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Old 17-09-2013, 00:36
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Death Death Death

Porco's Rewind The Film Ramblings, A.K.A DEATH DEATH DEATH.

Initial disclaimer:

The first rule of this post is that it is my interpretation.

The second rule of this post is that IT IS MY INTERPRETATION.

That is, I am not claiming it is either completely or even partially what was intended by Nicky and/or James and/or Sean.

Meaning can be ascribed to cultural art forms by the viewer/reader/audience/listener.

Ok. So.

I love Rewind The Film. I think it's a brilliant album. I love several of the songs already. But as with many of the Manics' past albums, I feel it has a number of themes worth considering, and I think that if you allow yourself to you can experience the album as much more than a sum total of its separate parts (i.e. songs!)

And sorry to bang on with caveats and disclaimers so much, but again, the following is simply one way in which I choose to interpret the album: again, I am not claiming that the following interpretations are either partly or full intended; it is a personal reading of it, through my own unique lens, as it can be interpreted by anyone else according to their own unique life experiences, interests, history, etc.

With that said… What do I think the over-riding themes of Rewind The Film are?

Well, the title is usually a good place to start.

Rewind The Film… we had a thread here earlier I started, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, called "What is the film that is being rewound?". But aside from the jokey aspect, it's a reasonable question. Here's three possibilities I don't think specifically came up in that thread, with a nod to Douglas Adams fans:

1) Life (or perhaps more accurately 'death')

2) The Universe.

3) Everything.

And I'll add a fourth, which is really something that touches on all of the other three, which is

4) Time.

1 - The 'film' as 'life'. This is pretty central to understand where I'm going with all this, because as with earlier album Lifeblood, when they say 'Life' they usually mean 'Death'! The whole album is full of DEATH. On one level the album could have been called something like 'The Death Of Manic Street Preachers 1991-2010'. This is an album which isn't 'death-metal' it's 'death-acousticy-folky-atmospheric-pop-rock' (there's a new genre for Amazon to have a chart for!). This is not a new Manics theme of course, you can find it crop up on just about all the others in some shape or form. But I think only Lifeblood shares the same all-pervading look at what it means to look at death in various guises. On Rewind The Film, I think there is a melancholic, almost obscured/hidden fascination with both the process of death and the imagined experience of dying.

For example. This Sullen Welsh Heart. Let's take it slightly literally, a heart that will "not leave" and "not give up". Hanging on to the last embers of life? "I want to go to sleep" To sleep, perchance to dream?! "I cannot close my eyes", if we take it to mean someone who is on the edge of death, the sleep is death. "line up the firing squads… kiss goodbye… go with the flow, go home…" is the half with love still alive, wanting to let go of life? However, the "hating half" has won, and will not die. I think it makes great sense that this song was made a duet, representing the two halves described in the lyrics.

"You can't keep on struggling when you're alone" - dead?

(I Miss The) Toyko Skyline… "Feeling like an alien…" "somehow feels like a second home" … "Lost on my own". Now imagine the song from the point of view of a ghost….

Anthem For A Lost Cause - "The composition rites"… the death of songs meaning anything… "ashes, bone and splinter" "redemption love and departure / I think your work is done" - death again? "Walk that lonesome road" - intriguing choice of phrase. Perhaps one of four lonesome or if you will lonely roads?!

As Holy As The Soil (That Buries Your Skin) - Need I say more than the title? A touching lyric about loss and yearning. "As beautiful as the spring in Japan" provides a nice link to (IMT)Tokyo Skyline. "…save the world" another example of the epic scale the Manics often put into their work… which brings us to...

2 - The Universe. The Manics have always like the epic. And despite a softer, gentler approach than the bombast of say, the Send Away The Tigers album, I think there is much on this album that is epic in nature and ambition. Starting with the obvious, the album features four (an arguably significant number, something I shall return to later) mentions of the word universe, and three of them are in Show Me The Wonder. We know from what has been said by the band that the song is about being sick of the arguments between science and religion explaining things, that wondrous things occur and neither science nor religion can fully explain them, and maybe sometimes that's ok… but on a meta-level for the album what if "I have seen the birthplace of The Universe" is taken as someone literally witnessing the beginning of The Universe? That would also mean the beginning of time as we know it - this is something both religions and science kind of agree upon curiously enough, just explained differently.

