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Old 23-09-2010, 01:53
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Know Your Enemy: destined to fail?

I hate Know Your Enemy. This is fairly well known in these parts, I've always been pretty vocal about my dislike of the album and in album ranking threads it has always stayed firmly in last place. But while examining in fine detail the imperfections in KYE would be quite simple, the more difficult question to answer is whether or not KYE was destined to fail from its very inception.

This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours stands as a milestone in the career of the Manics. On a purely surface level, it became the album that finally cemented their crossover into the mainstream, affording them popularity and album sales that no doubt secured their place on Sony/Columbia for the next 10 years. On a deeper/artistic level, it marks the moment where the Manics finally grew up. At this point they were no longer four angry young men spewing sound bites and bone splintering guitar solos in the face of a world who didn't know them and didn't much care to either. They had become a three-piece and all reached their thirties, living a more comfortable life thanks to the financial success of Everything Must Go. The fire hadn't diminished but it had taken on a new form. TIMTTMY was the result of this natural evolution, both musically and emotionally, and whilst it does have it's flaws it also stands as the perfect companion piece to THB; whilst that record explored the ugliness and the flaws of society, TIMTTMY looks inward and explores the issues we address within ourselves.

But all of this had a knock-on effect on the Manics; they found themselves believing they had grown stale or perhaps even that they had "sold out" (something they claimed to have done from day one). This perception then is what gave birth to KYE. And perhaps it's here that the "destined to fail" accusation takes on relevance. The band had done nothing more than try something new with TIMTTMY, they hadn't sold out or become boring or even stopped producing good music. Many of the songs on TIMTTMY stand as great examples of the group's musicianship and it's certainly a high watermark for Nicky's lyrics. Wrongly reacting to a perceived failure lead the Manics to produce KYE so by that logic KYE was never going to be a successful album artistically, never mind financially.

Instead of allowing the natural musical evolution of the band, the Manics attempted to step backwards and recapture their former sound. In most cases, we know this fails anyway; that old saying "you can't go home again" is never more true than in musical circles. But Journal For Plague Lovers would later prove that you can bring elements of the past into the future, fusing them with what you now have. Which is why JFPL works so well. KYE fails because the band were attempting to be the band they had been 10 years prior, abandoning all the ground they had covered in the meantime. Nicky himself revealed this when he said in an interview with Q Magazine around the time of KYE's release that he wished it was the album they'd made at the start of their career.

In other words, they were making KYE from the standpoint of men in their thirties attempting to ape themselves at a younger age i.e. imitating themselves. JFPL in contrast is not the Manics attempting to be the band they were in their twenties, but the band as they are now harnessing the same passion they had in their twenties. It's not an imitation. Looking at KYE in this way also reveals it's other greatest flaw; it doesn't sound like the Manics in their twenties. So not only does it fail to continue the development of the band's sound it also fails as an imitation of their earlier sound, all of which leaves us with an album that doesn't really sound like anything.

Forget the Cuba references. Forget the overly long runtime. Forget the tunelessness of "Wattsville Blues" and the boredom of "Royal Correspondent". The real reason that KYE fails - and was destined to fail - is because it represents a band attempting to imitate themselves when they had long since grown beyond that into something just as interesting as their previous incarnations. For all it's flaws, Lifeblood at least represents the Manics exploring again musically. Send Away The Tigers is equally explorative in so much as it represents the Manics stepping back into commercial rock waters to see what's been growing in their absence. And JFPL, as I've already said, is the sound of a band rekindling the passion.

It's still too soon to make a definitive judgement on Postcards From A Young Man, but I'm tempted to say that it bares many of the hallmarks of KYE in that it sounds like the Manics once again trying to imitate themselves, only this time their EMG period. Perhaps they got lucky this time though; PFAYM just about manages to be a decent imitation (and so is fairly enjoyable) but, after KYE, it's a risk they probably should've learned by this point not to take.
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Last edited by Mr Richey; 23-09-2010 at 02:02.
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Old 23-09-2010, 02:05
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I've heard this argument about the Manics trying to emulate their old sound on KYE. I've never really agreed with it. Running through the songs: Ocean Spray, Miss Europa Disco Dancer, Let Robeson Sing, So why So Sad?, Baby Elian, Royal Correspondant... these do not sound like old Manics. Even the rockier songs like Found That Soul, Freedom of Speech, Intravenous Agnostic don't really sound like old Manics so i've never really understood this argument. Maybe they were trying to get the rage back, but musically I don't see the similarities. In fact maybe i'm missing the point and you mean they are trying to emulate their old selves rather than the sound. EDIT: Actually, you do say sound. You say it failed at this. But I don't think they were trying to imitate that sound they were going for a different sound which is what they got. If they *were* trying to imitate that sound and failed to do so you still wouldn't come up with a song like miss Europa Disco Dancer which is so far from that early Manics sound (whatever that even is).

