Friday, July 9th, 2021

Manic Street Preachers – Orwellian



Ian Mathers: I actually think this sounds lovely, and I think it’ll continue to grow on me, but given [gestures at everything] I was hoping for a little more of the ol’ “The Masses Against the Classes”, you know?

Mark Sinker:To whom it may concern,” growled Lee Perry in “Blinkers” (from 1986’s Time Boom X De Devil Dead): “I’m defendin’ human rights, an eye-for-an-eye and a tooth-for-a-tooth, jungle laws, animal laws, seabed laws, birds’ laws! What are you defendin’ mate?” I don’t much mind the grand, bland sweep of the MSP anthemic style — nice guitar solo! — but honestly if “Orwellian” is yr beef with the world, it’s up to you to supply a well-defined nittygritty. “Impossible to pick a side, in sentences that dance and hide!” Yes! And this applies to you as well! “The people-machines” — I mean we can all easily supply examples of such machines but if you want us pick a side you have to set out the specifics (do you mean social media dudes?) “The books begin to burn“: this is a VERY bad metaphor for information-access inequity in our current content-bombarded context. “Apocalypse! where you and I can coexist” Don’t you mean “when you and I could coexist“? “Words wage war (meanings being missed)!” War as universal passive-voice misunderstanding? Good luck marching with this on your banners. And it’s pleasing and it’s easy on the ear and it’s a song about nothing — which feels like something they once got cross about. What are you defendin’ mate?

Edward Okulicz: This sounds exactly like it could have been an ABBA song. Even lyrically it’s not that much of a stretch if you have heard The Visitors. The effect, then, is that this has a grand pop feel with “political” lyrics that you can completely tune out, which for a Manic Street Preachers song is pretty tolerable!

Scott Mildenhall: It’s probably something to be grateful for that this isn’t out-and-out anti-vaxx-style horror and instead just loudly empty “centrism,” well and truly walking without real intent. Perhaps there is nothing explicitly objectionable in the lyrics, but its hand-waving refusal to take sides leaves this nevertheless swooping and soaring piece sounding like a cut from Simon Hedges: The Musical.

John S. Quinn-Puerta: I think Orwell actually picked sides pretty easily. I’ll give it two points for sounding nice. 

Oliver Maier: Nothing to say about this that isn’t self-evident. Vapid, bafflingly cheerful, pleased with itself beyond belief. “Orwellian” certainly makes the world feel like a bleaker place but probably not for the intended reasons.

Thomas Inskeep: No surprise, if you know anything about the Manics, that the opening line is “We live in Orwellian times,” because of course it is. God bless ’em, no one can make dread sound quite so soaring: I mean, just listen to this chorus. It also doesn’t take long to realize that James Dean Bradfield wrote this on piano and not guitar; there’s a kind of ’70s pop classicism at work here, maybe a bit of ABBA in its verses and melody? Good-not-great, which as far as Manics records go is fine — I’ll take good Manics over plenty of stuff these days.

Frank Falisi: I spent 2016 working in an indie-ish bookstore. The bookstore had a contract with the local Ivy League University. We fancied the store a punk exercise, a sneer, but really: any real independence was wholly dependent on making sure the University coterie felt good about themselves when they came into the bookstore. Their politics could be seen via lawn signs for staunchly liberal candidates on lawns next to Teslas. Their actions could be seen in #HateHasNoHomeHere placards framed prominently and proudly while two neighborhoods over, the working class and mostly immigrant community lived in houses a quarter the size of the Sociology section at the indie-ish bookstore. After the 2016 American presidential election, bookstore management decided to change an end-cap display to titles they felt fit the current political moment: titles like It Can’t Happen Here, The Handmaid’s Tale, Arendt’s The Origin’s of Totalitarianism. And 1984, which seemed to absolutely fly off the shelves. Architect women and poet men and professors in Harris Tweeds would see the end-cap as they were settling up, grab the book, add it to the pile. “You know this is happening here.” And they’d pay their lots of money and they’d take their bag of books back outside. Needless to say: I believe they are still buying the book. 

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