Also, science and religion both predict the end of The Universe too, again in different ways, but if thought of as a miracle, then what happens? One theory is that The Universe stops expanding and then contracts - essentially moves in reverse. I think the song is, on level, saying that science and religion argue over how the details are expressed, when the essential story is the same - two sides of the same coin if you like. A miracle/ the birthplace of The Universe, both running in reverse. Indeed with lines like "We measure the nostalgia" and "Measuring the pain inside"(4 Lonely Roads) we see measurement, being precise, deliberately contrasted with emotional concerns.

Of course another link amongst the first two songs on the album is "The act of creation saves us from despair" - creation generally can just mean creativity, art etc… but in the context of thinking about subjects like life and death, the act of creation can be procreation, the 'birthplace of The Universe" that causes life to emerge as a product of everyone who is typically much nearer dying… "I don't want my children to end up like me". And, if you like, the contrast/tension of religious Creationism and scientific creation alongside the artistic act of creation. The album has numerous mentions of hearts and head / the mind.

So there is a sense of life and death, The Universe and children being born, and the death of people, the miracle of life, but running in reverse as people die… and this is a duality that somewhat runs throughout the album.

Also consider the Talking Heads' line quoted in the song, "Is Heaven a place where nothing ever happens". Again, a reference to imagined ideas of afterlife/death, here on the cheeriest-sounding song on the album… compare later with 4 Lonely Roads… "Higher Hell stood up on high". In some ways recalling the angel/devil cover of SATT, two sides of the song, two sides of the album, of the band… the 'loving and hating' halves.

3 Ways To See Despair - "There are three ways to despair" Wait, I thought I was saying the number four was significant? "The fourth way is coming" Ah, there we go, tricksy Manics. Nicky says this song is about:

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Quietus - Rewind The Film Track-By-Track
"'How could things go so wrong?' How could something so beautiful and talented eat itself up with anxiety and self-doubt, and can you ever fucking stop it? Which you probably can’t."
But you've also got the John Lennon mention, (with all the historical manics significance that brings, by the way) and then "I'm no longer the centre of The Universe" … (coincidentally Lennon famously wrote Across The Universe of course…) seems to provide a link/contrast for this, a "suicide ballad" as Nicky calls it, with a "misery beat" with Show Me The Wonder's earlier references to "the birthplace The Universe".

The album is also full of celestial terms. "stars", "Universe", "sun" "world" even arguably "darkness" (black holes, the "emptiness" of the vast majority space as far as we know)… "Feeling like an alien is so much fun"(!)


3 - Everything. "I want to see it all…" (Rewind The Film (track)). The film as 'everything', including the afore-mentioned life/death and The Universe. When the track was first revealed, I wrote the following in another thread:


"After seeing the video and reading about how important it was Hawley sang it and about the connection between JDB and Hawley's fathers and the lyrics, I like to imagine that Hawley is an 'old James' (/Nicky/poetic 'voice' of the song let's say), looking back upon his life, with 'flashbacks' (that common cinematic filmic device) to the younger/current 'James'. Then at the end of the song the 'old James' turns into the young James again by reconnecting with thoughts of his youth."


I think that all still makes sense to me in the context of the album, only more so. The 'film' as not just the album, but as life, and looking back on its memories, as The Universe. From the point of view of someone dying, dead… existing or not existing.

Again, thinking about the title, the album covers 'rewinding' … looking back, being 'in reverse', loss, death, grief… combined with 'The Film', fiction, what is real, location (physical or otherwise)… "running out of fantasy" "only the fiction…" "episodes" "I dream…" etc...


