Manic Street Preachers / Gold Against The Soul reissue reviewed

Manic Street Preachers / Gold Against The Soul

A grudging reissue rather goes through the motions 

Despite the swagger of the Manic Street Preachers 1992 debut Generation Terrorists and singles like ‘You Love Us’ and ‘Slash and Burn’, I only really switched on to the band with the brilliant ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ near the end of that campaign. I was therefore keenly anticipating the follow-up and didn’t have to wait very long as the Dave Eringa-produced Gold Against The Soul arrived about 18 months after the first album and delivered three great singles in ‘From Despair To Where’, ‘La Tristesse Durera (Scream to a Sigh)’ and ‘Roses in the Hospital’ (as well as the ‘Life Becoming A Landslide’ EP).

The band have finally got around to reissuing Gold Against The Soul, almost grudgingly it seems, with Nicky Wire all but acknowledging it’s the black sheep in the family of their early albums: “We haven’t always been the most complementary about this album in the past, but with hindsight it was a strange and curious record.”

When it comes to their new records, the Manics seem to understand the importance of consistency of presentation. The last five long-players (since 2009’s Journal For Plague Lovers) have all come as near identical, shelf-friendly, compact hardcover book deluxe editions, normally offering at least a bonus CD of demos. However with reissues, they are frankly all over the place.

10th anniversary editions of The Holy Bible and Everything Must Go were CD-sized multi-disc packages, while 10 years on, both albums were reissued again in 12-inch lift-off lid boxes (the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it 2012 reissue of Generation Terrorists was a 10-inch set).

2017’s ’10 Year Collector’s Edition’ of Send Away The Tigers abandoned the box format and was actually consistent with the deluxe editions of the new albums and then in 2018 the This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours 20th anniversary collector’s edition was different yet again. This time not a 12-inch box, not a DVD-sized hardcover book deluxe set, but an 8.5” square book which looks like nothing else they’ve put out.

Surely the reissue of Gold Against The Soul will be consistent with something, if only by accident!? Well, no actually. Yes, it is a hardcover book, but it’s A4-sized and can’t sit properly alongside the 12-inch boxes (they’re too big) or the smaller deluxe sets (they’re too small). Nothing is ‘just right’ so Gold Against The Soul is like an outcast having to sit on its own. Maybe that was the idea – we know they don’t really like it!

The deluxe editions of the Manics’ new albums exhibit a consistency not present with the reissues

Since the deluxe reissue is only a two-CD set (expanded album on CD 1 and demos and remixes on CD 2) they really should have made it consistent with the new album deluxe sets and the Send Away The Tigers reissue. I hate to be cynical, but surely the only reason not to do that is because it denies you the opportunity to artificially inflate the price by literally making it bigger – although I’m sure the band will claim otherwise, saying they wanted a bigger format to show off Mitch Ikeda’s photos.

Let’s talk about the book. Yes, it’s interesting looking at the young band during this era, but that’s all the tome consists of – great photos (and some lyrics). It’s a five-minute flick through and you’re done. No essays, no attempt to place the album in context, no annotation from any of the band to explain whey they haven’t “always been the most complementary about this album in the past”. At a different price point we could perhaps shrug this off, but this big photo-book is pumping up a £15-18 deluxe set to £40 plus.

The problems don’t end there. Remember the so-called ‘loudness wars’? The process of remastering that involves overly compressing music and just cranking everything up to the max. The quiet bits sound loud and the loud bits also sound loud, leading to what audiophiles refer to as ‘brickwalling’. I thought we’d got past the worst of that, but Gold Against The Soul 2020 is a great example of the concept in action. The remaster sounds, frankly, horrible. If you think I’m nit-picking about packaging, there’s no defending treating the actual music this way. It’s ear-bleedingly ‘loud’. I have the original CD and the difference is massive. No doubt the 1993 audio could have done with a EQ tweak here and there, but this is way beyond that. The remastering is credited to frontman James Dean Bradfield and Matt Colton, from Metropolis Studios. What were they thinking? The 2011 compilation National Treasures – The Complete Singles includes a remastered version of the Gold Against The Soul singles and I had a listen to ‘From Despair To Where’ and it’s far less harsh than on this new album reissue. I haven’t heard the new vinyl and would be interested to know if that’s any better.

