Manic Street Preachers
Know Your Enemy
How mega-stardom has eluded the Manic Street Preachers • after all, they’ve got both the sound and image to respectably smash the charts, at least in their native England, much like Pulp have • is anyone’s guess, but there’s no discounting the bum luck that’s befallen the band: namely, principal songwriter Richey James’ vanishing without a trace back in ’95, and the generally poorly-timed placement of their platters in the cultural landscape. Nonetheless, the Manics soldier on with Know Your Enemy, their sixth and latest full-length, offering up arguably their most solid effort thus far and unarguably their broadest, most colorful canvas yet. That canvas, then: lead-off track “Found That Soul” pounds along metronomically to Radio Birdman-lite throb; downer ballad “Ocean Spray” is as pretty and amorphous as its namesake; “Intravenous Agnostic,” undoubtedly the most infectious song this writer’s come across in years (play it at least thrice a day), sorta sounds like Swervedriver covering The Replacements; pop nuggets “So Why So Sad” and “The Year of Purification” amble about like Wings on all sorts of narcotics; and “Miss Europa Disco Dancer” hustles to and fro exactly like its namesake. And, hey, that’s just the first half of Know Your Enemy • elsewhere, we’re amply treated to various variations on their tried n’ true glam-pop formula. Likewise, here and there, the generation terrorists’ often-conflated/usually-compelling/always-idiosyncratic inflammatory lyrics remain, perhaps a bit more sugar-coated, a bit more understated, this time ’round (although the last two cuts, “Baby Elian” and “Freedom of Speech Won’t Feed My Children” suggest otherwise) • or, at the very least, not as browbeating as those on The Holy Bible (pretty good) and Gold Against the Soul (pretty bad). The epitome of a “quiet triumph,” Know Your Enemy is forlornly bound to go overlooked and underappreciated, much like the Manics’ career has to this point. Criminal, absolutely criminal.
Virgin Records, 338 N. Foothill Rd., Beverly Hills, CA 90210; http://www.manics.co.uk