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Indie Rock Song of the Day

Song of the Day (Covers): Pixies – Head On

Day 4. Like yesterdays Pavement cover of an Echo & The Bunnymen song, todays choice is an American Indie Rock band covering a song by a British Indie Rock band. Pixies excellent cover of The Jesus And Mary Chain’s 1989 single Head On.

Pixies imbued this Jesus And Mary Chain classic with additional speed & aggression. Black Francis’ howl is in stark contrast to the polished Pop sheen of the original, truly making it their own. I personally know several people who assumed it was a Pixies original.

As soon as I get my head around you
I come around catching sparks off you
I get an electric shock from you
This secondhand living just won’t do
And the way I feel tonight
I could die and I wouldn’t mind
And there’s something going on inside
Makes you want to feel
Makes you want to try
Makes you want to blow the stars from the sky
And I can’t stand up
I can’t cool down
I can’t get my head off the ground
As soon as I get my head around you
I come around catching sparks off you
And all I ever got from you
Was all I ever took from you
Yeah, the world could die in pain
And I wouldn’t feel no shame
And there’s nothing holding me to blame
Makes you want to feel
Makes you want to try
Makes you want to blow the stars from the sky
And I’m taking myself to a dirty part of town
Where all my troubles can’t be found
I said yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah
And I’m taking myself to a dirty part of town
Where all my troubles can’t be found
Makes you want to feel
Makes you want to try
Makes you want to blow the stars from the sky

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Indie Rock New Wave Song of the Day

Song of the Day (Covers): Pavement – The Killing Moon

Day 4. Today’s cover is Pavement’s effortlessly cool cover of Echo & The Bunnymen’s 1984 Top Ten smash, The Killing Moon. You’ve definitely heard this song, I guarantee it. It appears on many TV & Movie soundtracks, most notably cult time travel mystery Donnie Darko.

Pavement traded in the eerie mysticism of the Echo & The Bunnymen original for the laconic slacker-cool they helped to define, turning the ’80’s New Wave anthem into, essentially, a classic Pavement song. The “Cucumber, cu-cu-cumber, ca-ca-ca-ca-cabbage” line is a homage to yet another Echo & The Bunnymen tune, Crown Of Thorns, taken form the same album as Killing Moon, Ocean Rain.

Under blue moon I saw you
So soon you’ll take me up in your arms
Too late to beg you or cancel it
Though I know it must be the killing time
Unwillingly mine

Fate’s up against your will
Through the thick and thin
You must wait until
You give yourself to him

In starlit nights I saw you
So cruel you’ll take me
Your lips a magic world
Your sky all hung with jewels
The killing moon will come too soon

Fate’s up against your will
Through the thick and thin
You must wait until
You give yourself to him

Cucumber, cu-cu-cumber, ca-ca-ca-ca-cabbage
Cucumber, cu-cu-cu-cu-cu-cu-cu-cu-cabbage
He’s a yo-yo man, always up and down
So take him to the end of his temper

Fate’s up against your will
Through the thick and thin
You must wait until
You give yourself to him

Fate’s up against your will
Through the thick and thin
You must wait until
You give yourself
You give yourself to him
You give yourself to him
You give yourself to him

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Art Pop Experimental Indie Rock Song of the Day Synth Pop

Song of the Day (Covers): The Flaming Lips – Can’t Get You Out Of My Head

Day 3. The Flaming Lips cover of Kylie Minogue’s Dance Pop mega-hit is about as different to the original track as possible. They turn the polished Pop into cinematic Psychedelia. String synths & unusual slow building percussion bring to mind the sound of Ennio Morricone’s Spaghetti Western soundtracks while Wayne Coynes gentle strumming & falsetto vocals anchor the track firmly in The Flaming Lips particular brand of Psychedelic Pop/Rock.

