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Know you're the enemy
on April 16, 2001
The Manic Street Preachers might be the most aptly named band I've ever heard. They've always been a bit too smart for the States, and that might explain why "Know Your Enemy", their most American radio-friendly album to date, won't get much airplay here. Well, that, and the theme of the album, which is a wonderfully scathing indictment of the Americanization of the world.
The first two singles, "Found that Soul" and "So why So sad" make a nice introduction to the album - calling up the ghosts of Joe Strummer and Brian Wilson respectively. "Year of Purification" might be the best song REM never wrote.
Although I'd probably get smashed over the head with something if I ever mentioned it in front of the Manics, this album reminds me, above all else, of U2's "Achtung Baby". Not so much as the album sounds like U2, but that it seems like a radical re-working of a band, a new direction, embracing irony, maturity, and technology. Listening to "Miss Europa Disco Dancer" or "Wattsville Blues" makes me think of, well, "Zooropa" and "Numb".
The standouts, though, on the first few listenings of the album are the final two 'proper' tracks - "Baby Elian" and "Freedom of Speech Won't Feed My Children". It's strange to hear a perspective of the Elian debacle that so closely matches my own, considering that I actually live in Florida, and I don't think that these Brits have ever even visited the State that threw the election.
The Manics will probably never live up to the frenzied brilliance of "The Holy Bible", and they might never again capture the earnestness of "Everything Must Go", but "Know Your Enemy" is still better than 99% of the music you'll hear on the radio today.