+manics albums: no. 8+

I should really be working right now. Oh Lord, how I should be doing something productive. But in typical procrastinatory, rebellious style, I’m on here, blogging and making pointless lists related to Welsh rock bands. Which brings us to tonight’s post.

I’ve been wanting to rank the Manic Street Preachers’ studio albums for a while now, mostly for my own amusement, and to discover for myself how I really feel about their various works. (I’m sure it will spark enlightening debate between my boyfriend and me as well–in a way, you could say our mutual love for the Manics brought us together, which really is saying something, considering how different our musical tastes are…) The Manics are a band all over the map in terms of style, and so I’ve found it quite difficult to set their albums up against one another and compare them. I love and enjoy all eight of them, so some of the rankings feel a bit arbitrary. I took into account the answers to such questions as “How much do I listen to this album?” and “How many tracks on this album do I truly adore?” The truth is, I listen to all eight of the albums on a regular basis, often with my entire Manics catalogue on shuffle. What is strange, perhaps, is that four of my five most listened to Manics tracks (as tallied by last.fm) aren’t even on studio albums. All of that is to say, I’ve done my best here to go with my gut and pick my favorites, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t still love all the records. Blah blah. Let’s get to it already.

Favorite tracks: Repeat; Democracy Coma; Nat West-Barclays-Midlands-Lloyds

I can already hear the gasps of outrage–I know that this is many fans’ favorite album. I will admit, though, that I became a Manics fan later in their career, so it has been difficult for me to go back in time and revisit their earliest albums and hear them as the first fans must have heard them. The sense of scandal and rebellion is lost on me. It was the sweeping strings and mature sound of songs like “Tolerate” that made me love the Manics, and Generation Terrorists is just a bit too raw for me in that it sounds like a debut album. It’s got a couple of terrific songs, enough to keep the record company interested for a second album, but not enough to be considered a flawless masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination.

Making matters worse, I happen to be an American, which means I have the version of this album that was released in America. It’s missing four tracks that were removed to avoid causing controversy in the U.S. (the uncensored album was released everywhere else in the world). Knowing that the Manics are at their best when being controversial, my version of the album straightway can be assumed to be in a serious state of lack.

Another reason this album doesn’t rank very highly for me has to do with the song “Motorcyle Emptiness.” Unquestionably the biggest hit off the album, it’s one of my least favorite ‘popular’ Manics songs. It’s not that I dislike it, but rather that I like so many of their other songs so much more.

There are some tracks I really like, though. “Repeat” is such a brutal little song, I can’t help but be amused by its brashness. Looking through my iTunes, “Nat West-Barclays-Midlands-Lloyds” is the only song on this record that I’ve rated five stars, but that’s just because I enjoy singing the chorus. There’s something so frivolous about the way James sings it; not to mention, it’s just a string of bank names. “Stay Beautiful” is catchy and fun, and “You Love Us” is a song that I’ll listen to and like for the most part, but I’ve got to be in the right mood. “Democracy Coma” is still growing on me, but musically, I do think it’s one of the strongest tracks. As for the rest, well… “Little Baby Nothing,” the duet with Traci Lords, is a fan favorite, but it has always rubbed me the wrong way. I agree with the message of the song, but the music and vocals remind me of a multi-artist sing-a-long song, thrown together without much thought.

Still, I continue to listen to Generation Terrorists. I try not to look at the album cover too much, though, because it’s a little too pink. Okay, it’s a lot too pink, but most people would agree. Again, it’s got that feeling of a first album cover.

So there you have it–my useless opinion of the Manics’ debut album. Easily my least favorite, but not an album I regret owning by any means. Stay tuned for number 7.

And Stay Beautiful.


~ by Jennifer Cunningham on August 9, 2008.

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