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Old 21-03-2015, 11:30
Phil C Phil C is offline
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Know *My* Enemy - some random thoughts on 'KYE'

After a hard week, I find myself turning to the Manics' great folly, 'Know Your Enemy'. As I listen to it, I realise that in many ways it's *my* Manics album, in the way that people have *their* Doctor Who, or Sherlock Holmes, or Bowie period. It isn't the album that got me into them (that's 'Everything Must Go') nor my favourite (that's 'The Holy Bible'). It's the first album released (I think) after I got into their online fandom, the first time I went to see them on tour. But I think the connection is more with the album itself. It's messy. It's over-ambitious. It's angry. It tries to incorporate so many different kinds of sounds into one record that its inconsistency becomes its defining characteristic. From the thrash of 'Found That Soul' to the gospel of 'Let Robeson Sing', the Beach Boys pop of 'So Why So Sad' to the mirror-ball inviting 'Miss Europa Disco Dancer', it tries to do it all, unable to focus on just one thing, its attention constantly shifting to something else. It makes possibly unwise agitprop statements ('Freedom Of Speech Won't Feed My Children'), is at times politically naive ('Baby Elian'), and at others goes so far beyond its ability to say what it wants to that it speaks in tongues ('Intravenous Agnostic'). It has b-sides that should have made the album, and a lost track released years later that should have been its centre-piece, so I love it despite knowing that it should be better, despite its flaws. Even the artwork (by artist Neale Howells) says something to me - scrawl graffiti'd onto a gray wall, obscured by scratchings out and red paint dripping down, sometimes readable, sometimes not, like it almost knows what it wants to say and that it can't quite make itself understood, but feeling the need to try anyway and inevitably being only partly successful in its aims. To me, it's like a rough canvas bag that I can sling over my shoulder and take with me anywhere, confident that in its deceptive capaciousness I will always find the song I need.
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Old 21-03-2015, 22:53
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Marat Sar Marat Sar is offline
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Okay, Iīll add. During the last year I have gotten myself some pretty serious gear, that is: horribly expensive headphones and stuff that lets you hear the guitaristīs hand moving in the air. That kind of stuff. And you know what has been the biggest surprise out of all the music I have re-listened? With this idiotically sensitive and colossally expensive equipment?

Know. Your. Enemy.

It is not cheap or "punky" sounding as Iīve always assumed. It has a very unique, abrasive sound and an absolutely godly mix. If you have very resolving speakers or headphones that are capable of untangling the mess it appears to be... if you can pick all those guitars and angry lo-fi sounding swooshes apart and look inside this supposed mess you will discover itīs an immensely well recorded, mixed and produced collection of music.

Sound-wise their best, Iīd say. What appears to be "tinny" is actually instruments with short, metal echos positioned exceedingly well into the soundstage. The album has a good low end and nice treble, but the mids - the vocals, guitars, effects - are just colossal. Miss Europa Disco Dancer especially. that song has the tightest mix possible. Itīs ornamental and dynamic like someone sprinkled cocaine on a Versaille shaped autobot. Itīs just crazy. Harf, strings, a complicated bass line, crystalline synths, guitars, a very complicated vocal mix and so on - all simultaneously. Itīs like itīs been mixed by the guy who places cargo and vehicles in the hold of a ferry. Itīs god damn logistics is what it is.

The rest of the album is like that too. Incredibly busy, dynamic and stark. Stuff like Dead Martyrs for example. During most of the song there is this huge space in the far left and right channels of the mix that is reserved exclusively for angry synth effect swooshes, the vocals and the guitars and the drums and everything else resides in the unusually narrow center of the mix. In the chorus that side-space gets filled with really nice crunchy low guitars, taking over from the synths and filling the song. Itīs just very inventive and extreme. Music isnīt usually mixed this starkly. Itīs usually rounded and more compact, made to sound good on anything. Dead Martyrs, with itīs weird thin center image, sounds like crock shit with regular headphones.

