on 25 May 2007
It was always going to be difficult to follow up a pair of Brit Award winners and with hindsight, this album was never really destined for commercial success. I wouldn't want to be a Manic Street Preacher though, it seems no matter what direction they choose people will complain - aggressively, about which way they go. I remember on the run up to the album's release and all the talk of a "return to our roots" which would please just about any Manics fan. I don't consider it a return to their roots. There's no Motown Junk or Stay Beautiful on here, the band have matured.
Know Your Enemy has a more political feel than many of the band's other albums. This is documented by songs like Baby Elian, Let Robeson Sing and Freedom Of Speech Won't Feed My Children.
Opener, Found That Soul acts as a fantastic, energetic, rocking start to the album with it's one note keyboard in the background creating a bit of tension in the song.
As an album, we have an eclectic mix of punk rock in Found That Soul, Dead Martyrs and Intravenous Agnostic - we have calm, solemn reflective songs Ocean Spray and Baby Elian and we still have space for a Beach Boys-esque song of miserable lyrics and upbeat music, and a disco song.
This album is a grower and certainly not one that could ever give an accurate representation of who the Manics are, yet it's fresh, it's fun in places and introspective in others. It'll never be a Manics fan's favourite album but it deserves top marks nevertheless.
on 21 November 2001
Well, I have to say I have been exceptionally dissapointed with the cold reaction to this album. I am not one of these 'The Manics can do no wrong' fans blinded by dellusion. I loved the Manics early albums, they were the perfect mix of angst, intelligence, and darkness, with no small measure of musical ability either. They were without doubt the most exciting British band of the early nineties.
However, after Richey's dissapearance, I feel the Manics lost their way a bit with 'Everything Must Go' and 'This is my Truth', although they still produced a healthy number of quality singles from these albums. The problem was, the albums just didn't really suit the Manics.
However, this album marks a return to form, albeit in a different way from their early days. This can only be expected, there is nothing worse than a band trying to contrive and relive past glories. The Manics appear to have sat down and said 'Sod it, lets do what WE want'. Hence in this album, variety is the spice of life.
The album begins with the 'Motown Junk'esq 'Found that Soul', then moves onto the beautiful 'Ocean Spray' and the power of 'Intravenous Agnostic'. What really hits the listener is the variety of influences pulled in on this album and thta can really only be a good thing. You name it, from the jangly Beach Boys sound on 'So why so sad' to the 70s disco on 'Miss Europa Disco Dancer' to the raw Ramones/Clash vibe on 'Dead Martyrs'. This album also contains the fantastic 'Let Robeson Sing'; a ballad that really does touch the conciousness of the listener.
In summary, this album is for anybody. For fans of the early days like myself, to people who want to buy their first Manic Street Preachers album. Buy it. You will not be dissapointed.
on 10 February 2005
This album was critically panned, which obviously means it's very good. It was hated by the critics because they implied that Nicky Wire was trying too hard with his lyrics. If the critics can't understand his lyrics, that's their fault for not being well-read enough.
This, in my humble opinion, is better than the two albums which preceded it, their best since 'The Holy Bible'.
'Found That Soul' is just over three minutes of aggressive, riff-filled rock, leading nicely into the subtle beauty of 'Ocean Spray', which musically, is split into three very different sections. It was inspired by the death Of James Dean Bradfield's mother, but avoids veering into tribute song territory, instead opting to be a subtly moving, underrated little song.
'Intravenous Agnostic' is probably the exact point in the album where the critics started to grimace. However, they are wrong. Wordy though some of the lyrics are, it is a slab of frenetic, intelligent punk which the Manics had not explored since 'The Holy Bible'. It sounds aggressive and dangerous - like all good music should. It also has an underproduced feel which was more in line with what the Manics were supposed to be, and had abandoned on their previous two, (rather highly-produced) albums.
Anyone who says 'So Why So Sad' is a bad song is lying. Actually, it's one of the Manics most beautiful, featuring an incredibly affecting vocal from James Dean Bradfield. He still has 'it', even on this album. 'Let Robeson Sing', another touching song, is about the singer/actor Paul Robeson, also containing a soundbite - their first since 'The Holy Bible'. The manics were always particularly adept at the use of soundbites - a nod to their love of Public Enemy.