I just can’t get you out of my head
Boy your loving is all I think about
I just can’t get you out of my head
Boy it’s more than I dare to think about

I just can’t get you out of my head
Boy your loving is all I think about
I just can’t get you out of my head
Boy it’s more than I dare to think about

Every night, every day
Just to be there in your arms

Won’t you stay
Won’t you lay
Stay forever and ever
And ever and ever

I just can’t get you out of my head
Boy your loving is all I think about
I just can’t get you out of my head
Boy it’s more than I dare to think about

There’s a dark secret in me
Don’t leave me locked in your heart

Set me free
Feel the need in me
Set me free
Stay forever and ever
And ever and ever

I just can’t get you out of my head
I just can’t get you out of my head
I just can’t get you out of my head

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Electronic Music Indie Rock Song of the Day

Song of the Day (Covers): Primal Scream – Some Velvet Morning (feat. Kate Moss)

Welcome to a new series of Song of the Day I may return to The Chain for a later series (possibly starting up from the previous entry, The Prodigy’s Firestarter), but for now I’m introducing a series of covers.

Day 1. Primal Scream’s heavy electronic version of Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood’s psychedelic lounge duet, featuring model Kate Moss, was recorded for their Evil Heat album & features many similar sonic touches. I remember it playing in every Indie or Rock club night for years & it seemed like a big deal commercially, so I’m surprised to see it actually only made it to number 44 in the UK charts. MAybe it’s time for a rerelease.

Some velvet morning
When I’m straight
I’m gonna open up your gate
Some velvet morning
When I’m straight
I’m gonna open up your gate

Flowers growing on a hill
Dragonflies and daffodils
Learn from us very much
Look at us but do not touch
Phaedra is my name

Some velvet morning
When I’m straight
I’m gonna open up your gate
Some velvet morning
When I’m straight
I’m gonna open up your gate

Flowers are the things we grow
Secrets are the things we know
Learn from us very much
Look at us but do not touch
Phaedra is my name

Some velvet morning
When I’m straight
I’m gonna open up your gate
Some velvet morning
When I’m straight
I’m gonna open up your gate

Some velvet morning when I’m straight

Flowers are the things we grow
Secrets are the things we know

I’m gonna open up your gate

Learn from us very much
Look at us but do not touch
Look at us but do not touch
Look at us but do not touch

Looking for some great music? Why not try out the Song of the Day (Covers) Spotify playlist.

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Indie Rock Rock And Roll

Pavement’s Fillmore Jive, deathbed confessions of Rock n Roll

Pavement circa-’93/’94, Gail Butensky, Matador Records

Rock n Roll, characterised as youth culture/Pop culture, is pretty much dead right now. It’s still twitching corpse convulses & releases gas from time to time but, as a serious proposition, Rock n Roll has been dead for a long time. In 1994, on their excellent sophomore album Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, Indie Rock royalty Pavement wrote & recorded the excellent Fillmore Jive, a wonky, fuzzy tribute to the (even then) dying genre. Eschewing the usual verse-chorus-verse structures of Rock n Roll, Fillmore Jive weaves together various… I’m going to call them stanzas unique, separate sections of music. These stanzas are connected by Malkmus’ wilfully off-kilter guitar playing. The backing track is exciting, spontaneous & jam-like. If you’re going to tell a story never told, you’ll be needing a new way to tell it. There are sections of Fillmore Jive which would form epic choruses, in their own right, in the hands of lesser bands. Malkmus’ ear for dissonant melodicism can write enough of these beautifully lazy melodies that Pavement don’t need to write a whole song around each one.

Fillmore Jive tells the story of the dying days of Rock n Roll from a particularly unique viewpoint: Rock n Roll itself. When Stephen Malkmus sings “I need to sleep, why won’t you let me?” he’s singing in character as Rock n Roll itself. In the first verse, Rock n Roll is feeling sad, despondent, laying in the sofa (couch). Rock n Roll’s voice is quiet & contemplative. Whispering in someone’s ear.  Rock n Roll needs some company: “Hey lady, what do you need?/Do you think you’d like to come and bleed with me?” Bleeding out on hotrock burn pocked carpet of a mid-‘90’s stoner bedroom. To sweeten the deal, Rock n Roll proffers a chalice, “It’s a special one, it’s made of gold.” I used to be something, used to be special. I’ve still got it. Still got what made me special in the first place. Rock n Roll is stronger than ever.

