The Hang of Music: Elvis Impersonators and Wannabe Deities

Same thing, right? Welcome to Set Three of these reviews, and I’m still going strong, and am TOTALLY SOBER this time. Man, last week feels like an age ago already.

I’m going to start with a couple of albums that have been requested/I have been pestered about. Don’t ask me why – the people involved must just like listening to me waffle. That or they’re tired of the indie music that I keep looking into.

Zo, nomber vun on ze list is “Everything Must Go”, by ze Manic Street Preachers.

Rather like Massive Attack (who are neither massive nor aggressive) and Led Zeppelin (who have refused to sink), the Manic Street Preachers’ name is a complete misnomer. They are neither manic nor particularly preachy (although they do actually have things to say). If you want a Manic Street Preacher in that sense, go listen to the Reverend. However, we are here to talk about MSP, not Jon McClure.

Despite knowing this, “Elvis Impersonator: Blackpool Pier” is a much slower, much quieter intro track than I was expecting. Maybe I just have weird expectations about Blackpool, though.

By the time “A Design for Life” was over, though, I have a few questions for them band. First of all, are they even trying for rhymes here? They just sound like strings of words. Also, are they aware that adding extra syllables onto a word to make it singable with the rhythm of the guitar is an offence? I was honestly a bit shocked. But don’t worry, I’ve put my pitchfork and flaming torch away; I’ve checked the rulebook, and it’s not a hanging offence.*

But these gripes aside, it could’ve been much worse. And then they followed it up with the lovely, lovely sax and very nice guitar on Kevin Carter. So they redeemed themselves sufficiently.

All this does ask the question though – who is Kevin Carter, and what has he doen to earn the attention of the Manic Street Preachers? Why must they torment him so? KEVIN, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?

Continuing this pattern of going through the album, song by song, “Small Black Flowers In The Sky” just sounds like it must have been written on drugs. Plucking the strings on a… harp? Harps are the trippiest instrument out there. I swear I’ve only ever heard them played in “Alice in Wonderland” adaptations and in the background of your acid trips. In that respect, they may as well have just called it “Tie Dyed Shrooms in the Forest” and had done.

Not only can I sympathise with the the sentiment behind “The Girl That Wanted to be God” (except the girl part, but that just makes it gender-bendingly awesome) but I like how soaring and life affirmingthe song is, ignoring its megalomaniacal tendencies. And why shouldn’t it be life affirming? Being God would certainly be pretty damn life affirming! But I digress…

You know, all of these titles have one thing in common, so far: they’re all pretty damn trippy.

Listen to the end of “Interiors”, then listen to the solo on this Graham Coxon song. They do sound kind of similar. Or is it just me?

A lot of the songs on here have some very nice guitar, actually. I’ve picked my favourites for you – “Kevin Carter” and “Interiors (Song for Willem de Kooning)” – but other tracks on the album, such as the “Magic America”-ish “Removables”, are far from shabby in that respect. And I’ve now made two comparisons to Blur in as many paragraphs. I wonder if that says anything about the band.

Whilst I’m making comparisons -some of the vocals have a proggy edge to them, and make me think of Geddy Lee from Rush, and the actual sitting and listening to of this album has reminded me of nothing more than the weird, brit-poppy folk fun of Levellers. There. I hope I’m done now

While I’m referencing people, however, the band themselves don’t seem to be averse to doing that themselves. I’ve never of a band make so many references to real things in their songs before. Again, the two that I’ve linked both refer to real people – a South African Photojournalist and a Dutch-American abstract expressionist artist. Cynically, I wonder if they were just ripped from the headlines, but even so I find this impressive.

Whereas I find this "expressive".

A side note about art – Manic Street Preachers have a tendecy to incorporate a lot of art into their work. They’ve had the same painter on their album covers at least twice, for example, when most bands don’t use other people’s paintings at all. Clearly this is a passion of theirs.

Anyway, whenever I listened to a track on this album, I felt the urge to go and read the lyrics. They’ve clearly went to the trouble of making every song mean something, but then that meaning’s buried under near incomprehensible syntax and poetic license.

For example, “Black Flowers” is apparently about animal cruelty, yet I didn’t pick up on that from listening. Read the lyrics, however, and it’s a little clearer, if not abundantly so. If this is just a couple of the songs that I’ve read the lyrics to, I want to know what the rest mean, and that means reading the words rather than listening to the songs.

Overall, I like what they were attempting to do. With the whole thing, I mean, not just the lyrics. The music was there, the lyrics are intriguing if incomprehensible, and there’s plenty going on. At the very least, this album is proof that I need to listen to the rest of their albums to catch some more stuff like this. Or at the very very least, I need to listen to “Kevin Carter” again. Man, but I do love that sax.

* It was also their first offense, and they didn’t repeat their past mistakes. I’ve let them off with a caution. Next time it’s an ASBO for them.

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Posted on December 15, 2011, in Music, The Hang of Music and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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