'The Year Of Purification', though pleasant enough, is probably the only thing approaching a weak song. It is fairly FM friendly, hinting at what would come on their next album 'Lifeblood'. The Manics should stop listening to music critics and be what they want to be. They are at their best when embracing social/political commentary. Nicky Wire did after all study Political History.
'Watsville Blues' falls into the 'so bad it's good' category, featuring a rather disturbing vocal from Nicky Wire, offset by what sounds like dodgy Casio keyboards. Somehow, it works though, probably thanks to the accompanying vocals of James, and his backing guitars. 'Miss Europa Disco Dancer', however, was probably the most experimental song the Manics had attempted up until that point, featuring disco-led guitars and shimmering harps. For a band like the Manics, it was pure experimentation, and it worked rather well, commenting on the nightclub culture in Wire's typically sneering style.
The opening of 'Dead Martyrs' sounds alarmingly Joy Division, building up into an atmospheric blend of aggressive guitars and James' trademark hollering. 'His Last Painting' also has a rather low-key, stripped-down and desolate sound to it, but 'My Guernica' is the Manics at their best, all politics and fantastic lyrics, featuring an excellent vocal from James, offest by plenty of guitars and plenty of feedback. Indeed, it probably wouldn't sound too out of place on 'The Holy Bible'.
'The Convalescent' is so wordy, it almost hints at Nicky Wire having devoured a thesaurus and a dictionary at the same time, prior to writing the lyrics. The song itself is fantastic, throwing in references at a rate of knots whilst layering on the feedback, fast-paced drums and keyboards. It all sounds just fantastic.
'Royal Correspondent', dedicated to Jennie Bond, is another of the album's more laid-back moments, showcasing some of Nicky's more amusing lyrics, whilst James' guitar work is at of the same high quality as everywhere else on the album. This continues on into 'Epicentre', which concludes with the 'Happy Black Days' segment of 'Masking Tape', a B-side. It sounds absolutely stunning.
The final three songs on the album are some of it's highest points: first, 'Baby Elian', which discusses the Cuban Missile Crisis, and criticises Americanisation (again). Again, it sounds beautiful and sincere, Bradder's voice echoing at several points in the song. The lyrics are some of Wire's finest. Then, 'Freedom Of Speech Won't Feed My Children', one of the most daring and admirable songs on the album - and probably the one which got the critics backs up most. It appears to sympathise with Red China. There is nothing wrong with that. Western life is not everything. "Liberty, sweet liberty - charitable respectability", James sneers, almost arrogantly. The spirit of Punk has never, ever left the Manics.
Then, as if all of this couldn't get any better, it does - in the shape of a 'hidden' track, 'We Are All Bourgeois Now', a McCarthy cover. Amazingly, it actually IMPROVES on the original, which is mind-boggling. It is also a strong contender for the most fantastic-sounding song on the album, pure early-era Manics guitars against the best vocal on the album. Honestly, it just puts a shiver down my spine. That this album finishes with a McCarthy cover is hugely significant - the Manics were saying EXACTLY what they wanted on this album - and to hell with the critics!
If all this hasn't convinced you, consider that 'The Holy Bible' was also met with a muted response upon release. Now, it's hailed as a classic. This too will be hailed as a classic in the future. As far as I'm concerned, it already is.
on 19 March 2001
Well maybe this is the definitive Manics album, I mean the whole of the Manics here...this album seems to be Wire and co panning back over their rollercoaster development and combining elements from all their previous albums along with outside influences to make one of the most intrigueing, at times mesmerising/ at times infuriating records of recent times. Highlights; Well JDB's 1st recorded lyrics on Ocean Spray out-shine a-lot of Wire and even Richies lyrics through their sheer directness, the song is a plea to his mother who died of cancer and the way poignancy is found in such small pleasures as drinking Ocean Spray is truly brilliant. Found That Soul, My Guernica and Intravenous Agnostic bring to mind the disjointed guitar of Six by Seven and show a return to the early Manics live sound. Let Robeson Sing is another great song and though the recorded sample walks along the line between poignancy and kitsch it just stays on the right side! Then theres the disco one! This track, to me, embodies the Manics in their latter years... not afraid to compromise their punk attitudes by writing a glorious pop song, an ABBA-esque disco work-out with a great Huggy Bear funk bassline, with tragic lyrics... then completely shatter it by Wires chanting of "Braindead MotherF~#?ers", this is why we love the Manics...they show us their glitzy pop side then swear all over it, shooting themselves in the foot!! But the highlight to me is the track I hated when i first heard it, the single So Why So Sad... no its not like anything they've ever done before but it is undeniably brilliant, the echo is just right, the repetitive "ba badda ba badda" is mesmerising and yes it is like the Beach Boys!! If your just a casual Manics fan then maybe it wont mean so much to you, but if your a hardcore Richey obsessive I suggest you loosen up a bit and enjoy the re-invigorated, foot-shooting, disco-dancing, Castro-worshiping new, post-millenial Manics!