I’m interpreting it as the company, the “lady,” that Rock n Roll is asking for is in fact 90’s youth culture. This will become clearer later in the song, but for now I think that Rock n Roll is begging for attention in a landscape of other things that teenagers could be paying attention to. Rock n Roll in 1994 is beset on all sides by things which are vying for the attention of young people. Hip-Hop, Techno, House, Jungle, Trip-Hop, Ambient etc. There are countless new, innovative genres of music to excite young people before we even get to the popular, chart, radio stuff. Videogaming is in ascendant, approaching the end of the fourth generation of consoles, some would argue is the height of videogaming. SNES & Megadrive (Genesis in the US), Game Gear & Game Boy. Early days of PC gaming.

“Passed out on your couch/You left me there (thanks),” I interpret as thanking young people for still giving Rock n Roll a chance, still finding it relevant. But there’s also a sense of fatigue. Rock n Roll is exhausted, tired. Every combination has been done to death. No originality is left. Self-loathing sets in. Rock n Roll needed to be left alone & is grateful that it was. Malkmus’ soft whisper sounds full of defeat, of weariness: “I need to sleep to sleep it off.” It’s a heartbreaking moment & when the big “I need to sleep” over the heavy riffing kicks in, there is a palpable sense of relief & release.

After the explosive release of that section, we enter a downcast, melancholic section which, to me, seems to eulogise the subgenres & subcultures which Rock n Roll birthed, as they’re dying out: “The jam kids on the Vespas/And glum looks on their faces/The street is full of punks/They got spikes/See those rockers with their long curly locks.” The music here is minimal & loose, Malkmus’ vocal almost speaking. “Goodnight to the Rock n Roll era,” he finishes before another dive into distorted, wonky jamming. Lead guitars as dissonant as they are melodic. This is another section which feels like a release. Euphoric. The drunken dancing of a wake, perhaps.

The following section seems to address the outside influences which contribute towards the suffering of Rock n Roll. “Jazz buffs’ skinny arms,” “the dance faction, a little too loose for me.” Rock n Roll (or maybe this is Malkmus’ voice speaking now) finds these things boring (“every night it’s straight and narrow”) or dangerous, scary (“laws are broken, amusing era”). The final stanza almost dismissed these distractions due to their association with drugs: “Pull out their plugs and they snort up their drugs.”

The song breaks off with an unfinished line, “their throats are filled with…” This could be the declaration that Rock n Roll is not quite ready to die, or that it may be resurrected. 26 years later & I don’t think we’re there yet.

Another interesting thing about Fillmore Jive, a piece of trivia is that the Fillmore was a big Rock n Roll venue in San Francisco, associated with psychedelic music. The Fillmore closed in 1989 following the Loma Prieta earthquake & the death by helicopter crash of manager Bill Graham. Pavement played in San Francisco ten days before it was due to open, in April of ’94, at The Great American Music Hall. However, the first band to play in the newly opened Fillmore, on the 27th April 1994, were the Smashing Pumpkins, who Pavement had snarkily insulted on the Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain single Range Life.

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Indie Rock Pop

beabadoobee – Care

TikTok Bedroom Pop/Indie Rock sensation beebadoobee is walking a particularly fine line, artistically. She seems to be garnering a massive following among her fellow Gen-Z-ers despite much of her music, visuals & lyrics being aimed squarely at the nostalgia for the ’90’s. She has a single called I Wish I Was Stephen Malkmus.

Care is Bedroom Pop with a hard, Indie Rock edge. With it’s Stompbox abusing chorus, you could imagine it appearing on either NME or Kerrang! best of 1999 giveaway CD’s, despite that being the year before beabadoobee was even born. The lowkey Pop verses bring to mind Version 2.0 era Garbage, tracks like Push It or I Think I’m Paranoid. It’s actually a thrilling slice of Power Pop which could survive just as well on the radio as it could in an Indie/Rock themed nightclub.

The video is a mashup of various ’90’s (mainly) retrophilia tropes. Grungy ripped jumpers, CRT TV’s blurring & wobbling, emulated VHS decay, grainy film, reel to reel tape machines, Polaroids etc. Even things like the camera angles & the way the various clips are edited together screams ’90’s. As a guy approaching 40 I’m actually conflicted about the fetishisation of my own cultural upbringing as a way of selling records. As Pulp famously flashed on screen at the beginning of the Babies video, “A promo video is simply an advertisement for a song.” & this brings up another contradictory confusion: who exactly is this aimed at? Who is beabadoobee’s target audience? Is it me? The middle aged dude who was a teenager in the ’90’s, or her own generation (gen Z)? Are todays young fetishising the ’90’s in a similar way to how my generation fetishised the ’60’s? I have no answers & it’s driving me mad.

