Monday, 14 September 2009

Manic Street Preachers - JFPL Demos

*These* are the demo versions of all the tracks from the new Manic Street Preachers release Journal For Plague Lovers (Jenny Saville's Stare pictured at left), included on a bonus disc with the deluxe edition of the album. The sound is seemingly stripped away of that extra 'oomph' heard in the actual album release, and yet some of these tracks here rival the final product (especially "She Bathed Herself in a Bath of Bleach", sung by Nicky instead of James, and "All is Vanity" which is all the more powerful in bare, acoustic form) - highly recommended!

Related items:

- *Click for JFPL Article Scans from NME May 2009* (re-upped!)

- The Shadows and Words documentary on the making of the album on YouTube (Pt. 1 is below):

Here also is a description of the original release...:
(Originally posted at A Future in Noise in May, 2009):
It's impossible to listen to or discuss the new Manic Street Preachers album, Journal For Plague Lovers (set for release on 5/18), without placing it in the context of the band's history: their confrontational, politically-charged style of music, after a couple of EPs and 1992 debut album Generation Terrorists , offered a stark contrast to the early-90's British shoegaze scene. Though threatened to be smothered by the exploding Britpop movement, a cult following sustained them. Member Richey James (songwriter and guitarist) contributed heavily to the lyrics and mood of 1994 album The Holy Bible, released only months prior to his disappearance (sadly declared as 'presumed dead' in November, 2008), proved an intensely dark reflection of his personal turmoil.

The remaining three Manics, James Bradfield (vocals / guitar), Nicky Wire (bass / songwriting), and Sean Moore (drums) went on to release the brilliant Everything Must Go in 1996 (including 5 tracks co-written by Richey), and several other albums which all received mixed critical reception: This is My Truth Tell Me Yours (1998), Know Your Enemy (2001), Lifeblood (2004), and Send Away the Tigers (2007).

A mixture of semi-outrage and hopefulness in fans and critics alike has surrounded Journal For Plague Lovers since the announcement of the track-listing and cover art in March. In many ways appearing as a Holy Bible 'part 2', the cover art was done by Jenny Saville (whose Strategy painting graced the Holy Bible) and all of the songs contain lyrics left behind by Richey.

Opener "Peeled Apples" establishes an immediate departure from the commercial approach of Send Away the Tigers, with soundbite snippets and unnerving bass throbbing away. Tracks like this, and extraordinary album high-points like "She Bathed Herself in a Bath of Bleach" and "Marlon J.D.", not out of place in comparison (or companionship) to The Holy Bible, show a sudden maturity and advancement in band's sound, as if Journal For Plague Lovers is a purging of all they have been holding back. The content of the track available as a promo at their official website, "Jackie Collins Existential Question Time" seems a bit shocking amidst the radio-friendly instrumentation, with "Me and Stephen Hawking" continuing the feel of poppiness mixed with tongue-in-cheek wit.

"This Joke Sport Severed", acoustic and moving at the outset, and strings leaping in midway, is the most somber track so far, followed in theme, though more sarcastic, by "Facing Page: Top Left" later on. The album's mid-section has a greater continuity than the start, with title track "Journal For Plague Lovers", and even "She Bathed Herself in a Bath of Bleach", hinting at their glam-rock influences, while "Marlon J.D." is a crunchy synth-punk track, my favourite on the album. "Doors Closing Slowly" reiterates that unsettling gloom introduced earlier on. "All is Vanity", "Pretension/Repulsion", and "Virginia State Epileptic Colony" nearly blend into each other, sounding incomplete and hum-drum in comparison to what else is available here. Closing track "Williams Last Words", which is delivered vocally by Nicky Wire with much sadness and presumably in tribute to Richey. Bonus track "Bag Lady" ought to fulfill the needs of anyone who really expected to hear something Holy Bible-esque, sounding incredibly like it was pulled straight from '94.

The overall production (done by Steve Albini, who produced Nirvana's In Utero) wavers between sounding too polished and moments of the raw grittiness an album like this calls for and would have greatly benefited from if implemented on a wider scale throughout. Not exactly a place for beginners, since there are so many reference points to other places in their discography, nor is this the sort of album that can be properly understood after just a couple of listen-throughs, Journal For Plague Lovers ends up as the most enigmatic, satisfying release the Manic Street Preachers have put out in years.

1 comment:

Molecules said...

this is the perfect goody bag for any enthusiast of the new Manics album or fan of Richey Edwards' home truths... a great writer and truly the most deserving of the title manic street preacher. Girly glee EEEEE!