4. Time.
"Time to surrender / Time to move on". Time is obviously a crucial idea if you are invoking the concept of rewinding history and looking back. Having said that, there's also a sense in some parts of the album that the perspective of looking back over history is from 'outside' of time - "I must embrace paralysis" (BOR). In (IMT)Tokyo Skyline, we have memories and dreams in both past and present tense.

"In the nothing of the now" - there are no memories in the immediate present, there is a yearning for looking back. The idea of the immediate present as "paralysis". Nicky mentioned in one interview recently (and I think he has done so before) Kurt Cobain's Nirvana lyric "I miss the comfort in being sad", which is not only one of my personal favourite lines from In Utero, but something that I think has always summed up certain aspect of the Manics' work, obviously being the melancholia, but not just melancholia in general, I think it's a very particular kind of melancholia fused with nostalgia.

Lines like "There is too much heart-break", "Playing broken records" and "Sellotaped my worlds in bits" tells of putting together pieces of the past - "make the connections" - piecing together history to say goodbye to the old Manics. PFAYM was sold as "one last attempt at mass-communication" and here we have lyrics like "Everything is happily lost in translation" and "I long for the non-communication"(of the Tokyo Skyline)! It is in many ways, lyrically and musically a break with the past, even as the album reflects upon the it.

I see the instrumental track Manorbier is in danger of being written off by many as a weak track. I've seen some saying it's repetitive (yes, it is) but I think that's part of why it works for me… with its ghostly theremin and repetitive nature, and, if you listen carefully, vinyl crackle (not just on the vinyl(!)), I think it's a subtle musical summation of many of the themes of the album. "Playing broken records", 'rewinding the film' again and again…

One imagines the next album is more forward-looking - Futurology. 30 Year War is mostly backwards looking but asks 'what is to be done' and perhaps indicates the musical direction slightly too.

--------------

Some other thoughts:

As posted earlier, I think "… the crossfades from 4 Lonely Roads -into- (I Miss The) Tokyo Skyline and Running Out Of Fantasy -into- Manorbier are PURE WIN" and add to the feeling of dreaminess / limbo.

Reading all that stuff about death and birth and The Universe, I can't help but think of the Lord of the Rings films (spoiler!), in particular the scene where Gandalf (The White) is recounting his experience after leaving the old Gandalf The Grey behind… "and I strayed out of thought and time… stars wheeled overhead… and every day was as long as a life-age of the Earth. But it was not the end. I felt life in me again." You probably know the bit I mean if you've seen the film.

The number four pops up quite a few times. "4 real" is an obvious reference. "4 Lonely Roads"; "The fourth way is coming" (3WTD). One can even interpret AHATS(TBYS)'s "If it only lasts for seconds" as 'lasts four seconds' if one ignores the lyric sheet.

Why 4? The history of '4 Real' incident, 4 band members… the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse(!), even 4 'styles' of Manics (GT/SATT/GATS/KYE, THB/JFPL, EMG/PFAYM, TIMTMY/Lb/RTF ?). Or an arbitrary 4 time periods in the band's history, having had 3 (early manics (GT-THB), post-richey manics(EMG-KYE?), post-mega-success manics (Lb-PFAYM?)). Here's a daft and possibly meaningless equation: 12 tracks divided by 3 ways to see despair = 4 lonely roads. Ok, I think I've hammered that point home.

Anthem For A Lost Cause to me sounds like an American lullaby/50's diner jukebox hit. I don't know if that description gets across what I mean completely. But if we were to choose a director for the film being rewound, then with this song perhaps more than any other I would suggest David Lynch. As with many songs on the album, if not their entire back catalogue, the Manics have this knack of giving songs with a populist edge a sense of a more sinister, darker underbelly. I think songs like Little Baby Nothing, You Stole The Sun From My Heart, and, amongst others Anthem For A Lost Cause risk straying into being considered the wrong side of cheesy, or saccharin, indeed I think they often are thought of that way by some. And yet for me, and I suspect others, there is usually some bite or darkness that plays off that populist kind of sound, a kind of musical wink that is just a little more knowing than a casual listen might reveal. With AFALC in particular, I could see it playing in the diner in Twin Peaks perfectly… before Agent Cooper goes off and sees a dwarf talking backwards… I can see him saying something like "the coffee that you made for us"… (apologies to anyone who's never watched Twin Peaks, but well, you should do anyway!).