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Art Indie Rock Literature Poetry Rock And Roll

Manic Street Preachers – Secret Trilogy

I was reading Simon Price’s review of Futurology (Manic Street Preachers 2014 album) on The Quietus, & he mentions that, according to Bassist & lyricist Nicky Wire, the third song on the album, Let’s Go To War, is the “final part in the ‘You Love Us’/’Masses Against The Classes’ trilogy.” This was news to me, that a trio of disparate songs from disparate times of their career went together as a sequence. It’s difficult to believe that the “trilogy” was planned from the start. I suspect that Wire is referring to a sense of kinship he personally feels between the three songs. I thought it might be a good idea to cast a critical eye over the trio of songs from the point of view of them being a trilogy.

You Love Us (1992)

Quote used at beginning of You Love Us video

Back at the start of their career, Manic Street preachers were difficult band to pin down, ideologically speaking. Their artwork & lyrics were chock full of esoteric quotes & references. This was evidenced across the artworks of their records, music videos (see above) & even on their clothes or written on their skin in marker pen. New Art Riot, an early EP, had a several quotes printed on its sleeve. Karl Marx (“I am nothing and should be everything”) & a lengthy Andy Warhol one:

You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it…

Andy Warhol

This observation of the ubiquitous nature of Coca-Cola was reworked slightly -via contemporary slant- in the lyrics of Slash ‘n’ Burn, the opening track on their debut album Generation Terrorists, as “Madonna drinks Coke and so you can too/Tastes real good not like a sweet poison should.” It’s unclear to me whether their image of Coke as a “sweet poison” is echoed in the Andy Warhol quote, but it seems as though the Manic Street Preachers viewed it that way.

Another early single, Motown Junk channels William Burroughs on its sleeve:

Rock and roll adolescents storm into the streets of all nations. They rush into the Louvre and throw acid in the Mona Lisa’s face. They open zoo’s, insane asylums, prisons, burst water mains with air hammers, chop the floor out of passenger plane lavatories, shoot out lighthouses, turn sewers into water supply, administer injections with bicycle pumps, they shit on the floor of the United Nations and wipe their ass with treaties, pacts, alliances.

William S Burroughs, Naked Lunch

This brief sequence from Naked Lunch, Burroughs’ seminal & nightmarish cutup masterpiece, seems to be ascribing qualities to the new generation of teenagers that he wished upon his own generation. This paragraph echoes, in my mind at least, what the German expressionist group of artists known as Die Brücke were saying in 1906: “We call upon all youth to unite. And being youth, the bearers of the future, we want to wrest from the comfortably established older generation freedom to live and move.” The group aimed to build a “bridge to the future” & I’m certain that Burroughs, writing in the mid ’50’s, could see the potential of the nascent youth-movement coalescing around the equally nascent Rock ‘n’ Roll genre of music, to fulfil this promise. To build this “bridge to the future.” The Manic Street Preachers not only printed this on their record sleeve, but the concept of throwing acid into the Mona Lisa’s face likely influenced the line in You Love Us: “throw some acid into your face.”

A slight diversion here but Die Brücke weren’t the only 20th century European art movement which influenced the Manic Street Preachers in their early days. The Situationists love affair with the art of The Slogan also rubbed off on them somewhat. It’s easy to draw parallels between early the slogans the band scrawled across their clothes in the early days with the slogans which the Situationist International scrawled upon walls throughout Paris of 1968. Something like “BOMB THE PAST”, written on one of Richey Edwards shirts in ’91, isn’t dissimilar to something like “AFTER ART, GOD IS DEAD” by the Situationists.

While Stay Beautiful quoted Burroughs friend & peer Allen Ginsberg, form his epic Beat Poem Howl!

Moloch whose Soul is electricity and banks!
Moloch whose Poverty is the specter of Genius
Moloch whose fate is a cloud of sexless oxygen
Moloch whose name is the Mind. Robot apartments

Allen Ginsberg, Howl! (1954-1955)

These sections from Howl! about Moloch are pure Manics. Moloch [from Wikipedia] “is the biblical name of a Canaanite god associated with child sacrifice, through fire or war.” Ginsberg was drawing connections between death, war, child sacrifice & relentless march of technology & modern society. While not directly pro-communist, it’s difficult to argue that Howl! isn’t anti-Capitalist. “A cloud of sexless oxygen” seems to me, to be one of the most beautifully poetic descriptions of boredom I’ve ever heard.

