Manic Street Preachers - Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Manic Street Preachers

Bill Cummings 14/07/2003

Rating: 3/5

This album a collection of 35 b-sides and rarities is named "Lipstick Traces" after Greil Marcus's book of the same name that describes the story of The sex Pistols on the road. Its contents is as musically varied, personal, political, and tragic as the history of the welsh band the Manic Street Preachers themselves. Beginning with "Prologue to History" that's musically a throwback to the rhythms of Madchester, coupled with Nicky Wire's pleading lyrics about politics, and a creeping fear of his own irrelevance "Today a poet who can't play guitar,Tomorrow Steve Ovett has injured his calf,Next year the world's greatest politician,Yesterday the boy who once had a mission." Of The two "new" tracks "4ever delayed" is a sublime piece of Emotional stadium rock that makes up for what it lacks lyrically with world weary verses, and a sky scraping guitar led chorus. The second Judge Yr'self the last composition to feature missing lyricist Richey Edwards, is a fearsome slab of post holy bible rock, with a pile driving riff and stuttering vocals welded to lyrics by Richey that depict him inspecting his own self inflicted wounds "Heal yourself, Hurt yourself, Judge Yr'self" This track leads you to wonder what would have happened if Richey had stuck around? Would the Manics have imploded in hate or again rallied against everything around them, what is clear is that after Richey departed the scene the Manic's became a different band one touched by tragedy, and loss.

This tragedy is touched upon in tracks like "Sepia" a wide screen reminiscent strum that's words call to mind sadness, Hollywood Films, and Richey himself, " Just like the moment, In Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, I'm perpetually stuck in a sepia film, But bleeding inside I manage to keep it all in, I keep it all in."

Of the "classic" b-sides included here the highlights are "Comfort comes" with its spindling guitar line claustrophobic vocals from James Dean Bradfield and Richey's lyrics that plead for comfort anywhere. "Spectators of Suicide" with its beautiful piano line that's married to a whirling guitar lick and world weary lyrics that depict a country and culture on its knee's. " Donkeys" also touches upon an important theme in the Manic's work, depression Richey long battled with this illness, and Nicky Wire has often had to fight the Black dog from his door. The tracks gentle delivery and spindly guitar line are the perfect backdrop to perhaps the most realised encapsulation of depression in the Manic's catalogue lines like "Sweating and sickly, Donkey's don't allow their tears, No emotion never feel, And drown themselves in whatever" perhaps give away the fact that the donkey's in the song are often themselves. Of course the politics is here too,on older tracks like "we her Majesty's prisoners" that attacks the vulgarity of the English Monarchy naming it an " Ceremony rape machine." More recently on a track like "Socialist Serenade" slams the New Labour government charging it with forgetting its socialist roots in the final kiss off "Change your name to new, Forget the fucking Labour."

The tracks that encapsulate the Manic's clash esque punk past of the early days come in "Strip it down" and "Sorrow 16" both are clever slices of energized Glam-punk rock cloaked in a kind of edgy, and alienated despair.

Like the Smiths before them the Manic's have always operated upon a policy of applying quality to most of their output including their bsides. In fact at times some of their b-sides overshadow some of their singles or album tracks. This is a decent collection of those with notable underbelly of excellent quality in the first section of the album's tracks. Unfortunately one major criticism of this collection is the odd inclusion of some more recent tracks like "Just A Kid" and "Horses under Starlight's" that do nothing more than prove the Manic's have never been afraid musical reinvention. These tracks should have been replaced by a few on the far superior list of omissions including Never Want Again, Patrick Bateman, and Too Cold here.