--------------

And here concludes my ramblings on Rewind The Film for now. I think it's a brilliant album, I think there are many other themes I haven't covered (a sense of place… battles and war… to name but two), and I probably haven't concentrated as much on the music as the lyrics, but I find it impressive that it's given me so much to mentally process already, and I think it's going to end up being one of my favourite Manics albums.
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Last edited by Porco; 17-09-2013 at 21:27. Reason: minor typo
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Old 17-09-2013, 07:31
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Like your TP reference! Little Man from Another Place talking backwards is very RTF



PS. Amazing analysis of the album.
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Old 17-09-2013, 08:13
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Love it. Don't agree with a lot of it, but top quality bit of analysis; your opinion it may be, but it was a bloody interesting read.

The part where you're looking at life/death, yes, I got a similar feeling from it, though it was much more tenuous, far less substance, just an emotional response which left me with a feeling that "The End" is approaching. The whole album just works on that level for me, almost from the first listen. I posted yesterday I found the whole thing leaves me with the feeling you get from sharing a few pints with a very old friend, one who you used to sit around talking about putting the world to rights in your youth, only the pair of you didn't put anything to rights, nothing really changed. A sense of "we didn't change the world, but fuck it, things could be worse. Go on, have another pint". Anyway, you've definitely got something there.
"As Holy As The Soil" is another bit of support for that. Yes, it's another song for Richey, and filled with regret and mourning, but the whole vibe of the song has changed from previous Richey eulogies. There's no subtlety; no oblique references to sideways crawls or anything like that. The song comes across as "Look, it's all over. If you're out there, just come home". No subtlety. Closure.

The sleep thing, well that's always been a constant throughout their entire career - an obsession almost. Their lyrics are riddled with sleep references, always have been, so I can't say I see any more significance to it than you get in other work, they've always been sleep-fixated.

Anyway, great post, must get some work done though...
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Old 17-09-2013, 21:31
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haha, perfect gif mar!

Quote:
Originally Posted by who's responsible? View Post
"As Holy As The Soil" is another bit of support for that. Yes, it's another song for Richey, and filled with regret and mourning, but the whole vibe of the song has changed from previous Richey eulogies. There's no subtlety; no oblique references to sideways crawls or anything like that. The song comes across as "Look, it's all over. If you're out there, just come home". No subtlety. Closure.
Yeah, I must admit that was pretty much my reaction the first time I heard AHATS(TBYS).
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Old 18-09-2013, 01:05
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Seems like a fairly good call Porco!
Have you seen the BBC breakfast interview? They did mention mortality as being part of the albums subject!
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Old 01-10-2013, 10:15
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Porco I love the way you have been totally inspired to analyse RTF and I totally agree with you about it being one of your favourite records. From the first listen of RTF with RH I felt the mood of the Manics had not only changed but that this was going to be very special. The whole album just confirmed it. Yes it's soft, reflective, analytical and melancholic with so many repeated images/themes that are very "the Manics" but the whole feeling of death, age and ageing, reflection and a sense of mortality jump right out at you. Perhaps this is inevitable considering the fact that they are now in their early 40's and have families and older parents as Nicky has often mentioned in recent interviews. In one he said he'd lost a close friend, uncle and aunt and his dad had been in hospital too and that there had been too many funerals. It could be a coincidence that these link to the themes but I doubt it. The surprising thing for me is that an album with such dark themes can sound so light and more commercial / radio friendly, with more chance of gaining that "mass communication" that Postcards ever had.

Love the fact that they can still make people who love them think so much and get so much from a new album.

Wonder what the next one will bring? Cant wait to hear what you think.
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