As for Postcards whatever they are trying to do I enjoy the album. Whether it fails commercially or not who knows.

Just my thoughts.

Last edited by Vogon Poet; 23-09-2010 at 02:11.
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Old 23-09-2010, 02:11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vogon Poet View Post
these do not sound like old Manics
One of the points I made was that they failed to imitate their old sound.
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Old 23-09-2010, 02:12
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Originally Posted by Richey83 View Post
One of the points I made was that they failed to imitate their old sound.
You say they were trying to imitate the sound of old Manics (and failed). However, so many of these songs are so far from the old Manics sound they clearly weren't.
It was simply going for a more raw sound, combined with their evolution in songwriting and musicality I suppose.
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Old 23-09-2010, 02:14
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You say they were trying to imitate the sound of old Manics. However, so many of these songs are so far from old Manics they clearly weren't.
In another article from the KYE era, Nicky claimed they were trying to get back to the sound of earlier records, that they wanted KYE to sound like an old school Manics album or words to that effect. So I'm just basing my thoughts/opinions about the sound on things like that and the Q Magazine quote I mentioned.
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Old 23-09-2010, 02:18
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Maybe they started trying to but a lot of those songs are so far from that sound that they must not really have been trying to while they were written.
You can't be trying to sound like the first 3 albums and come up with Let Robson Sing, Miss Europa, Royal Correspondent, Baby Elian.
I think it is them going for a rawer, less produced sound, but as older, more developed musicians. Anyway just an opinion I think what you say about trying to recapture the past may be right in that it may lead to commercial failure. I think that what *may* lead to the album not being that commercially successful (as much as I enjoy the album and I do), is , ironically, trying to right a commercially successful album.

P.s. I reread my posts hope they didn't come across as aggressive they weren't supposed to.

Last edited by Vogon Poet; 23-09-2010 at 02:26.
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Old 23-09-2010, 02:23
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Originally Posted by Vogon Poet View Post
Maybe they started trying to but a lot of those songs are so far from that sound that they must not really have been trying to while they were written.
You could be right. It might all come down to Nicky spouting a load of bollocks for the press once again. But it was certainly said at the time about them trying to recapture their former sound/attitude. I think the misconceptions they held about the results of TIMTTMY were what lead them to trying to do KYE in the first place - so even if they did change their ideas before recording the album, KYE still represents a band deliberately sabotaging their own musical evolution because of misguided notions of growing stale/selling out. In my opinion.

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P.s. I reread my posts hope they didn't come across as aggressive they weren't supposed to.
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Old 23-09-2010, 02:28
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I think because the band has been around for so long the natural evolution thing kind of gets a little confused. I mean where is the natural evolution from JFPL towards? Where does the band naturally evolve to from the point they were at after their 9th album?

By the way it's still an interesting post and I think you might be right in many ways! There was definitely a move towards a rawer sound by he band, which didn't fit their natural evolution at that point I suppose. Just not towards the old sound exactly. Also, when do I get access to the archives is it at 100 posts?

Also, what is with that Rolling Stone review of KYE. I understand someone not liking it but c'mon 0 out of 5! Maybe the reviewer didn't like the anti-Americanism?

Last edited by Vogon Poet; 23-09-2010 at 02:37.
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Old 23-09-2010, 03:24
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I would say the premise of your question is flawed, as I don't believe the album failed at all.

Thinking back to 2000/2001, the idea of trying to do an album that didn't sound like it had been created at the producer's console was exactly what they needed to do. They went for an album that sounded like the polar opposite of TIMTTMY, which meant going back to their punky roots. If there is one word that describes songs like Found That Soul, Intravenous Agnostic and My Guernica perfectly, that word is punk, so in this respect they did not fail.

I don't think they were trying to imitate themselves as such, certainly not in the way they've consciously tried with SATT and PFAYM. They just felt they had lost their way a little (which I would agree with - when you start putting sitars and backwards drum samples in songs just for the sake of it, it's time to take a step back and remind yourself why you're making music in the first place), so they decided to try and reinvigorate themselves by bringing things back to basics. As Vogon Poet says, there are songs on there where they just could not possibly have been trying to imitate themselves - where are the earlier songs of which So Why So Sad, Miss Europa Disco Dancer, Epicentre, His Last Painting, Let Robeson Sing, Baby Elian, Wattsville Blues, The Convalescent and Year Of Purification are poor imitations? They weren't trying to write an album of Motown Junks; they were trying to write an album that didn't sound like it had been made in a luxurious recording studio, which is exactly what they did when they swapped the lavish 2,000-per-day residential studio of GATS for the (supposedly) red light district rehearsal studio of THB. And it worked, because at times KYE sounds like the songs were chucked on the album without so much as a twiddle of a knob on the mixing desk.

