Manic Street Preachers
Gold Against the Soul


“I sold my medal / it paid a bill”
- La Tristesse Durera, MSP, 1993.

So, the Manics have given the ‘re-issue, re-package, re-package’ treatment to six of their albums now (I am putting my money on Know Your Enemy next, next year will be 20 years. Watch this space). I can’t help but feel slightly cynical about this. For a band as apparently as principled as they claim(ed) to be, this re-issuing and doing album tours and anniversaries and whatever just seems to stink a bit. So, of their first five albums, the one that no-one was asking for to be re-issued was Gold Against the Soul.



Personally, I’ve always got on pretty well with this record. It’s one which was dependable and you had good times with, but you kind of don’t see much, but when you do you’re like ‘aaah, yes, this is nice, I remember this’.

It has its moments. In terms of singles it’s actually one of the stronger MSP records. Roses in the Hospital, La Tristesse Durera, From Despair to Where and Life Becoming a Landslide have all pretty much remained in rotation in Manics set lists.

Where GATS falls down is on those other album tracks. Opening track Sleepflower aside, the non-single album tracks here aren’t amazing to be fair. Symphony of Tourette has an interesting idea behind it but comes across as a bit of a bad attempt at metal. Yourself has an annoying riff throughout which sounds like a ghost train. Nostalgic Pushead is instantly forgettable. Title track Gold Against the Soul is immediately dated by loops and being rooted lyrically in the politics of the time. Finally, Drug Drug Druggy is the most obvious attempt at producing a hit single musically (despite ironically not being released as a single) but fails to match this with dire lyrical content.

But as I say, I do genuinely like this record. If Generation Terrorists was their punk inspired rush towards oblivion, and The Holy Bible is their suicidal nihilism come real, then GATS sits in that middle point where one contemplates life in an altogether more introspective way.

Look at some of these opening lyrics: “I write this alone in my bed / I’ve poisoned every room in my house’, ‘Morning always seems to stale to justify’, ‘Life has been unfaithful / And it all promised so so much’. This isn’t a ‘fuck you’ record – this is a ‘Jesus, what have I done and where the fuck am I going?’ record.

So, what does the re-issue offer? Well, as I’ve seen others mention, it’s loud. It’s really, really loud. It’s been mastered up to levels which make the brick-walling production of Definitely Maybe seem like a whisper. Other than that, the standard re-mastering stuff really. A tiny bit clearer in places perhaps. But nothing to get excited about (this isn’t like comparing the US and UK versions of The Holy Bible for instance).

Biggest selling point (as always) is the inclusion of the hard to find B-sides from the era. Donkeys is one of their best B-sides of the early years and is definitely worth checking out if only to hear James croon ‘Put some lipstick on / At least your lies will be pretty’. Patrick Bateman is a ridiculous metal pastiche (though I get the distinct impression this wasn’t exactly done tongue in cheek at the time) detailing admiration for the titular American Psycho and includes the not at all entirely PC refrain ‘I fucked God up the ass’. Charming.

Hibernation is one of my favourite quieter Manics B-sides and one of their most forgotten. Comfort Comes is interesting in that it signalled the move musically from GATS towards the more lo-fi goth (‘goth with a small g’, remember) musicality of The Holy Bible. Basically, it sounds like Faster upside down. A few live cover versions (The Clash’s ‘What’s My Name’, Happy Mondays ‘Wrote for Luck’, McCarthy’s ‘Charles Windsor’) and a shit load of demos of the album make up the rest of the package. Oh, and about four billion remixes of Roses in the Hospital.

Do you need this in your life then? No, not really. But the deluxe CD comes in a huge CD book thing. I got the signed vinyl myself, because I’m a sucker for shit like that. But as with most of these re-issues, it always gives me a nice re-appraisal of things I’d kind of forgotten. I still find it amazing that they managed to go from Generation Terrorists to this to The Holy Bible in less than 4 years. The now famous tales of them spending ridiculous recording budgets at plush studios for this album certainly seems to bleed through in some aspects. There are strings where there don’t need to be, for example. It’s very much a transitional album, perhaps one marred by the fact that for such an image conscious band back then, this album doesn’t really have its own identity. But a good one to check out nonetheless.

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Richard Bull