The Manic Street Preachers 'This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours' - Review by Robert Porter
"The furies are at home in the mirror; it is their address. Even the clearest water, if deep enough can drown. Never think to surprise them. Your face approaching ever so friendly is the white flag they ignore. There is no truce with the furies. A mirror's temperature is always at zero. It is ice in the veins. Its camera is an x-ray. It is a chalice held out to you in silent communion, where gaspingly you partake of a shifting identity never your own." R.S.Thomas
The Manics tradition of including thought provoking sleeve notes lifted from others' works is upheld in this, their 5th album, with this short, defeatist account of vanity. As ever it perfectly illustrates the overall mood of the album: one of resigned acceptance. Since 1992's "Generation Terrorists" the Manics have collectively raged against the various cancers of society such as war, fascism, annorexia, pornography and apathy. Where "Everything Must Go" represented a sharp change of musical direction from the spiky, unsettling noise of "The Holy Bible" to a more commercially acceptable sub-grunge style, their as yet unfettered lyrical bombardment of every establishment was maintained with angry songs about Elvis impersonaters, a suicidal Pulitzer prize winner, caged animals and Sylvia Plath. "Truth.." continues this new musical direction and in many ways refines and improves on "Everything Must Go", certainly in terms of scope (it is nearly 20 minutes longer with multiple string ensembles, etc). Perhaps more significant however, is where this album differs from its predecessors. Whilst until now, each new Manics album has changed quite dramatically in musical style, their lyrics have remained poignant, well observed and above all aggressive. Here, above all, we get the impression that they have all but given up the fight. Thomas's words on the cover are further amplified inside.
Opening track "The Everlasting" includes a chorus built around the words "In the beginning when we were winning, when our smiles were genuine". In "Ready for Drowning" they ask "Where are we going?, we're not ready for drowning". There no longer seems the sense of purpose which ran so strongly through their previous works. It is perhaps no coincidence that this is the first album without any lyrical imput from Richey James. Only the two middle tracks of the album "My Little Empire" and "I'm Not Working" evoke memories of his bleak "Holy Bible" words. This does not mean, however, that this album is any less valid than any of the others. They are still more than capable of writing songs amongst the most emotive and majestic in contemporary music and several of these are included here. Unfortunately they are still to shake off the habit of always including one or two largely inconsequential tracks on every album. Although at first only receiving a luke warm reception, "Tolerate..." is perfect. Only Sparklehorse's "Maria's Little Elbows" and Pulp's "This Is Hardcore" have bettered this as a single so far this year. It is every bit the equal of its spiritual predecessor "Design for Life". "Tsunami" is one of the more instantly accessible tracks on the album built around a beautiful sitar lead and musically reminiscent of "Everything Must Go". Radiohead's heavy weight influence as one of England's most respected bands is apparent in "Be Natural" sounding like a cross between "Polyethelene Part 2" and "Sulk". Unfortunately this brings inevitable comparisons to be made between Bradfield and Yorke which is a battle Bradfield, as a singer, can never hope to win. For the most part though, this doesn't seem to matter much as he copes admirably with Nicky's lyrics enjoying the newfound opportunity to sing words that scan. "You Stole the Sun From My Heart" rocks in traditional style and would make a fine second single and "Ready For Drowning"'s opening is even more beautiful than that of "Tolerate". Another song that starts well is "I'm Not Working", although the beautiful keyboard line seems entirely inappropriate for the miserable self pitying that follows. Much has already been said about "SYMM" so all I will say is that it is well intentioned but simply doesn't work. "Black Dog on My Shoulder", a song about Nicky's dog, seems far too happy go lucky to be on a Manics album and sounds rather out of place until it provides the album's best ending with a beautiful change of musical pace three quarters of the way through.
"Born a Girl" is every bit as captivating as Richey's past personal laments, it reveals Nicky's hatred of his masculinity and how he can never fit into society as himself. James delivers this to us alone with his plucked electric guitar only spoiling it slightly at the end by raising his voice first one and then two octaves. Ultimately though, these moments are all too spasmodic and there are too many tracks here such as "You're Tender and You're Tired", "I'm Not Working", "Black Dog On My Shoulder", "SYMM" and "Nobody Loved You" that feel forced, leaving the listener cold musically and, dare I say it, are definitely not 'for real'.
The Manics are still producing some of the best music around. Old fans will undoubtedly be disappointed by the resigned attitude emanating from this album but can take heart in the fact that the band obviously don't want to feel this way. New fans may well find this as enjoyable as "Everything.." although this is perhaps not the best recommendation. As ever the lyrics are mentally challenging and often poignant if a touch short of solutions, but new musical ideas seem in short supply, perhaps a chat with their compratiots The Super Furry Animals wouldn't go amiss.