The B-sides are appended to the album on CD 1, whilst CD 2 offers the usual array of demos which are always interesting and impressively well developed. For some reason, the demos are labelled as ‘remastered’ which makes no sense, since these are previously unreleased. The reissue ends with more remixes of ‘Roses in the Hospital’ then anyone really needs but omits the seven-inch version of that same single. The Chemical Brothers’ remix of ‘La Tristesse Durera’ is pretty good though.

In summary, while boxes have certainly been ticked, and it appears to do what it should, the band seem to have treated Gold Against the Soul rather poorly with this reissue. The album is the ex-girlfriend they want to forget, while fans keep saying what a ‘nice girl’ she was. Whether subliminally or not, they’ve gone through the motions and there’s a casualness to the exercise and borderline malice in the treatment of the music, and the fans, come to mention it, with that price point.

The Gold Against The Soul reissue is out now. Hold on to your original CD.

Gold Against The Soul 2CD deluxe edition

1.            Sleepflower (Remastered)
2.            From Despair To Where (Remastered)
3.            La Tristesse Durera (Scream To A Sigh) [Remastered]
4.            Yourself (Remastered)
5.            Life Becoming a Landslide (Remastered)
6.            Drug Drug Druggy (Remastered)
7.            Roses In The Hospital (Remastered)
8.            Nostalgic Pushead (Remastered)
9.            Symphony of Tourette (Remastered)
10.          Gold Against The Soul (Remastered)
11.          Donkeys (Remastered)
12.          Comfort Comes (Remastered)
13.          Are Mothers Saints (Remastered)
14.          Patrick Bateman (Remastered)
15.          Hibernation (Remastered)
16.          Us Against You (Remastered)
17.          Charles Windsor (Remastered)
18.          Wrote For Luck (Remastered)
19.          What’s My Name (Live) [Remastered]

1. Sleepflower (House in the Woods Demo) [Remastered]
2.  From Despair To Where (House in the Woods Demo) [Remastered]
3.   La Tristesse Durera (Scream To A Sigh) (House in the Woods Demo) [Remastered]
4.  Yourself (Live In Bangkok) [Remastered]
5.  Life Becoming a Landslide (House in the Woods Demo) [Remastered]
6.  Drug Drug Druggy (House in the Woods Demo) [Remastered]
7.  Drug Drug Druggy (Impact Demo) [Remastered]
8.  Roses In The Hospital (House in the Woods Demo) [Remastered]
9.   Roses In The Hospital (Impact Demo) [Remastered]
10.   Nostalgic Pushead (House in the Woods Demo) [Remastered]
11.  Symphony of Tourette (House in the Woods Demo) [Remastered]
12.  Gold Against The Soul (House in the Woods Demo) [Remastered]
13.   Roses In The Hospital (OG Psychovocal Remix) [Remastered]
14.  Roses In The Hospital (51 Funk Salute) [Remastered]
15.  La Tristesse Durera (Scream To A Sigh) (Chemical Brothers Vocal Remix)
16.   Roses In The Hospital (Filet O Gang Remix) [Remastered]
17.   Roses In The Hospital (ECG Remix) [Remastered]

Gold Against The Soul vinyl remaster

Side 1
1. Sleepflower
2. From Despair to Where
3. La Tristesse Durera (Scream to a Sigh)
4. Yourself
5. Life Becoming a Landslide

Side 2
1. Drug Drug Druggy
2. Roses in the Hospital
3. Nostalgic Pushead
4. Symphony of Tourette
5. Gold Against the Soul

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