+manics albums: no. 6+

Another day, another album. Time to talk about the Manics’ most recent effort.

NUMBER SIX: SEND AWAY THE TIGERS (May 7, 2007)
Favorite tracks: Imperial Bodybags; Underdogs; I’m Just a Patsy; Your Love Alone Is Not Enough

When I first concocted this list, Send Away the Tigers was ranked as high as fourth. And so I’m surprised to see it holding its final position here as my sixth favorite album, despite how highly I think of it. On the one hand, I love all these albums, so I’ve got to stop apologizing, because they can’t all be my number one. And, when I took a second look at this record after my initial rankings based on gut reaction, I realized that there really are a couple of tracks that don’t impress me so much.

Let’s start with the title track. I really enjoy the lyrics, but I feel deep down that the music doesn’t match the sentiment of the lyrics. To me, it’s a song that could have been more rock and less pop. And what can I say? I like my Manics to rock. Which is why I was nervous at first when ‘Your Love Alone Is Not Enough’ showed up in video form on youtube as the first single. It seemed a bit too pop to me, but upon repeated listenings, it grew on me. Nina Persson adds something so feminine and pretty to the song, a pleasant balance to James’s voice and the overall sound. But can I be honest here? Allow me to digress and say that I loved Nicky Wire’s solo album, I Killed the Zeitgeist. I loved it far more than JDB’s The Great Western, despite, uh, Nicky’s, uh, interesting vocals. I swear, every time I hear Nicky sing in ‘Your Love Alone,’ a smile crosses my face. I love hearing that man sing, and so that, more than anything, earned a place in my heart for that particular single.

Lucky for me, the Manics managed to include some genuine rockers on this album. I remember hearing ‘Underdogs’ for the first time and falling in love with it from the very first riff and lyric:

This one’s for the freaks
For you’re so beautiful

It doesn’t seem right upon reflection that a group as popular and acclaimed as the Manic Street Preachers should identify themselves as underdogs, but somehow, it fits. They were so strange when they were new upon the scene, and I see this song as an acknowledgment: once a freak, always a freak. I know as a fan, I absolutely identify with the song. And the lyrics are brilliant throughout. If I could only share one song off this album with a person, it would definitely be ‘Underdogs.’ A punchy rock song with some fun, offensive lyrics, clocking in at under three minutes. Yes, please.

Another major highlight for me is the track ‘Imperial Bodybags.’ Something about that rockabilly guitar at the beginning, and the way the guitar echos the vocal melody; now this is a song where the music and the lyrics fit together. It’s angry and bitter and yet…coy is another word that comes to mind. I love the line

Nothing’s finished, it just fades away
Like a lover who has lost her faith

There’s something about this song that makes me enjoy yelling it in my car while sitting stuck in traffic on the on-ramp. And as soon as it’s over, I always backtrack to ‘I’m Just a Patsy,’ another rocker with dark overtones. The triplet of ‘Patsy,’ ‘Bodybags,’ and ‘Winterlovers’ is one of the best endings to a Manics album as far as I’m concerned. Dark, gritty, and bitter, culminating in the cover of ‘Working Class Heroes,’ the end of this album gets my approval for sure.

The rest of the tracks are all well and good, but perhaps a bit pale in comparison to the harsher songs mentioned already. I find ‘Indian Summer’ pleasantly beautiful, and I will say this, that no matter what anyone else thinks, I love the line “Now baby, what have you done to your hair?” in ‘Autumnsong.’ I remember reading that as an early rumored lyric before the album came out. I thought it was so cheeky and fantastic then, and I still do after hearing the finished product. It reminds me of the lyric “An asymmetric haircut and a painted eye / Is it a cry for help or call to arms?” in ‘Psychological’ by the Pet Shop Boys. Without going too deeply into my own past haircuts, I find these lyrics so spot on. Why on earth do we take our hair so seriously, making these grand life statements with haircuts and dye jobs? But I digress…

I think my love for the SATT artwork also biased me in my initial ranking of this album. I was really struck by the cover art when it was posted on the Manics’ website with the accompanying quotation: “Prostitutes go to heaven. It’s their clients that go to hell” (David LaChapelle). The defiant look on the blonde’s face, the colors, the overall feel of the photograph…it’s the kind of relevant, thought-provoking art I have come to expect the Manics to include with their music. I really, really like it.

I have the feeling that as time goes on, I will come to appreciate Send Away the Tigers all the more. The Manics didn’t exactly break any new ground on this record, but the songs still come across as incredibly fresh, yet poignantly reflective at the same time. I feel empowered when I listen to it, but at the same time, as I grow older and the band gets older, it feels okay to take a step back now and again to see where we’ve been.

Remember the reasons
The reasons that made us be
I guess we’ll have to test
what’s darker than ourselves
We said the truth was fixed
It’s lost without a trace
Whose crime is eternity
When time lost is certainty
The Indian summer

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~ by Jennifer Cunningham on August 13, 2008.

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