This quotational diarrhoea, while being hugely appealing to a 13/14/15 year old version of me, was a bit of a red flag for the band’s well meaning, left leaning but confused ideology. This same confusion/contradiction was as visible in the band’s music & artwork too. Musically, & You Love Us is a prime example of this, Manic Street Preachers didn’t know whether they wanted to be Punk or Hair-Metal. Songs were short, aggressive & spiky but James Dean Bradfield’s excellent singing voice & virtuoso guitar playing often lent them a ‘big Rock’ sound which seemed to shave against the grain of the Punk lyrics & rhythms. Most songs included the ‘big Rock’ moment: the impressive guitar solos which were inspired by the bands love & dedication to US hair-metallers Guns And Roses.

You Love Us seems to be a coalescence of these diverse influences & confused ideologies. There is a preoccupation with sin in You Love Us, “we are not your sinners/our voices are for real.” To sin is to be inauthentic in their minds. The latter line has an uncomfortable (& prescient) relationship with the infamous “4Real” incident. In a strangely 2020 couplet at the beginning of the second verse “’til I see love in statues/your lessons drill inherited sin.” This could almost have been written for the ‘controversy’ surrounding the destruction by protestors of statues to infamous slave traders & Confederate generals. “Inherited sin” in this case being the slave trade, the uncomfortable & shameful foundation stone supporting much of modern, western society.

There are lines which seem to express frustration with Neoliberalism (Thatcher was still in power & Reagan had only recently being replaced by Bush senior when these lyrics were written) “PR problems,” “Parliament” being a “fake life saver” & poisoning “mineral water” (a drink associated with the Yuppy movement in the early ’90’s) “with a strychnine taste.”

The other thing the Manics were unable to escape during their early years was The War. The Second World War, that is. The Holocaust in particular. The “Death Mask uniforms” of the first verse are a pretty clear reference to the skull-logo of the SS, including senior staff of concentration camps & use of the word “holocaust” itself in the second pre-chorus.

& then the final piece of the puzzle is the self-centred arrogance of the songs title itself. The Manic Street Preachers were famously arrogant in their early days. At least in the press. It was obviously all an act & designed to get good press, but it informed this song heavily. “We won’t die of devotion,” they sing in the first pre-chorus, “understand we can never belong.” Is this a hint of resignation, pessimism? Admission that they will fail at their stated plan: to sell 16 million copies of Generation Terrorists & then split up completely. This hyperbolic bravado certainly succeeded in garnering masses of attention from the music press, so job done in my opinion.

The Masses Against The Classes (2000)

“Went to Cuba to meet Castro…” Manic Street Preachers meeting Fidel Castro, 2001

Before discussing The Masses Against The Classes in any detail, it’s worth noting a cool piece of Rock n Roll trivia. The Masses Against The Classes was the first new UK number 1 single of the 21st century. It’s a hell of an achievement & one which the Manic Street Preachers will always hold over their detractors.

The Masses Against The Classes (named for a quote by 19th century British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone) was described in terms of a return to an earlier version of the Manic Street Preachers. Writing in NME, Victoria Segal described it as “an attempted return to the primordial punk slime of their birth.” Journalist Martin Power likened it to the “raucous, guitar-driven […] Pop-Punk” of Nirvana’s On A Plain. Nicky Wire claimed they wanted an “Iggy & The Stooges vibe.” It’s important to remember that The Masses Against The Classes was released in the wake of their commercial peak: the polemic powered proletarian Rock of Everything Must Go which bled into the chart-bothering late-’90’s Indie Pop of This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours.

This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours, named for a quote by the great Labour politician Nye Bevan, came dangerously close to falling into the beige subgenre of late-90’s Indie where you’d find things like The Verve, Travis, Coldplay etc. Despite the slowed down, polished up sheen of This Is My Truth, it still provided the band with some of the most compelling music of their career. Lead single, If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next, with its flanged guitar chords & dense keyboard soundscapes, became (probably) the first UK number one single to address fighting Fascists during the Spanish Civil War.

