Manic Street Preachers - Lipstick Traces

I'd got into the Manics after reading an interview with the band prior to the release of "The Holy Bible". From there on I bought the bands previous 2 albums, assorted bootlegs, hunted down every single interview they'd done and then Richey f**ked off. It's safe to say that like any other Manic's fan I've spent most of my time pondering whether the band should just give it up and leave their reputation in tact or carry on because a few notables (Orlando, Miss Black America, Funeral For A Friend) aside there's been no one to capture my imagination so feveredly. And for every bad album such as "TIMTTMY", "Know Your Enemy" or the sell out of the Greatest Hits album last yet, there have always been blinding live shows such as the Manchester Apollo March 2001 show or Leeds Festival the same year.

"Lipstick Traces" is an album to appease the old fans with enough of interest (ok, the Covers CD) to keep the casual fan interested. "Judge Yr'Self", the last song they wrote as a four piece with Richey shows exactly which direction they could have headed in if it all wouldn't have gone wrong. Written for the Judge Dread soundtrack, but never included which perhaps is a blessing in discuise, the song was aired at Move Festival over the weekend and features the typical Richey-esque line of "Hurt Yr'self, Heal Yr'Self, Judge Yr'Self" and is the closer to the Holy Bible period than the 3 tracks he penned prior to his dissappearance for "Everything Must Go". New song "Forever Delayed" gives a signal to the direction of the elegiac pop album they've been promising for so long and in comparison to "There By The Grace Of God" and "Door To The River" off the Greatest Hits album of the same title it at least offers hope for the future. As well as older tracks such as "Sorrow 16" and a live version of "Strip It Down" they also feature the classic "Everything Must Go" era B-sides "Mr Carbohydrate", "Dead Trees And Traffic Islands" and "Sepia".

The Covers CD is much more of a mixed bag and really could have been edited a touch. "We Are All Bourgeois", "Out Of Time", Raindrops Keep Fallin On My Head", "Train In Vain" and surprisingly "Last Christmas" are all carried by Bradfields vocals, but pedestrian versions of "Rock N Roll Music" and "It's So Easy" just limp along like wounded dogs. The rest of the covers are at their best forgettable and unneccessary when you consider a 2nd CD could have been taken up with out-takes and alternative versions of familiar songs.

There was a time when each post-Richey Manics album would be greated with with they or won't split rumours, but now you get the feeling that the Manics will simply carry on releasing substandard material with the odd glimmer of hope like "Forever Delayed" (the song, not the album) to reel us back in. It will be interesting to see what the next album sounds like with the fact that Nicky's brother Patrick is joining in on lyrical duties, a fact that at least will ensure a lyrical edge that goes back to the old days, crossed with the idea that they now see themselves more as entertainers than a band with an agenda. We'd be foolish to second guess them because we can only get it wrong, but as a fan I hope they get back some of that early fire that attracted me in the first place.

Alex McCann

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