KYE is the sound of a band relying on instinct to an extreme; the whole rehearse-song-5-times-then-record thing was about making sure they didn't over-think the songs, resulting in an album that is far more visceral than TIMTTMY could ever hope to be. That's why it's ace, despite its imperfections.

KYE achieved everything they set out to from the onset, and as such it was not destined to fail, because it didn't fail. In many ways it's their most interesting album, and its certainly the one which most rewards listeners who revisit it, just like Sandinista! by The Clash.
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Old 23-09-2010, 03:44
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Back in 1998, my friend and I, already huge fans of the band, were waiting
for TIMTTMY to come out. We heard Tolerate on TV
(It was written: This is my Truth Tell me.. Yoursmanic Street preachers )
It was a huge letdown for my friend, who was depressed for weeks. His Manics
were gone, and some Yoursmanics were standing in their place.
I tried to cheer him, talking about phases in life and creativity, but with no success.
Only when KYE was out, he recovered his passion for the band.

On the other hand, for someone who got into Manics with TIMT, KYE could possibly be
a disappointment. My girlfriend at the time would be a good example.

It looks like it is about phase in your life, expectations, and what you seek that determines
what album you are going to like or dislike.

I was never able to understand critics of KYE. Remarks like: too long, too unfocused,
too much filler were just irrelevant cause I never felt that way.
Also, when Nicky talks about (any) album and what they tried to achieve,
I take that with a grain of salt.
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Old 23-09-2010, 06:27
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Nicky thinks I'm crazy for liking all the stuff they've done. Ah well.
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Old 23-09-2010, 06:56
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richey83 View Post

It's still too soon to make a definitive judgement on Postcards From A Young Man, but I'm tempted to say that it bares many of the hallmarks of KYE in that it sounds like the Manics once again trying to imitate themselves, only this time their EMG period.
I couldn't agree more.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Richey83 View Post
PFAYM just about manages to be a decent imitation (and so is fairly enjoyable)

I couldn't agree less.
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Old 23-09-2010, 07:02
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I thought they were trying to sound like Queens of the Stone Age and them other Desert Rock bands from america...
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Old 23-09-2010, 08:12
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I agree with a lot of what you say in the first post Richey. I do, though, think that you can't set aside the runtime etc because those are some of the elements of that record that fuel the fire and provide excellent ammunition to those who want to declare it to be a dreadful album. To some extent I think Lifeblood survived relatively intact, and is now a period we generally love even if we don't want a repeat of it, is that there was no hideously awful moments on it like Wattsville Blues to beat it with. To most detractors the worst that can be said about Lifeblood is that it's bland.

I think the only flaw in KYE is that they bunged a load of songs on that should have been, at best, B sides (or saved them for the 10th edition anniversary). Take off Wattsville Blues, Royal Correspondent, So Why So Sad, Miss Europe, and some of the gems on that album (Found That Soul, Ocean Spray, The Convelescent, Freedom Of Speech) can shine through a little more.

I think to a certain degree it's irrelevent whether a band is trying to emulate a song or a style, what matters is whether the song they come up with is any good or not. That's why JFPL is so good - the songs are (largely) brilliant, and why GATS - which isn't a dramatic move away from GT - tails off after the first half odd.

I don't know about Postcards. I think it's almost a shame that they were so set on over-orchestration because the demos are brilliant. I'd like to see JDB put more of his acoustic side on record, not just for B sides. Small Black Flowers and Facing Page are two of the best pieces of music they even recorded.

I was 15 when KYE came out, thoroughly fed up of Nu-metal and squizzy pop bands. However bad it was in comparison with the rest of their output it was still head and shoulders above anything else I was hearing.
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Old 23-09-2010, 08:50
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I think, more than trying to recreate a sound, they were trying to recapture a spirit. I'm guessing they were worried they were becoming boring and irrelevant.

When the album first came out I loved it, but over time I started to find it and them a bit of a joke, particularly when Lifeblood was released. However now, with older ears, I love the album. Well, 11 tracks of it, which is all I ever listen to. But those 11 tracks, for me, represent the best entirely Richey-less album.

And for the record, I also love Lifeblood now.
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