The Indie music press, though, had written the Manics off as just another commercially successful band in the sea of beige. Contemporaries of Chris Martin & co. So, The Masses Against The Classes was seen as a rebuttal of that safe, smooth image. It was supposed to be a roar of anger against the band’s detractors & a reassuring gesture for fans that they may have lost (or come close to losing) in the post-Richey years. It is a downtempo, heavy guitar driven slice of Alternative Rock. The Nirvana comparisons are probably about spot on. The “ahh ahh ahhh ahhhh” intro is a nice enough throwback to the early days of Rock n Roll (specifically the Beatles version of Twist And Shout), which was obviously on their mind a lot at the time because one of the b-sides was a cover of Chuck Berry’s Rock And Roll Music.

Lyrically, The Masses Against The Classes feels a little shallow at first glance, especially fresh from listening to You Love Us with its dense web of references. It is however bookended by a pair of quotes. The song opens with a quote from American dissident linguist Noam Chomsky: “The country was founded on the principle that the primary role of the government is to protect property from the majority, and so it remains.” Stick a heavy reverb on that & we’d almost be in Choking Victim/Leftover Crack territory. The song closes with James Dean Bradfield screaming out an Albert Camus quote: “The slave begins by demanding justice and ends by wanting to wear a crown.” The choice of quotes seems to muddy the waters of what the song is about rather than offer any clarity. This is compounded by the quotations printed on the record sleeve. Mao Tse-Tung on the 10″ vinyl (“We should support whatever the enemy opposes and oppose whatever the enemy supports.”) & Kierkegaard on the CD (“Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be read forwards.”). Profound these quotes may be, but it’s hard to tie them into The Masses Against The Classes lyrical content.

“Hello it’s us again,” the opening line states, “we’re still so in love with you.” I suspect that the “us” here is the same “us” that “you” loved back in ’92. This backs up the idea that The Masses Against The Classes is reaching out to lapsed (or betrayed) fans in some way. “You” can still love “us” because “we’re still so in love with you.” It’s quite simple & transparent. On the nose. I personally miss the opacity of earlier lyrics, like You Love Us. To confuse things slightly though, the end of the first verse seems to insult the same lapsed fans they were just trying to appeal to: “You thought you were our friends/ Success is an ugly word/Especially in your tiny world.” Even in transparency, the Manics embrace contradiction.

The chorus is also quite contradictory. “The masses against the classes/I’m tired of giving a reason/When the future is what we believe in.” In the final chorus, the song echoes You Love Us completely by declaring that “we’re the only thing left to believe in.” I take from these lyrics that the band are becoming increasingly uncomfortable in explaining their politics. It’s a classic dilemma of the left. Left-wing politics based on theory, history & dialectical analysis. By contrast, right-wing politics appeals to nothing other than greed, selfishness & hate. There is no future through Neoliberalism. The masses should, logically, be always against the classes because that’s the only way they have a future. The band are tired of “giving a reason” why they’re “against the classes.” They believe in the future, that’s why. The final lines of the chorus seem to me to be a bit of copy/paste Manics mythology trivia. I distinctly remember (although have failed utterly to find) an interview in which the band state that they prefer winter to summer. The reasoning, as I recall, was along similar lines to “we love the winter/It brings us closer together.”

I’m fairly certain that the first part of the second verse is addressing the absent Richey Edwards. “So can you hurt us anymore/Can you feel like it was before/Or are you lost forever more/Messed up and dead on alcohol.” This is addressing the pain which his disappearance caused the band. There’s a probing quality, like a tongue poking at an aching tooth. Will this return to our roots hurt? Will it bring back the pain of your loss all over again? The second couplet addresses Edwards’ reliance on alcohol & wonders aloud if he’s dead or alive. The second half of the verse feeds back into the You Love Us continuation. “Hello, fond farewell my dears/I hope you hear this nice and clear/Our love is unconditional/Our hate is yours to feed upon.” Is the “fond farewell” a signalling of the end of the original version of the Manic Street Preachers? The Punkier, angrier nihilists who wrote You Love Us & Motown Junk? It seems to read that way to me, though their following album, 2001’s Know Your Enemy, included several rawer, Punkier songs, like lead single Found That Soul.