And donīt even get me started on So Why So Sad. Itīs like a bathysphere. A claustrophobic metal sphere stock full of precisely positioned instruments sliding over and under each other effortlessly. Like a clockwork. The imaging is just absolutely supreme, second to none. Yet when I listen to it with normal human technology it sounds tinny and cramped and too busy. Everything has a slightly unpleasant and unnatural timber. But I can sense that somewhere in there is a very well mixed song asking for better headphones, a better amp and a Cirrus Logic DAC chip.

I expected This Is My Truth or Lifeblood to be revelations. Or Rewind The Film or Futurology. Whoīd have known it was god damn Know Your Enemy?

Quote:
It has b-sides that should have made the album, and a lost track released years later that should have been its centre-piece,
Iīm guessing that lost track that should have been the centerpiece is Midnight Sun? Great track and I can imagine how it could be much larger with some of that amazing production.

Last edited by Marat Sar; 21-03-2015 at 23:06.
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Old 21-03-2015, 22:54
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And today of all days I put this album on when I washed my hair. And now a thread about the album appears!
It's a sign! It's a sign I tell ya's!
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Old 21-03-2015, 23:00
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Lord Revan Lord Revan is offline
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Marat, that's some very good observations, I listened to Miss Europa after reading your post and you are spot on... I never paid attention to those details. In fact it reminds me of Garth Hudson of The Band, they have a song called Jupiter Hollow full of subtle sprinklings of musical genius, give it a listen.
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Old 21-03-2015, 23:04
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Marat Sar Marat Sar is offline
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Originally Posted by Lord Revan View Post
In fact it reminds me of Garth Hudson of The Band, they have a song called Jupiter Hollow full of subtle sprinklings of musical genius, give it a listen.
I can see what you mean.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJkL2co5JVo
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Old 21-03-2015, 23:37
Phil C Phil C is offline
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My kit isn't as top-end as yours Marat Sar, but I recently bought some decent speakers for my record player, only for the player to be faulty so I've not been able to spin my KYE vinyl through the speakers, and for various reasons I've not been able to replace the turntable yet. Can't wait to do so now to see if I can pick out any of those details...plus there's 'The Holy Bible' re-issue too...
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Old 22-03-2015, 00:18
Phil C Phil C is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marat Sar View Post
Iīm guessing that lost track that should have been the centerpiece is Midnight Sun? Great track and I can imagine how it could be much larger with some of that amazing production.
Yeah, it was 'Midnight Sun'. Actually, I suspect it was recorded at the sessions for the 'Let Robeson Sing' b-sides (same producer and studio as 'Fear Of Motion' and it has a similar sound to 'Didn't My Lord Deliver Daniel?') so it may well have been recorded after KYE was completed. Such a shame though as it deserves a place on an album and would have made a nice still-point for the rest of the album to revolve around, like 'This Is Yesterday' on The Holy Bible.
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Old 22-03-2015, 08:32
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beautifuldistortion beautifuldistortion is offline
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I like Midnight Sun but for me it wouldn't fit on KYE - even of nothing really fits on KYE!!
I think it was recorded after the album was completed - possibly a fair while after. Just my thoughts, probably written at the same time but seems to me that James' voice is a little bit older on it.

Marat - what headphones do you have? I broke mine last week and need a new set!
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Old 22-03-2015, 09:46
Phil C Phil C is offline
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I like Midnight Sun but for me it wouldn't fit on KYE - even of nothing really fits on KYE!!
I think it was recorded after the album was completed - possibly a fair while after. Just my thoughts, probably written at the same time but seems to me that James' voice is a little bit older on it.
The sleeve notes on the 'Postcards' single say it was recorded in 2001, produced by Greg Haver at Famous Studios, which is the same credit as 'Fear Of Motion' from the 'Robeson' 12", so it would have been recorded after the rest of the album (which would have been recorded in 2000) but not *that* much later.

And I disagree about it not fitting on the album - I believe 'Door To The River' might have been recorded during the 'KYE' sessions (I seem to recall that being said at some point) and it's string section would have made it sound wrong on KYE, but 'Midnight Sun' could have fitted fairly snugly I think.

