Thursday, July 31, 2008

"I Had A Dream -- It Was About Nothing!" (My 100th Post!)

(Well, actually 101st since I deleted one of the first posts I ever did here when I mistakenly thought I could cover my interests in film, music, comics, and politics. Too many political blogs out there and all provided more insight than I possibly could so...)

Here my favorite band of the last 10 years (with anything Luke Haines-associated running a close second favorite), the Manic Street Preachers, cover the old Camper Van Beethoven classic "Take the Skinheads Bowling." And, admittedly, this cover lacks the ramshackle, half-assed American college rock charm of the original but it still sounds great to me.

The line: "I had a dream -- it was about nothing!" now sounds like the start of a manifesto instead of a throwaway slacker lyric; it matches the line in the earlier "Faster" where James sang: "I know I believe in nothing but it is my nothing." That line, penned by Richey Edwards most likely, is where the sloganeering of the early Clash-aping Manics morphed into the inner turmoil of the "Holy Bible"-era -- where the group became Richey's vehicle before his own destruction, but I digress.

On some level, this cover reminds me of U2's similarly humourless cover of Patti Smith's "Dancing Barefoot" (which was not exactly upbeat either) with the notable difference between that the Manics have a slight sense of humour. And, while they are definitely sometimes morose, sometimes too serious, they do not have any personalities in their band with egos as large as Bono's; they let the lyrics and sleeve artwork reflect their pretensions for good or ill.

If Richey had stayed alive -- stayed visible in the band -- and I'm assuming after so many years that he is dead -- the Manics would have taken new directions, perhaps more theatrical and less stadium rock? But, as it is now, they remain the non-Christian U2.

And this cover acts as a nice bridge in my mind, linking up the pre-Nirvana American indie rock scene -- "college rock" at the time -- with the pre-Britpop UK indie scene(the Manics are Britpop, really, but they started earlier than that, obviously).

The difference being that in England, bands like the Manics and Oasis and Primal Scream and The Smiths all start off in the indie scene but all aim for the mainstream; they all write "big" tunes. In America, indie bands seem to want to content themselves with a little cave in the rock landscape and never venture out of it; The tunes are small and they sound small.

The Manics are here taking that and turning it into something larger -- a stadium anthem for Glastonbury 2003.