Let’s Go To War (2014)

“…here in my safe European home…” Manic Street Preachers, 2014

Let’s Go To War is the only song in the secret trilogy to not have been released as a single. It is also the one I am least familiar with. As a fan, I was left slightly disappointed by the scrappy effort that was 2001’s Know Your Enemy, & I lost touch with the band for a long time. I remember someone playing me Lifeblood & I enjoyed it, but it didn’t excite me the way their older material did. Recently, I have decided to try & catch up with everything they’ve released since Know Your Enemy. Futurology is definitely the highlight of the bunch. Recorded at the legendary Hansa Studios in Berlin (of Bowie/Iggy fame) & channelling a love of European culture & music, Futurology is thought of by many to be ‘their Krautrock album’. That’s a little simplistic & inaccurate though. While it’s clearly inspired by Krautrock, Futurology is still very much the Manic Street Preachers we know & love.

The influences actually do a lot to bring the percussion to the front of the composition process, making Futurology, perhaps, Sean Moore’s album his time to really shine. The motorik, propellant beat of Let’s Go To War is definitely aided by having as accomplished a stickman as Moore on the drums. The walking bass & steady drumming almost bring to mind Faith No More’s powerful We Care A Lot to mind. There’s even a little guitar lick before the chorus which is eerily similar to a certain slap bass lick from We Care A Lot. Not to mention the similar choruses, composed from the same number of words & syllables. I sort of wish I hadn’t noticed that similarity.

Lyrically, Let’s Go To War seems to be almost resigned to a coming conflict. One which was both anticipated in the lyrics to You Love Us & The Masses Against The Classes, & which the Manics hoped to avoid. It’s almost like spending all of your time & resources trying to win elections, to save lives through official/proper channels, only to realise that you’ll actually have to build those guillotines & spill a little blood after all, even though avoiding that was the entire reason for your legitimate campaign.

The song lists things, in the first verse, which could be references to the legitimate campaign & the hostile opposition it faced. “All the complications/All the deviations/All the holy edicts/All the broken subjects.” James Dean Bradfield sounds almost defeated in this verse, downhearted, downcast. There’s a sense of resignation. That things are not getting better. & then you have the Faith No More lick which leads into the chanted chorus of “Let’s go to war.” “To feel some pureness and some pain […] we need to go to war again,” it continues. This certainly seems to me to be the resignation I mentioned before.

The second verse, which speaks of “working class skeletons” which “lie scattered in museums” seems to be addressing the futility of war, as well as the reality of it; that those who do the killing & the dying are from the working classes. The First World War is often viewed as mechanised slaughter of the working classes by a cabal, on each side, of bloodthirsty toffs. The “false economies” which “speak falsely of your dreams” are both the justification & the rewards of war. And all of these ‘rewards’ generally go to the rich. The “working class skeletons” rarely, if ever, see any benefits from the wars they fight in.

In the bridge section of the song we get a continuation from The Masses Against The Classes. An affirmation that despite all of the “knives they will now sharpen,” the Manics still love you. “So don’t forget we love you still,” James sings. It repeats through echoes several times, as if to underline the point. The point being that You Love Us & we love you.

& that, I believe is what the secret trilogy of Manic Street Preachers songs is about. Love & War. They love us, hope/want us to love them & will both lead us & stand by us in the vaguely defined war. Another takeaway is that despite their blurred & confused ideology, the Manics definitely mean what they say & say what they mean. Even if they don’t understand it. Or know how to properly articulate it.

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Indie Rock New Wave Post Punk Song of the Day Synth Pop

Song of the Day (The Chain): The Cure – Pictures Of You

Day 32. The link in the chain today is photography. Manic Street Preachers’ Kevin Carter is about the titular photographer & Pictures Of You by The Cure is inspired by the remains of photographs which were damaged in a housefire.

Pictures Of You is smouldering, emotional Indie Pop which relies as much on fantastic guitar work as it does on almost euphoric synth pads. Slow burning vocal melodies & rocksteady bass lines anchor this Indie gem beautifully. Also a great video which takes you right back to ’89.

