from The Sound of Being OK

I have been meaning to write an ICA for a while, the last time I did one it was on Coldplay and it was like I’d spat in the faces of the indie glitterati in doing so. I had somehow managed to stab David Gedge, give Stuart Murdoch a wedgie and dish out a Chinese burn to the drummer from Teenage Fanclub all at the same time. So I’d backed away for a little bit.

I’d started one a while ago on the Strokes but never finished it and then partly as a joke I’d started one on McFly but again never finished it. I stopped because it was getting semi serious and Dom reminded me that there was no way that McFly could ever win the ICA World Cup.

So when Badger had the latest one of his great ideas, I signed up. His idea was that we the TSOBO three write an ICA each but the subject of that ICA is chosen by someone else. Which is why I am sat in the office kitchen about to roll a dice.

The plan is simple – If I roll an odd number the subject of the ICA will be chosen by Badger’s Ipod. This is the best case scenario, he has better music taste than SWC, and by better I mean less obscure and less reliant on bands from California who no one apart from him like (and yes I mean Death Grips) or are signed to something called Saddle Creek Records. If I rollan even number it’s the worst case scenario and SWC’s iPod. So I roll and it’s a two. SWC grins, usually never a good sign. I swear under my breath.

Part two of the idea is that as usual for some reason as yet explained to science, whoever the 11th song on the ipod is by, is who we have to write the ICA on. Badger’s rules go on to say that the ICA must ‘contain no more than 4 singles, at least two B Sides, Cover versions or remixes and no less than 4 album only tracks. Nice and easy then.

An hour or so later an email pings up on the screen.

“you lucky thing – track nine was a band called Childhood and track ten was Panjabi MC which would have been ridiculous. Track 11 is ‘Ocean Spray” by Manic Street Preachers.

Well that’s not too bad I say to myself.

I have seven albums by the Manic Street Preachers although I would imagine this album will be largely made up of tracks from their first five (after which, according to SWC, they went a ‘bit Phil Collins’).

Side One

So let’s start here

A Design For Life (Stealth Sonic Orchestra Mix) – Single

The first time I heard this (not this version) I was sitting in a café in a small place called Chudleigh which is just outside Exeter and I was waiting for my sister to come back from the dentist. I was fifteen (going on sixteen) and it was played on Radio 1. I love every second of it from the opening bit about “Libraries giving us power” to drums, the strings and the twinkly bits at the end. The remix I love even more, especially the way the strings are brought to the forefront and the emotion of James Dean Bradfield’s voice is wrung out to devastating effect.

Black Dog on My Shoulder – From This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours

The Manics have always come across an intelligent band who are well read. Here the band turn their hand to depression, a subject very close to their hearts – I mean obviously you have all the stuff with Richey Edwards, which I’m going to do my best to skirt over, largely because it is still so desperately desperate sad, but also it appears that other members of the band have struggled (particularly Nicky Wire) with. In this track they use Churchill’s battles (“Melodrama here in my kitchen sink”) to give us a beautiful subtle track.

Archives of Pain – From The Holy Bible

‘The Holy Bible’ is easily the Manics album which my two colleagues rate the highest. Me – it’s a close third. But I’m probably being harsh because my sister claims it is the best album ever made (when she’s not going to Ed Sheeran live that is). ‘Archives of Pain’ is a real highlight from it though. Besides any song that samples the wonderfully crazy ex Corrie battleaxe Ivy Tilsley is just fine by me.

Wrote For Luck – from ‘Roses In the Hospital Single

My very first Manic show was in 1996, I was nearly 17. About halfway through their set Nicky Wire (bedecked in a very fetching pink boa and red and black frock) told the crowd that this was a song by a band who “you lot don’t love anywhere near as much as you should” and burst into ‘Wrote for Luck”. Frankly if the Happy Mondays version was anywhere near as good as this version we would have still loved them, but it isn’t.

4st 7lb – From The Holy Bible

One of the gloomiest songs ever recorded and therefore an obvious way to end Side One. It is also if you ask me Richey Edwards’ finest five minutes, if that’s even the right way to put it. It is put simply a gut wrenching, tear jerking lament about Richey’ struggles with anorexia that tell us that wants to be “So skinny that I rot from view”. It is magnificent but Christ its bleak.

Side Two

You Love Us – From ‘Generation Terrorists’

The thing that first made the Manic Street Preachers interesting to me was a review in the NME which referred to them as ‘Part Cardiff City Centre drag act, part the Clash”. I was never into either of these things but they sounded fascinating. This review sums up their debut album (and this track particularly) perfectly if you ask me. More than 25 years from its release it has barely aged. It is still angry and slightly contrived but most of all it has lost none of impish brilliance.

