La tristesse durera toujours. - Vincent Van Gogh

The Manic Street Preachers may not have managed to out-sell Guns N' Roses with their debut LP, Generation Terrorists, but they had already proved they were not going to follow through with their promise to 'release one record then split up'. After recording a new version of the theme to M*A*S*H (Suicide is Painless) for charity, the band set out to record their second album. Weighing in 8 tracks lighter than their previous effort, the resulting record was softer and less politically-charged than Generation Terrorists, and has since been described by the band as being "their least favourite album".

Gold Against The Soul is ten tracks long, and is often criticised for its length by fans. Many overlook it, preferring its follow up The Holy Bible - a dark, painful album considered by many to be the band's magnum opus - but many others treasure it, enjoying the more engineered sound whilst also appreciating the lyrics and music, still distictly Manic Street Preachers. Having picked up a copy on vinyl LP, I have come to love this album every bit as their others, and will gladly slip it on when I fancy something a little more melancholy than your everyday record.

Track Listing

  1. Sleepflower - A song explaining Richey Edwards' fear of imsomnia. A powerful guitar-driven opening track, with a good strong chorus to lead you into the rest album. Not released as a single. "I feel like I'm missing pieces of sleep."
  2. From Despair To Where - A much more mellow introduction to this track, but soon it picks up into a more traditional guitar-based melody. This song deals with wanting to hide away and be alone. The single was released on the 7th June '93, and reached number 23. "There's nothing nice in my head / The adult world took it all away."
  3. La Tristesse Durera (Scream To A Sigh) - A soft tune, let by a nice bass riff throughough (although breaking into a comfortable guitar part towards the end), oddly not dealing with Van Gogh but a war veteran, trying to cope. The single was released on July 29th 1993, reaching number 22. "Wheeled out once a year; a cenotaph souvenir"
  4. Yourself - Not especially interesting as a song, and potentially just a filler to round the album up to an even 10 tracks long. Not released as a single. "Free scent burns your skin / But no smell can ever cover sin."
  5. Life Becoming A Landslide - A slower track that has become a concert favourite, and a fitting end to the first side of the LP. Again, this song deals with wanting to be on one's own, hiding from one's problems. The single was released 7th February 1994, and reached number 36. "My idea of love comes from / A childhood glimpse of pornography"
  6. Drug Drug Druggy - One of their more under-rated tracks, but one I love. A powerful riff drives this song onwards, with a stronger chorus than Sleepflower that you may find yourself chanting absent-mindedly afterwards. Was not released as a single. "Dance like a robot when you're chained at the knee / The CIA say you're all they'll ever need."
  7. Roses In The Hospital - A Manic Street Preachers song you can (almost) dance to? They didn't release this track on 12" with remixes for nothing. Nevertheless the lyrics are typically dark and brooding. Released on the 20th September 1993, and reached number 15. "Forever ever delayed."
  8. Nostalgic Pushead - Very much focused on its chant-like chorus, this track is an anti-disco or dance music anthem, jarring slightly with the better-flowing previous tracks. Was not released as a single. "But hey! Cocaine keeps cholesterol at bay"
  9. Symphony of Tourette - A fast, at times incomprehensible track that, as the title shows, deals with Gilles De La Tourette syndrome. Not exactly radio-friendly, and so understandably not released as a single. "Trapped in what we know as Truth syndrome."
  10. Gold Against The Soul - Another political track, attempting to reach epic heights towards the end but never really managing to. Still, rounds the album off rather nicely, bringing a good climax to the LP. Not released as a single. "Somebody told me to vote Conservative."

Would I recommend this album? If you've not heard the Manic Street Preachers, I would probably steer you in the direction of The Holy Bible - a truly excellent album, and also one which has recently been re-released with a ton of extras. It shows much more polish than Gold Against The Soul, despite the obvious engineering that went into their second album, and shows much more acutely the troubles Richey was going through.

However, if you're already a fan, then this may well be a good album to pick up. Two tracks are featured on their greatest hits, Forever Delayed, although personally I feel there are better songs on here. If you want something a little less political (by the Manics' standards...), then pop this on. You might be surprised.

Previous: Generation Terrorists
Next: The Holy Bible

Album: Gold Against the Soul
Artist: Manic Street Preachers
Label: Columbia (Sony Music)
Year: 1993
Rating: 4/5
Summary: Depressing yet upbeat and catchy rock songs.

Musically, Gold Against the Soul is probably the most catchy and accessible of Manic Street Preachers' three Richey Edwards era albums. While it lacks a guitar riff quite as infectious as that of their last album's hit Motorcycle Emptiness, Gold Against the Soul has a greater consistency, and every one of its tracks is solid. Unlike The Holy Bible, there are plenty of hooks and catchy riffs to hum along to. For better or worse, the album is full of fun pop sensibilities.

The production is also the most tempting of the three. Generation Terrorists doesn't even seem to feature much real drumming, instead employing a drum machine's pale imitation of it. The Holy Bible is rock stripped down to its bare essentials. Released at a time after the band got their act together, but before they got too serious, Gold Against the Soul sports not only good musicians playing catchy tunes, but also all the embellishments that really make pop music shine, such as the inclusion of a piano, electric organ and strings. The result is a richer palate of sounds used to good effect.

While the tunes are catchy, the Manic Street Preachers are probably best known for their depressing lyrics, and while it's no Holy Bible, Gold Against the Soul certainly delivers on that front. With lines like "My idea of love comes from a childhood glimpse of pornography. Though there is no true love, just a finely tuned jealousy," the album paints a deceptively colourful picture of a deeply depressed individual.

With its catchy pop sensibilities, Gold Against the Soul isn't a patch on the serious, sombre masterpiece The Holy Bible, but it isn't trying to be. If The Holy Bible represents a naked individual screaming in anguish and total despair, Gold Against the Soul harks back to a time when that person still wore smart clothes, hiding their tears behind designer sunglasses. As a result, it's well balanced, and really ought to be more popular than it is. I'd certainly recommend it to more people, although not as enthusiastically.

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