on 29 August 2005
Its about time someone set the record straight (no pun intended) about this album. The critics have been all over it calling it misguided, and a commercial flop, but when you point out that the Manics were never supposed to be commercial, and look at their track record for doing something radical to get people talking and debating, you realise just how clever it is. There are still a couple of chart hits there (So Why So Sad), but there are also the more rocky tracks like Found That Soul, released simultaneously with So Why So Sad and achieving a similar chart position despite drastically less radio airplay. It just shows that the Manics are one of those great bands with such a strong fanbase that they need no airplay to sell their records.
They also made this album much more political than recent albums, with Freedom of Speech Wont Feed my Children and keeping up their knack of causing controversy. Baby Elian is a blatant and scathing attack on a certain governments attempts to police the world and the lyrics (kidnapped to the promised land/operation peter pan/america/the devils playground) drive that point home. As a result this album was very nearly banned in the country referred to.
They also found time for some good old fashoined mickey taking in Royal Correspondant. 'Dream of the Daily Mail/It is the Holy Grail' and 'bet you'd love the chance to eat their food/even though it has been chewed' is pure lyrical genious.
So this has to be one of the Manics most misunderstood albums to date, but with their recent albums bringing a totally different type of fan, it was about time the Manics sorted out the real fans from the radio loving pop fans with a purely contraversial offering. If you are a true Manics fan, just ignore the critics and buy it!
on 25 March 2001
The Manics have never been a band to retain styles: each album has been varied to say the least. And although they have all been really excellent, out of the 5 prior to Know Your Enemy, Generation Terrorists was definately the best. Now THAT is a rock album, kids.
But I'm not here to rave about Generation Terrorists. I am here to review its latest challenger, Know Your Enemy.
The album opens with the classic 'Found That Soul'- which so badly should have been released by itself as the first single- So Why So Sad got all the airplay and everyone assumed the whole album was going to sound like The Beach Boys.
Not that So Why So Sad is bad- its melodies are buoyent and full of energy- but simply, Found That Soul is just a better track- with its punky riff and sing-a-long chorus.
Other stand-out tracks include The Convalescent- which sounds (strange as it may seem) like a cross between Generation Terrorists and This Is My Truth, My Guernica- a dischordant Holy Bible like track and Intravenous Agnostic.
Tracks which perhaps let the album down are Epicentre- not bad but boring and His Last Painting- although I have a feeling this track may grow on me.
But it's not as good as Generation Terrorists.
on 1 April 2007
I did'nt get into these guys until a few years ago just after "Don't Beleieve The Truth" came out and I relealised my favourite band for now had died (thats Oasis).
So I brushed over this album, simply because I thought it would dissapoint and got "Everything Must Go" first. But then I picked this up for $15 cheap and thought, well if its no good, at least its something new.
Well, what a surprise,- I knew halfway through Ocean Spray and afte having me head rocked out by what instantly became one of my favourite "Manic Street Preachers" songs "Found that Soul" - I knew I had not wasted any of my money, in fact I had made a genius decision.
I think this album gets a bad rap by people who just want to hear more big singles in the same vein as "A design for life" which is fine, but I don't want to hear the same kind of albums over and over again, and I'm not into "singles" cause I'm a fan of bands "music!!"