Patrick Bateman – B Side to La Tristesse Durera (Scream to Sigh)

“If you are putting a B Side in, it has to be ‘Spectators of Suicide’” says SWC on the same email which tells me I am writing an ICA on the Manics. Well, no actually, I’m putting this in instead. A six minute rant themed around notorious ‘American Psycho anti hero’ Patrick Bateman. Apparently most Manics fans hate it.

Motorcycle Emptiness – From ‘Generation Terrorists’

Let Robeson Sing – From ‘Know Your Enemy’

I think I have two singles left so I’ll use that to post two of my personal favourites – firstly ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ is put simply six minutes of utter perfection. It is seductive, compassionate, elegant and heartbreaking. For the first time you hear James Dean Bradfield sing, or croon, rather than shot, and the guitar solo, is just wonderful.

‘Let Robeson Sing’ is another example of a song in which is a simple out and out pop song, that showcases Bradfield’s talent for actually singing. It’s remarkable and a fitting tribute to a wonderful individual.

SYMM – From This is My Truth, Tell Me Yours

If ‘The Holy Bible’ shone a torch into the darkest depths of Richey Edwards soul, then ‘This is My Truth…’ kind of does the same for Nicky Wire (who has always been my favourite Manic). I’ll highlight this one and again it’s not a happy subject to end on but Nicky Wire manages to take a subject as dark and depressing as the Hillsborough Disaster and make it feel personal and that is a skill only a very talented writer can achieve.  JFT96.

Thanks for reading.



  1. Most perfect reading, KT, as always! I’m not too much an expert on the Maniacs, so I think there’s a lot to listen to later today …

    And: am I the only one who wishes to see a photograph of the TSOBO three one of these days? It’s hard to imagine how three people (well, no: two blokes, to be precise) look like who apparently have dedicated their entire lives to creating/inventing funny lists & games and thousands of rules that go along with those! I’m desperately trying to avoid the term ‘nerds’ here, see … !!

  2. Great ICA . I struggle a bit with early MSP and actually think they have got better as they have progressed as I love the later lps ,maybe there is a double ICA in there. 4st is I think the bleakest record there is

  3. I adore the Manics, as you know. I hated them at first but grew to lvoe them. That said, I can’t help but think how patchy they can be. Of their recent output, Rewind The Film was decent, Futurology was superb, but the new one is more than a bit meh.

    A decent offering nonetheless KT. Let Robeson Sing was by far the best track on Know Your Enemy – a wonderful song.

  4. Much like some of the previous commenters, I also blow hot and cold with The Manics, but when they’re good, they can be very good indeed. The Stealth Sonic mixes were always fascinating, but ‘Design For Life’ is just a magnificent thing.
    Great work KT.

  5. Some really interesting choices here. Like some of you guys, I dip in and out of liking them (and I think they’re much better live than on record). I reckon you could do several MSP ICAs and have hardly any crossover whatsoever. For me, Motown Junk would be an essential inclusion.

  6. This list is brilliant and yet if I were compiling it I think we’d only have one or two tracks in common. And that’s why The Manics are such an incredible band. Even if they did (as your opponent so accurately described) go a bit Phil Collins for a while. I loved this read. Well done

  7. Wow! Brave choice to take on MSP as an ICA. Maybe limiting yourself to the first 5 albums was the only way to go. Personally, I can leave most of This is my Truth – the real Phil Collins stuff – and would have chosen more from Know Your Enemy – The Manics Sandinista surely? I really think there are some lost gems on the later albums (“Solitude Sometimes Is” remains one of my all-time faves) so room for AT LEAST one more ICA here – not to mention a Lipstick Traces style B-sides/ rarities companion. And I’d agree with Richard – Motown Junk has to be there.

  8. “Went a bit Phil Collins”
    The first five albums were top notch.
    Tis true that Know Your Enemy and Lifeblood aint as good as they could be (Manics by Numbers, with added 6th Form Poetry & Politics).
    Send Away The Tigers is a real return, and Journal For Plague Lovers excepted, each subsequent album has some gloriously good high points.
    This years Resistance Is Futile is well worth a listen (in my (possibly misguided) opinion)

    And I think I may be the only Manics fan that doesn’t rate The Holy Bible as one of their finest moments

  9. Was a band that I was considering doing an ICA for – I’d have put a lot of singles on it because they are just so good

    Dreaming A City (Hughesovka)
    Motorcycle Emptiness
    Faster (Their finest moment and one of the best records ever made)
    Jackie Collins Existential Question Time
    La Tristessae Durera
    Small Black Flowers That Grow In The Sky
    Europa Geht Durch Mich
    Archives Of Pain
    You Love Us
    A design For Life

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