This blog’s reviewing of the Manic Street Preachers' entire back catalogue must surely be coming to a close soon. I’ve got another one to add the pile with 2003’s Lipstick Traces (A Secret History of Manic Street Preachers) which is commonly, and sensibly, shortened to Lipstick Traces.
It was released at the height of the bands mediocrity, in between the very patchy Know Your Enemy (2001) and the very dull Lifeblood (2004). It’s way better than either of those albums. The reason for this is it’s actually a 2 disc collection of older B-sides, Disc 1 is original songs and Disc 2 is all cover versions. The quality of the songs on both discs varies greatly, but the good stuff is GOOD.
There are two previously unreleased songs on Lipstick Traces. The first is 4 Ever Delayed which was recorded for, but never included on, their greatest hits album, Forever Delayed. Wikipedia says it was included on that compilation due to ‘Complications’. My guess is that the complication was that the song isn’t very good. It’s a mid-paced plod along that doesn’t do much, doesn’t say much and is needlessly txtspky.
Much better is Judge Yr’self, which was intended for the awful film Judge Dredd. Why it wasn’t used I don’t know because, lyrically, it perfectly fits a Judge Dredd film and musically it’s harsh, spiteful but engagingly melodic. It was recorded after The Holy Bible but before Richey Edwards’ disappearance. It’s a fascinating glimpse of what Everything Must Go might have sounded like had he stuck around.
Elsewhere on Disc 1, the quality of the previously released stuff is as disparate as the unreleased songs. Donkeys, Comfort Comes, Sculpture Of Man and Sepia are all excellent while Mr Carbohydrate, Horses Under Starlight, Just A Kid and, hah, Bored Out Of My Mind are so very hopelessly dull.
Apparently this compilation was criticised at the time because there were dozens upon dozens of B-sides and rare tracks that could have been included but weren’t. Why they chose some of the clunkers that ARE on it then is beyond me. When there are so many songs to choose from, is an alternate version of an old album track (Spectators Of Suicide) really necessary?
Disc 2, the covers disc, is much better. There’s a wide range of artists covered such as Chuck Berry, Primal Scream, Happy Mondays, Wham!, Guns N’ Roses, The Clash and Art Garfunkel amongst others. Highlights for me are Take The Skinheads Bowling (originally by Camper Van Beethoven) , Didn’t The Lord Deliver Daniel (Paul Robeson) and Been A Son (by Nirvana).
I like the idea of Lipstick Traces, the originals/covers thing, but there’s a lot of chaff around the wheat with this. Maybe a single disc would have been better? Either that or they should have let the fans vote on what B-sides they wanted on this album maybe? Anyway, It could have been a great album but instead is just interesting. Maybe to the band, that's more important?
6 out of 10 Now I see where you were going, but not quite there
Listen to it on Spotify HERE
Buy it from Amazon HERE