My ideal KYE track-listing changes day by day. Partly because I like the fact that it's messy, so even though there are b-sides that should have been on it, I dislike the thought of taking anything off it to make room for them. I think 'Locust Valley' and 'Ballad Of The Bangkok Novotel' should have made the cut, with 'Wattsville Blues' (which I still like!) and perhaps either 'So Why So Sad' or 'Year Of Purification' making way for them, as 'SWSS' I get tired of sometimes and taking an acoustic track like 'Purification' off helps the rock/acoustic balance. Or 'Miss Europa' which again I like (except the 'Braindead motherfucker' bit - the Cuba version is better) but...here again I run into trouble. I might like 'Locust Valley' more than 'MEDD' but I love the variety 'MEDD' adds to the album, whilst also loving the weirdness of 'LV'. You see, I just can't decide! I think I'll think of it all as one huge album, like The Clash's 'Sandinista!' but without the crap that clutters up the final side of that album. That makes me happier
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Old 22-03-2015, 11:45
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Well as much as I love their cover of "We Are All Bourgeois Now" there's at least a good 5 minutes of silence before it starts, so it could have been filled with "Midnight Sun" or "Locust Valley".
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Old 22-03-2015, 17:59
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil C View Post
After a hard week, I find myself turning to the Manics' great folly, 'Know Your Enemy'. As I listen to it, I realise that in many ways it's *my* Manics album, in the way that people have *their* Doctor Who, or Sherlock Holmes, or Bowie period. It isn't the album that got me into them (that's 'Everything Must Go') nor my favourite (that's 'The Holy Bible'). It's the first album released (I think) after I got into their online fandom, the first time I went to see them on tour. But I think the connection is more with the album itself. It's messy. It's over-ambitious. It's angry. It tries to incorporate so many different kinds of sounds into one record that its inconsistency becomes its defining characteristic. From the thrash of 'Found That Soul' to the gospel of 'Let Robeson Sing', the Beach Boys pop of 'So Why So Sad' to the mirror-ball inviting 'Miss Europa Disco Dancer', it tries to do it all, unable to focus on just one thing, its attention constantly shifting to something else. It makes possibly unwise agitprop statements ('Freedom Of Speech Won't Feed My Children'), is at times politically naive ('Baby Elian'), and at others goes so far beyond its ability to say what it wants to that it speaks in tongues ('Intravenous Agnostic'). It has b-sides that should have made the album, and a lost track released years later that should have been its centre-piece, so I love it despite knowing that it should be better, despite its flaws. Even the artwork (by artist Neale Howells) says something to me - scrawl graffiti'd onto a gray wall, obscured by scratchings out and red paint dripping down, sometimes readable, sometimes not, like it almost knows what it wants to say and that it can't quite make itself understood, but feeling the need to try anyway and inevitably being only partly successful in its aims. To me, it's like a rough canvas bag that I can sling over my shoulder and take with me anywhere, confident that in its deceptive capaciousness I will always find the song I need.

It's the most imperfect, perfect Manics album for me. I love how underproduced it is and how messy it flows. The sheer variation musically is schizophrenic and bewildering. It saddens me that they've not had the balls to do this in recent years instead choosing to fall into a safety net. For all of its reviews, KYE says much more that Futurology.
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Old 22-03-2015, 18:52
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Librarian On Fire Librarian On Fire is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AK47 View Post
It's the most imperfect, perfect Manics album for me. I love how underproduced it is and how messy it flows. The sheer variation musically is schizophrenic and bewildering. It saddens me that they've not had the balls to do this in recent years instead choosing to fall into a safety net. For all of its reviews, KYE says much more that Futurology.
Well said and I couldn't agree with you more. No one has really pinned KYE down. Critics seem to look over it too quickly before examining the bands more well known albums. To me KYE is a huge sprawling wonderful album. Full of energy and a true punk DIY sound and ethic. It belonged to what I dub the "Cuban era". Short lived and now looked back on with by the band with embrassment. Pity really. I'd love the band to talk more about this recording and to air a few songs off it. Wishful thinking.
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Old 22-03-2015, 23:17
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Marat Sar Marat Sar is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beautifuldistortion View Post

Marat - what headphones do you have? I broke mine last week and need a new set!
Iīm afraid serious derailment will take place if I go into suggestions here. It really depends on weather you want to be able to listen to them outside too.

