Well. Imagine the scenario – you’ve spent the last decade or so travelling through punk, cross dressing, Kylie, the obligatory wannabe-Slash phase, vitriol and rhetoric by the bucketload, mainstream arena rock and the kind of music that gets played in the background in the Queen Vic. Oh, and the even more obligatory wannabe-young-again album. Where’s left to go? What do you do when you’ve seen and conquered pretty much all a standard rock trio can give?
Apparently, you go electronic. At least, according to the Manics you do. The first single from the forthcoming ‘Greatest Hits’ merges Depeche Mode with New Order and any other effects laden band you care to mention in a glorious wash of sweeping guitars and harsh yet soaring vocals that would be nothing short of spectacular, bar one teeny, tiny point. James was so transfixed by all his nice shiny wah-wah pedals that he forgot to put a chorus in it (although it ain’t really fair to just blame him, the other two could have woken up from their Hoover-crazed stupor of domestic bliss long enough to recognise this glitch). As a result, the song builds and builds beautifully, you’re in breathless anticipation of the chorus – but instead the verse starts again, leaving you either feeling slightly ripped off, or for the more delusional folks out there, marvelling at your super-intelligent Walkman that manages not to lose a beat when it skips.
And the same thing happens about two thirds of the way in, the point where any guitar wielding band turns the amps up to eleven and plucks away at ferocious speed – ‘There By The Grace Of God’ is just itching for a decent solo, some kind of clarity to cut through the cloying wall of sound, but it just never happens. It’s a great song with a hypnotic melody, but ultimately it’s just unsatisfying to listen to, it leaves you wanting, no, needing more. And considering the Manics early sneers about being co-operative and complying to requests, this song would be a perverse and therefore ideal way for them to leave us.