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A Hint Of Things To Come
on 4 July 2007
This, along with 'Generation Terrorists' was a tantalising hint at the greatness that would come on the Manic Street Preacher's landmark, career-defining masterpiece, 1994's 'The Holy Bible'. The songs are polished, yet frequently intense.
It has often been said that 'Sleepflower' was the Manics attempt at a grunge song, and if so, it was a very valiant effort, since it sounds very much like a Nirvana song. James vocals appear to have improved drastically since 'Generation Terrorists', whilst the lyrics are radically different to GT, and less political. 'From Despair To Where', follows in the same glossy vein, sounding highly-produced and expensive. Indeed, the Manics did spend a fortune on recording this album, to a ridiculous extent, and this is certainly clear from the production values.
'Scream To A Sigh (La Tristesse Durera)', also sounds quite majestic, with thoughtful subject matter, lamenting over the neglect of war heroes, the title referencing the final line of Van Gogh's suicide note. Chillingly, Richey memorised Van Gogh's suicide note, along with a great many others. 'La Tristesse Durera' also contains some of JDB's finest guitar work to date. Lavish expenditure did create some spectacular results, this song being one of them.
'Yourself' and 'Symphony Of Tourette' have the same grungey feel as 'Sleepflower', the first being a self-loathing diatribe and the latter being a foul-mouthed, violent outburst surrounded by heavy, disjointed guitars and frenetic drums. It is one of the most impressive songs on the album.
'Life Becoming A Landslide' is one of Richey's sadder lyrics, containing the words: "My idea of love comes from, a childhood glimpse of pornography/But there is no true love, just a finely tuned jealousy." This was one of the most obvious hints at what would be Richey Edward's lasting legacy: a sadness and loneliness which was to cripple him to the point of despair. After the beauty of this, 'Drug Drug Druggy' seems distinctly underwhelming and average, though 'Roses in the Hospital' more than makes up for this, being the most iconic-sounding song on the album and an MSP classic. Cigarette burns are mentioned, and the song references 'Rudie Can't Fail', by the Clash. 'Roses...' also contains one of JDB's most memorable vocals, as he executes a powerful and raw performance, full of force and anger.
'Nostalgic Pushead' is yet more evidence of high budget, yet for all that, it seems to lack soul, and much of this album does not replicate the same Joie De Vivre as GT, but this zeal would soon be found again on their next album. 'Nostalgic Pushead' interestingly also contains the sound of Sean Moore dropping a snooker ball into a frying pan, such was the freedom to explore whatever musical indulgence they desired. This freedom is very much hit and miss.
Yet album closer 'Gold Against The Soul' is a fairly promising end to what is a good, solid album. At five and a half minutes it is the longest song on the album, but pans out impressively, with spiky guitars, prominent drums, and the lyric "Rock and Roll has a conscience", presumably as a reference to their own body of work.
This album is undeniably good, and has some truly magical moments both lyrically and musically, but for all of it's extravagance, time would prove that the Manics were at their best when production values were spartan and budget was tight. This is an impressive record regardless.