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Engaging With The Enemy The Manics' most misunderstood moment, revisited

Engaging With The Enemy

The Manics' most misunderstood moment, revisited

by Jay Lewis, Reviews Editor
first published: September, 2022

approximate reading time: minutes

This is not revisionism, that's simply not the Manic's style.

Know Your Enemy (Deluxe Edition)
Manic Street Preachers
(Sony Music)

Some years after 'Know Your Enemy' was originally released, I met Manic Street Preachers' singer James Dean Bradfield after he'd performed a solo gig at a local radio station. I handed over my selection of Manics records for him to sign and when I got to the much misunderstood 2001 double album, I quietly mentioned to him that "I really like this one...".

Manic Street Preachers signed LP coverI may be paraphrasing here, but his response went something along the lines of "... Well, you're about the only fucker who does".

Having suffered twenty years of sniffy indifference, the Manics have tried to reshape the somewhat unfocussed 'Know Your Enemy'  into a more coherent shape than beforehand.  To start with, the rawness of album opener 'Found that Soul' wasn't an ideal choice for a single and is now relegated to the second disc, thankfully replaced by the more deserving (and early REM indebted) 'Year of Purification'. The warm embrace of the Avalanches remix of 'So Why So Sad' is given prominence over the underproduced original. Previously unreleased 'Rosebud' and b-side 'Groundhog Days' are given new life (the latter including a brilliant scar-picking monologue from Nicky Wire). Furthermore, the non-album single 'The Masses Against The Classes' is now sensibly included (the first new number one single of the millennium, pop fact fans!). It was always nice to hear a sample of Noam Chomsky on Top of the Pops.

This rearranged version of the album is not a whittling down to find a sparking single album, it's quite the opposite (the streaming and deluxe CD version stretch to a patience-shredding three hours). What it does do though is to allow the best songs from the original release to breathe more in the new space:  'Let Robeson Sing' may be their most beautiful and underrated single whilst 'His Last Painting' should have become one of their fan favourites.  Better still, the anti-US protest of 'Baby Elian'  (the inspiration for their visit to Cuba and audience with Fidel Castro), doesn't feel like an afterthought.

This is not an act of revisionism, that's simply not the Manics style.  'Know Your Enemy' was a flawed but often brilliant chapter in the Manics Street Preachers story (...I would need a much larger space to discuss the trip to Cuba and audience with Fidel Castro). Please don't let this thoughtful reimagining of that album only be enjoyed by just 'fuckers' like me.

Jay Lewis
Reviews Editor

Jay Lewis is a Birmingham based poet. He's also a music, movie and arts obsessive. Jay's encyclopedic knowledge of 80s/90s Arts films is a debt to his embedded status in the Triangle Arts Centre trenches back then.

about Jay Lewis »»

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