I’ve been looking so long at these pictures of you
That I almost believe that they’re real 
I’ve been living so long with my pictures of you
That I almost believe that the pictures 
Are all I can feel

Remembering you standing quiet in the rain 
As I ran to your heart to be near 
And we kissed as the sky fell in
Holding you close 
How I always held close in your fear
Remembering you running soft through the night 
You were bigger and brighter and wider than snow
And screamed at the make-believe 
Screamed at the sky
And you finally found all your courage 
To let it all go

Remembering you fallen into my arms 
Crying for the death of your heart 
You were stone white
So delicate 
Lost in the cold 
You were always so lost in the dark
Remembering you how you used to be 
Slow drowned 
You were angels
So much more than everything 
Hold for the last time then slip away quietly 
Open my eyes 
But I never see anything

If only I’d thought of the right words 
I could have held on to your heart 
If only I’d thought of the right words
I wouldn’t be breaking apart 
All my pictures of you

Looking so long at these pictures of you 
But I never hold on to your heart 
Looking so long for the words to be true
But always just breaking apart
My pictures of you

There was nothing in the world
That I ever wanted more 
Than to feel you deep in my heart
There was nothing in the world 
That I ever wanted more
Than to never feel the breaking apart
All my pictures of you

Keep up to date with the Song of the Day (The Chain) Spotify playlist.

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Indie Rock Song of the Day

Song of the Day (The Chain): Manic Street Preachers – Kevin Carter

Day 32. From Carrion by British Sea Power to Kevin Carter by Manic Street Preachers. The link in the chain is the line in Kevin Carter, “vulture stalked white piped lie forever”. The reference to vultures -or carrion- is the link.

Kevin Carter is bouncy, upbeat Pop Rock from Manic Street Preachers’ commercial breakthrough album, Everything Must Go. Released in the wake of guitarist/lyricist Richey Edwards’ disappearance, it is an album which feels like it’s making a clean break from the bands past (“escape from the history”), as such, it’s commercial success feels bittersweet in the light of the disappearance. Kevin Carter is one of the few songs on Everything Must Go with lyrics written by the erstwhile Edwards & is about the eponymous, Pulitzer Prize winning photographer, specifically his suicide in 1994.

Hi Time magazine hi Pulitzer Prize
Tribal scars in Technicolor
Bang bang club AK 47 hour

Kevin Carter

Hi Time magazine hi Pulitzer Prize
Vulture stalked white piped lie forever
Wasted your life in black and white

Kevin Carter
Kevin Carter
Kevin Carter

Kevin Carter
Kevin Carter
Kevin Carter
Kevin Carter

The elephant is so ugly he sleeps his head
Machetes his bed Kevin Carter kaffir lover forever
Click click click click click
Click himself under

Kevin Carter
Kevin Carter
Kevin Carter

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Indie Rock Synth Pop

Superlove – Jarvis Put The Record On

Maltese originating, Berlin based Synth-Indie band Superlove are about to release a beautiful limited edition single with boutique cassette label Safe Suburban Home.

The single, Jarvis Put The Record On is fuzzy, synthetic, energetic Pop. Masterfully programmed drum machine patterns (we know from the b-side that frontman Daniel Borg owns a 909, so it’s a safe assumption that he’s using it here) underpins beautifully textured synth bass parts & spectral, swirling pads. The song was built around parts which were written on a cheap Casio keyboard which sadly didn’t survive the session.

The song was inspired by a chance encounter with Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker & is inspired by the lack of new music from the esteemed Britpop singer. Jarvis Put The Record On was written “in the vague hope that one day he will hear it and crack out another album,” recalls Borg. Cocker has since released new music under his Jarv Is moniker. “Maybe we managed to convince him, who knows?” says Borgs bandmate, Alexandra Aquilina.

B-side Me & My 909 is a more subdued affair. Sombre guitar lines, a murky, synthy soundscape & beautifully simple drum machine pattern. In tribute to his 909, Borg says he wanted to build the song around “the most basic beat to enhance the beauty of this machine.” The downtempo rhythm, noisy soundscape & male/female vocal harmonies almost take it into Shoegaze territory.

Jarvis Put The Record On is available on limited Cassette through Safe Suburban Home on 7th August.The Cassette is available to pre-order here. The songs can be pre-saved to Spotify here.

Check out the excellent video for Jarvis Put The Record On.