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.