- 01 Nov 04
Closure is bullshit, and Lifeblood sounds like Manic Street Preachers opening up.
“Closure is bullshit,” wrote James Ellroy in the story of his mother’s murder, My Dark Places. We expect far too much of ourselves, he was saying, when we expect to be able to banish grief and move on. The person you love who you lose, and the loss itself, stays with you and colours the rest of your life. Accept it; embrace it.
As ever Ellroy was short, to the point and dead right.
The watching world has been waiting for closure from Manic Street Preachers for ten years now. It was February 1995 when Richey Edwards disappeared, almost certainly into the Severn. As early as Everything Must Go rock writers including this one were wondering when the transformation into the next New Order – formed from the ashes of Joy Division with barely a glance back to Ian Curtis – would happen. It hasn’t. Lifeblood is suffused with the spirit and memory of their sick, unhappy, inspired co-conspirator.
The songs that bookend the album are the first in which the Manics have set out explicitly to celebrate and commemorate Edwards. ‘Cardiff Afterlife’ initially sounds like a simple, fond adieu but after a couple of typically strident verses there’s a disorienting time change and swirling harp in the last chorus, leaving the impression of feelings unresolved, minds not quite made up; denial, maybe. Nicky Wire lyrically evokes The Smiths’ ‘I Won’t Share You’, knowing well that Morrissey was not saying goodbye to Marr when he sang the song that ended both Strangeways and the life of their band. He was voicing the forlorn hope that his soulmate wasn’t gone forever.
Morrissey and Marr are cited again in ‘1985’, a song that revisits Richey and their own younger selves, their passions and preoccupations at the birth of the band in Blackwood. Wire rhymes Orwell with Torville, James Bradfield swipes a guitar solo from The Cult and they relive the hilariously pretentious namedropping of Generation Terrorists.
The reminiscing is not always so literal, as throughout the album come references to the pre- and post-punk music that soundtracked the forging of their friendships, not least ‘Dancing Queen’ (the bounding piano of ‘A Song for Departure’) and early U2. ‘Empty Souls’ wouldn’t exist without ‘New Year’s Day’ and when Bradfield sings, in ‘To Repel Ghosts’, “Make love, make hate, make war”, there follows immediately a snatch of clashing, clanging guitar, stolen from ‘Like A Song’. A musical joke that leaves you wondering two things. One: when they met Fidel Castro and he told them they were louder than war, did they hear “louder than War”? And two: this is subtle and intentionally funny. Can it really be the Manics?
Maybe the answer lies in ‘Emily’, in the oh so apt line: “We used to have answers, now we have only questions”. From a band that once wore their Situationist slogans on their sleeves this sounds like a regret but it’s not; it’s a statement of intent. Insisting on certainty traps you. Admitting that you are ignorant, that you are human, frees you to be curious and grow and change; to blossom! Closure is bullshit, and Lifeblood sounds like Manic Street Preachers opening up.