Its my personal favourite "Manic Streets" album and should be yours too, and please remember, that a band is about more than just one record.
on 14 April 2001
Well, fellow fans of the greatest band ever ..... this is fantastic, clumsy but truly inspirational often all at the same time. Found That Soul obviously was the first single and is a wonderful overture with a classy solo in the middle. Great sing-along pop/rock. Then came the This Is Yesterday of the record, Ocean Spray. A stunning, beautiful and fragile song that is like porcelain being smashed by the crunching post chorus guitar. James really ain't a bad lyricist! Intravenous Agnostic is very much like The Clash, dynamic and compact, driven by Sean's amazing, martial drumming. Whoever accuses the Manics of musical conservatism ahould take a look at So Why So Sad. Whereas Radiohead tried to be artistic by letting computers eat them, the Manics reinvent themselves with a Beach Boys song! Wonderfully summery but a disappointing first single because it gives people the wrong idea about the album. The best song came next, Let Robeson Sing. Political, heart-breaking and uplifting - exactly what the Manics should sound like! Just don't let me catch you with lighters!!! Year Of Purification is basically drive-time motown but strangely catchy and it has a wonder hook in "Moral little shitkickers/Liberal asinine pricks". After that came the unfortunate interlude of two pointless sneery songs, Wattsville Blues and Miss Europa Disco Dancer. Now honestly Nicky, please don't sing! Carry on writing the best lyrics in music but please, for your fans sakes, confine your singing voice to the shower! And don't attempt disco either cos it ain't gonna work ..... you're a punk band for goodness sake! Dead Martyrs is like Intravenous Agnostic basically but very nice. His Last Painting is My Little Empire only ten times better, lovely vocals and considered guitar from James. My Guernica certainly is weird. It is clunking punk but that's what makes it enamouring! But it does seem like they're trying slightly (ever so slighty) too hard to please the Richeyphiles. Whereas His Last Painting took the mood of My Little Empire, The Convalescent takes the lyrics and improves on them with a gorgeous, understated tune. Royal Correspondent is so-so a bit of a filler but nice chill-out music with a lyric similar in style to Mr Writer by the Stereophonics only not as whingey and spoilt as it's actually aimed at a worthwhile target.Epicentre has lovely piano and a sprawling lyric sheet similar to some of The Holy Bible stuff but not quite hitting the spot like Richey's did. Baby Elian may have some foolhardy lyrics but the point remains valid and the guitar is interesting in the best possible sense. Finally, Freedom Of Speech Won't Feed My Children. Brilliant. Great lyrics compensating for the last track's stupidity and it hits you in the face with a huge slab of punk. A rousing finale to another chapter in musical history. If you judge a band by its errors, then the manics HAVE to be the bestband ever.
on 2 April 2001
This album kicks off with "Found that Soul",a rocking Manics classic that sets the mood for the rest of the album-an agressive, out-spoken collection of songs full of energy and life. "Ocean Spray" and "Let Robeson Sing" are perhaps the so-called "ballads" on the album, although they have just as much, if not more vivacity, lurking within the melodies than some of the rockier ones on the album. "Let Robeson Sing" is definitely a stand out track and don't be surprised if that is chosen for the next single for release. "Intravenous Agnostic" and "Freedom Of speech won't kill my children" are great little pop-rock songs that serve to structure the album that always keeps you hanging on for more...for the surprise song which is well..a surprise i guess! "Miss Europa Disco Dancer" is a nice little number, cleverly covered in a layer of sarcasm-this song is definitely one of the highlights of the album, but ends in a quite shocking and angry manner. All in all, this is the kind of album that sounds different every time you play it. Like a great piece of literature-definitely a fine piece of work lads!
on 19 March 2001
I believe most people thought 'This is my truth' was a bit tooo bloated and pompous , but this record blows all the cobwebs away. The mixture of styles provide an interesting and fun listen and it's refreshing that they've decided not to do things the way they always have-a bit of change is good for the soul. Better stil it proves the Manics can still rock , and hopefully shock all these Nu-metallers into dumb American rock who believe the Manics are pensioners.This is rock music with a brain. However , in Britain , most critics and fans prefer conservative rock , which proves why the Manics got better reviews with 'Truth' than KYE.Truth is ,all the fans prefer this album. It is a bit strange that once the Manics develop a radical streak again [Cuba] , the critics turn against them. Still , it's their loss if they can't hear the rawness of this album , and in a world full of [critically acclaimed , note] Coldplays , this is extremely refreshing. I , for one , think it's bloody great.