7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Standing in the shadows of giants?, 27 Jan. 2005
Hmm, the early Manics, i.e. with Richey... what do most people think? Inevitably you think of the Holy Bible, one of the greatest albums ever, and to Generation Terrorist, the unpolished debut effort, with such memorable songs as Motorcycle Emptiness. Yet stuck between the two lies Gold Against the Soul, and it is shame that it is so forgotten, because it is truely a hidden gem. At only 10 tracks, it is dwarfed in size by Generation Terrorist, and it did not hit the personal notes that the Holy Bible did, focusing more on society's problems than on those of Richey. It has none of the depressed genius splendour of the latter album, yet none of the exuberant youth of the former, prefering instead the middle ground of something which is virtually undefinable, yet quintessentially Manics.
It opens in ebulliant style with Sleepflower, led by powerful guitar riffs, driven by Richie' and Nicky's powerful lyrics about insomnia ("A memory fades to a pale landscape..."), and with a killer guitar break in the middle, it is a fantastic way to kick off the album. It drives the listener quickly onto the two main tracks off the album, and two of the best ever written by the band - From Despair to Where and La Tristessa Durera (Scream to a Sigh). The former blends quiet hissing with shouting power in a song which brilliantly blends guitars with strings to make it an instant classic. The riff of the latter will stick in your mind forever, and it is an example of true genius at work, telling songs of despair and disruption in society ("I sold my medals, it payed a bill, it sells at market stalls, parades Milan catwalks..."). Then the album surprisingly drops slightly in quality, with the next three songs entertaining but lacking in realy substance; lyrically Life Becoming a Landslide is powerful but the song ends up as almost dreary, although what is second-rate for the Manics far exceeds the best of many bands. The pace is picked up again with the amazing Roses in the Hospital, Richie exceeding even his own lyrical standards with the contrast between the beauty of the roses and the pain of the hospital. The song is another classic, finsihing with a typical homage to their major influence - the Clash - and yet it is followed by something better. Nostalgic Pushead is driven by crashing lyrics, incredible pace, and harkens back to the socialist leanings of the band ("Rebellion it always sells at a profit/I'm a piece of fashion in Soho square..."). it is a disappointment then to drop onto Symphony of Tourettes, which is adequate but simply not of the same standard. however all is redeemed with the title track, which is simply incredible, even if its production does not perhaps do justice to its writing.
This album is not perfect, and viewed with the Holy Bible, is not of the same level, but then few albums are. Yet it is still for me a top-rate album, the muscic is incredible, boiling the blood yet bringing a tear to the eye, the lyrics are powerful and cover a range of major issues, always sticking to the socialist principles that they kicked off with. In short, buy this album, it is incredible. If it is a choice between this and the Holy Bible, go for the latter, but otherwise, this is a good insight into the tortured genius that is, or more correctly was, Richey James