+manics albums: no. 3+

We’ve reached the top three. Let’s do this.

NUMBER THREE: LIFEBLOOD (November 1, 2004)
Favorite tracks: To Repel Ghosts; Fragments; Cardiff Afterlife; A Song for Departure; The Love of Richard Nixon

Love rains down like Vietnam’s leeches…

I’m so tempted to just leave it at that. To quote that line and say that’s why I love Lifeblood. But that would be to sell short a wonderful record, a record that, sadly, wasn’t well received by many. But oh, how do I love this record? Let me count the ways.

This was the first Manics album to be released after I became a fan, and so it was my first experience listening to one of their albums in a non-anachronistic way. And I must say, I loved it from the very first listen. Song after song, I was oohing and ahhing, congratulating the Manics on a job well done. I ranked it as my third favorite album of the year, and I still listen to it on a regular basis.

Lifeblood is an album best described as a whole rather than in terms of its individual songs. From the opening strains of “1985” clear to the final notes of “Cardiff Afterlife,” we hear an album that is one of the most cohesive the Manics have ever put together. This is one of those rare albums where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Taken on an individual basis, none of the songs feels all that special, but when Lifeblood is heard from start to finish, there is a cohesiveness and beautiful thematic progression to it. It’s an album with a mature sound, written by a man who needs not prove anything to anyone, and beautifully sung by a man who is far better known for his yelling. The band simply wrote good, solid tunes, where no one aspect stands in the forefront. It’s an album that gets better with every extra play. I have to say, when I visited the Lifeblood page on last.fm, I was surprised to see such wonderful, positive comments about it. People call it one of the greatest albums of all time, one of their favorite Manics albums. Clearly, the people who took the time to digest this album have come to love and appreciate it for the stellar work that it is.

As with any album, there are always a few standout tracks worth mentioning. “To Repel Ghosts” is my personal favorite. I love the way it rises and falls and rises again over the course of four minutes, the echoing guitar, the perfect percussion. The end of the album is also a highlight for me. “Fragments” was probably my first favorite from the record. It is simply so pleasing to listen to James sing it. The same goes for “Cardiff Afterlife,” another song that is only made better by Sean’s impeccable drumming. “A Song for Departure” and “Empty Souls” are both haunting and beautiful, and again, it’s just so darn nice to listen to James make his way through the lyrics. There’s no way this review would be complete, though, without a mention of “The Love of Richard Nixon.” The chorus is almost campy, but I always come back to that line, “Love rains down like Vietnam’s leeches.” What a monstrous simile that is. I’m still in awe every time I hear it. Throw in a song dedicated to honoring a leader of the women’s suffrage movement (“Emily”), and you can see how this album has a lot to say.

I love this album for the artwork as well. I’m normally very squeamish about blood and the like, but there I was at the time with my Lifeblood computer wallpaper, showing blood pouring down into shiny puddles and splashing in thick, luminous beads. Blood (albeit fake) became a symbol of life rather than of violence and harm. Tying it all together, the songs became four-minute tributes to what was most cherished in life, especially, for me, “Solitude Sometimes Is” and “I Live to Fall Asleep.” Between the artwork, the album title, and the songs, the band showed that they could produce a record that was a unified work of art in every aspect.

It hurts to read in various places that the band was disappointed with this album. To quote many U2 fans when talking about Pop, “This album was not a failure, dammit.” I consistently see this album ranked among other fans’ top Manics albums, and the few people I know personally who like the Manic Street Preachers have a lot of love for this record. Nevermind if it wasn’t a number 1 hit. It is a beautiful piece of art, and that’s all it needs to be.

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~ by Jennifer Cunningham on September 3, 2008.

2 Responses to “+manics albums: no. 3+”

  1. I think that was one of the best summaries of lifeblood I have ever read. I’ve never paid much attention to record reviews of the Manics since The Masses Against The Classes EP, but this is definitely the best collection of words about lifeblood I have ever come across. Cheers!

  2. Thanks so much for the kind words. I really appreciate it. 🙂

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