Currently (at home) I use these and can swear by them. With a good amp and a good DAC one can use these for about 20 years, getting world class sound reproduction every day. So, in that sense, the price is quite budget actually.

http://www.amazon.com/HE-560-Full-Si.../dp/B00K6JEYD4


But yeah, PM me with what you have in mind - in ear or over ear, home alone or on the bus too - Iīll help you narrow it down.

Back on topic: that warm, autumnal vibe Just A Kid and Midnight Sun share; somewhere between KYE and LB emotionally. I love it. I would have liked both of them on the album to give the second half more softness and warmth. Gets real cramped there.

Also, Just A Kid is an awesome song. Brave and open-hearted at the same time. I like myself a lot when I like it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AK47 View Post
I love how underproduced it is and how messy it flows.
See, there it is again - underproduced. KYE is produced to Jupiter and back. Journal is (a bit) underproduced.

Last edited by Marat Sar; 22-03-2015 at 23:21.
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Old 24-03-2015, 20:45
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Colinzeal Colinzeal is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Librarian On Fire View Post
Well said and I couldn't agree with you more. No one has really pinned KYE down. Critics seem to look over it too quickly before examining the bands more well known albums. To me KYE is a huge sprawling wonderful album. Full of energy and a true punk DIY sound and ethic. It belonged to what I dub the "Cuban era". Short lived and now looked back on with by the band with embrassment. Pity really. I'd love the band to talk more about this recording and to air a few songs off it. Wishful thinking.
It's a fantastic album and like you say it's a shame it is so over-looked. I love how it is so rough around the edges and has things wrong with it, but it just works for me. Even songs like Wattsville Blues I really enjoy.

If I could only hear 3 Manics albums for the rest of my life it would be the trilogy from Everything must go to Know your enemy.
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Old 29-03-2015, 15:05
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I still listen to KYE very often (more often than EMG, for instance), but I much prefer its b-sides to most of the album tracks.

As I mentioned in another thread, I'm fascinated by the regret that Nicky aired in an interview, namely that he if they had released KYE now it would be released as a double album of political songs (named Solidarity, and presumably including MATC) and 'West Coast' tracks (named Door To The River).

Following this, I made a tentative playlist of how these might look. The track listing was obtained by using the order of the songs on the album (if album tracks) or the order of release and track listing on the singles (if b-sides). So:

Solidarity:

1. The Masses Against The Classes
2. Intravenous Agnostic
3. Let Robeson Sing
4. The Year Of Purification
5. Miss Europa Disco Dancer
6. Dead Martyrs
7. My Guernica
8. The Convalescent
9. Royal Correspondent
10. Baby Elian
11. Little Trolls
12. Freedom Of Speech Won't Feed My Children
(13. We Are All Bourgeois Now)

Door To The River:

1. Found That Soul
2. Ocean Spray
3. So Why So Sad
4. Wattsville Blues
5. His Last Painting
6. Epicentre
7. Close My Eyes
8. Locust Valley
9. Ballad Of The Bangkok Novotel
10. Pedestal
11. Groundhog Days
12. Just A Kid
13. Masking Tape
14. Fear Of Motion
15. Door To The River

(16. Midnight Sun)

As you see, there's a fair bit of overlap - Intravenous Agnostic, The Convalescent, The Year Of Purification and My Guernica aren't that political, and could just as easily fit on Door To The River - and it's clear the more personal songs (rather than the political ones) are in the majority, making a provisional Door To The River album very long.

Door To The River (song) is really transitional to There By The Grace Of God, and although it sounds a little like So Why So Sad, it actually sticks out quite a bit when compared to all other songs from this era (which is why it was put out elsewhere).

Last edited by Automatik; 29-03-2015 at 15:48.
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