Journal for Plague Lovers
remember getting this album and thinking it was good. It took a little while to get into it. After that little while I just can't stop. This album is brilliant. Everything about it is just wonderful.
Lyrically, it's from 1995. In the MSP canon, it's between The Holy Bible, and Everything Must Go. Now, they are two of my most favourite albums, and I always searched for a link between the two. I always thought it was "This is Yesterday, a track from The Holy Bible with a wonderful, inspiring solo, totally MSP lyric, but different enough to point to a potentially new direction.
Now I realise that this album was to be the link.
However, that's not to say that I'm not glad we had to wait for it. I honestly don't think that this album would have been this good, or even sound anything like it does, if it had been released in 1995 (when it logically should have been). If you think about it, if Richey hadn't disappeared, we would have probably never had Everything Must Go, we wouldn't have had A Design for Life, or Interiors, or No Surface, All Feeling. I think that the Manics had to record that album, and then go through the subsequent albums, (This is my Truth Tell Me Yours, Know Your Enemy, Lifeblood, Send Away the Tigers), if only for James Dean Bradfield to develop the musical ability to write music for such a record.
On the face of it, it was an daft idea. Take lyrics from your former (now presumed dead) lyricist and make a new record. In many ways, the Manics had become a bit of an irrelevance by 2009, I mean, there were a few of us, buying the albums and getting excited when a new one came out. Always giving the benefit of the doubt (with the exception of lifeblood, a fucking awful record) to Nicky Wire even though it was blindingly obvious that he couldn't carry a record on his own. Over 4 albums, there were maybe 2 albums worth of good songs, if that. So Nicky took the folder, sorted the words into songs, and created another masterpiece.
Journal for Plague Lovers carries itself with the cream of Manics Albums, and also carries itself with the cream of albums in general
It's starts brilliantly, really violently, the Bass and Guitar combine to make a sound not heard on Manics albums for years. The first line, The more I see, the less I scream Totally MSP. The verse gives way to a chorus straight out of EMG, but with these lyrics full of reference, which you don't quite understand until you look into it, you know, like a Manics album should be. No whining about oh i'm on tour and everyone loves me but I can't take it or American is taking over the world, so i'd better complain, why isn't communism winning or really bad jokes on a Beach Boys pastiche. No, lyrics that make you listen closer and think.
It gives way to a song which echoes one of their first influences. I hate Guns 'n' Roses, but I understand the influence, and I can hear it in Jackie Collins. It sounds like a single, until JDB delivers that line, If a married man FUCKS a catholic It's with such venom, such power. The song is upbeat, radio friendly if you will, and in true Manic Street Preachers style, the mass communication is inverted. Next is the song that really got me when I first heard it. The riff is sensational, huge and powerful, then the stop. MSP lyrics with a brilliant chorus, the 100,000 in the Bombay fight is a random reference, to the huge crowds Giant Haystacks (The Loch Ness Monster in WCW RIP Martin Raune) used to pull against Big Daddy, or Hulk Hogan. This Joke Sport Severed slows things down before a classic of the MSP canon, Journal for Plague Lovers. Only a God can bruise, Only a God can soothe, only a God reserves the right, to forgive those who revile him beautiful lyric. Very Richey, very MSP. Something I don't think Nicky could have written.
She bathed herself... this kind of reminds me of Watsville blues, which
is actually a Nicky Wire song (Nicky plays guitar and sings on Watsville
blues) great chorus again though, moves on from the verse in a in a
huge celebration before getting back to a snarling verse with slightly
discordant guitar, giving way to a song which is beautiful on the demo.
The refrain, totally Richey, This beauty here, dipping neophobia
It's like these three tracks were needed to recover from the onslaught
of the first part of the album. In a way, you think the album is going
to sink into a bit of soft rock, but no. Marlon J.D. kicks in. I believe
that Richey really went for Marlon Brando as a hero. I will not
beg because, that is not who I am is a line that I think Richey
associated with Brando and also himself. He then goes through crucifixion,
and a song about the self loathing and alienation that he felt and I
can relate to, (It feels like I'm speaking a foreign language sometimes),
the ramblings which extreme depression can bring (which I believe is
the reason that Nicky included Pretension/Repulsion on the record) before
getting to a massively MSP topic. A song about the compulsory sterilisation
of the unfit (I mean, what else?) Virginia State Epileptic Colony is
the most Manicsy song written since 1998. An amazing lyric with a fantastic
vocal and desolate sound. It gives way to possibly the only brilliant
Nicky Wire led song, William's Last Words. Nicky said this song was
very difficult, and it is in fact, the only 100% Nicky composition (obviously,
with the Richey lyrics, but you know what I mean) on the record. His
vocal is truly amazing, a man with a bloody awful voice, who's never
really been able to write a song, wrote that... I actually compare it
to The Sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel. I think it carries that
much with it, (although it took Paul Simon 4 songs to write something
that beautiful. It took Nicky Wire 8 studio albums and one solo album,
but that doesn't really matter I suppose). I think William's last words
is a suicide note. Others disagree, but I do
Then the hidden track
I AM NOT DEAD
A triumph. A classic. The essence of FTW.
An album worth listening to. An album I genuinely hope will be remembered as a classic. I get the feeling that it will be one of those Rock Snob albums, you know, only recognised about 20 years later for how brilliant is Itactually is.
It confirmed my belief that this band are still one of the most important artists of our time,
I used to think to myself, that my children (when they are born, and old enough) would ask me about the Manic Street Preachers. I thought that I would say that there was a time when the Manic Street Preachers were the most important band in the world.
My child would say, but Dad, they recorded Lifeblood
I would have to say, well yes, yes they did, but 15 years apart, they recorded 2 of the greatest albums ever put to posterity, as well as Generation Terrorists, a massive statement of intent and decadence, and Everything Must Go. One of the single greatest albums ever recorded.
I just wonder though, if they had this up their sleeve, what the hell
have they been doing since 1998