarity may now burden singles such as 'If you Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next' and 'You Stole the Sun from my Heart', but there are many more gems to unearth such as 'My Little Empire', which is as dark and disturbing as anything on The Holy Bible in terms of lyrical content, albeit in a palatable form. 'Black Dog on my Shoulder' and 'Ready for Drowning' are two stunningly observed compositions whose lyrics take on dual meanings, soundtracked by some of the most accomplished music the band produced. After this musical pinnacle, it is understandable that the band went in the opposite direction for 2001's raw follow up Know Your Enemy.
Despite its reputation as being too radio-friendly for its own good, this is an album layered with thoughtful introspection and a depressive, morbid air. A theme that cuts through the album is 'the void', a phrase that Nicky Wire uses on a number of songs, and the three remaining Manics filled the void left by missing member Richey Edwards with their most dignified and mature work, which in turn remained as passionate as anything that went before it.
Too often remembered as a time of bloated arena/stadium shows and multiple Brit awards, this album is the cause not the effect.