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on May 29, 2011
The hype for the first and third albums overshadowed Gold Against The Soul. The Manics themselves criticized it shortly after it came out, and refused to play most of the songs on it for years. But I think it's held up very well, and (sacrilege!) in a way I even like it more than The Holy Bible. Underneath that loud pop-metal production, the songs can be just as poignant and eloquent. "La Tristesse Durera" is an upbeat, Madchester-inspired hit single where the lyrics express the sorrow and loneliness of a war veteran who has outlived his time. You have to make concessions to rock-and-roll theatrics -- an actual despondent veteran probably would not know what to make of this song. But the lines, "I sold my medal, it paid a bill / it sells at market stalls, parades Milan catwalks" are still evocative poetry unmatched in rock music, and if Bradfield undersells their despair, at least he's got the rage, veritably flinging the "sigh" into the audience's collective face.

At its best, Gold Against The Soul amps up the rage while going deeper into the debut's slogan-like expressions of alienation. "Deeper" is in a purely poetic sense, with more sophisticated wordplay and imagery: "fragments crawling like cobwebs on stone," "morning always seems too stale to justify / lamented hours, blossoms, minutes of our lives." Those phrases are all from "Sleepflower," which wasn't even a single, but also boasts what surely must be one of their five best riffs. When the lyrics aren't great, the music steps up. It's probably best _not_ to quote "Symphony Of Tourette," but the rhythmic arrangement of the bridge is intense and anthemic (plus the incoherent wail: "Stutter! Stutter!"), and honestly a lot better than the subsequent chorus.

They take a few pot-shots at the easy target of consumerism. "Yourself," I never liked that much. It's supposed to be an attack on Meaningless Bourgeois Routine ("you go on day after day, speak to your despised, and blanking your loved ones"), I guess. It has a couple of drawbacks: first, it is written in generalities, whereas songs like Blur's "Chemical World" or "Stereotypes" at least take care to add a few believable-sounding specifics about Ordinary Life. Second, the chorus of "Yourself" consists of repeating the word "yourself" a number of times. Still, not all of these efforts are wasted. "Nostalgic Pushead" somehow manages to work up such frothing anger at the commercialization of rock culture that it sort of transcends the mediocrity of the target, hitting the red at the cacophonous, distorted scream, "rebellion, it always sells at a profit."

And the targets are not all easy. "Gold Against The Soul" is a knowing, clearly expressed attack on the European "neo-liberal" consensus, cutting at greedy politicians ("shareholding a piece of this <...> country"), their hypocritical court poets and intellectuals ("white liberal hates slavery / needs Thai labour to clean his home"), and the generic platitudes in public discourse that block out philosophical and intellectual rigour ("working class cliches start here / either cloth caps or smack victims"). And there's still room for high poetic expression: "Tragedy is not known under this dimmest of lights." Rock music generally struggles with "relevance," mostly because it works very hard to find something irrelevant to get self-righteous about. This one moment is the proof that the Manics, in those heedless early days, were special. The only other time they were ever this incisive was on "Freedom Of Speech Won't Feed My Children," buried at the end of their unsuccessful 2001 album Know Your Enemy.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are Richey Edwards' increasingly self-directed, solitary monologues. Excepting "Sleepflower," these are less accomplished than "Yes" or "4st 7lb" from The Holy Bible. Fortunately, Bradfield saves the day, so that "Drug Drug Druggy" (that's also the chorus) sports a blistering funk-metal Frusciante solo. The reverse also happens -- the bucolic moderate-rock licks in "From Despair To Where" (though they do set the strings/rock blueprint the Manics use to this day) even almost mask Richey's declaration, "The weak kick like straw / till the world means less and less / words are never enough, just cheap tarnished glitter."

Listening to this strong, vital album now feels strange. I like the non-Richey albums well enough, and Gold Against The Soul is widely held to be the weakest of the Richey albums, but still, after e.g. Postcards From A Young Man, this is like being suddenly kicked after a long sleep. A lot of things seemed possible, a long time ago.
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on December 15, 2014
IMHO, it is a little underrated gem by the Welsh alt rock act, due to the terrible comments by music critics and fans alike. I do not care about what they say about this CD….”Gold Against The Soul” is a fantastic piece of work that covers very deep comments on AIDS, drug addiction and politics. It contains great songs such as Sleepflower, Scream To A Sigh, Yourself, Life Becoming a Landslide, Drug Drug, Druggie and the overlooked Roses in The Hospital. If you are a fan of Manic Street Preachers, grab this stuff. If you are new to the band, this is not the place to start, unless you want to take the risk to buy it and listen to it.
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on June 21, 2004
i'd like to know what everyones problem with this album is. i think it's one of the best in the bands whole catalouge. Sure they had alot to follow with terrorists, but still, this album is great. while their debut effort featured very politcally inspired lyrics, gold against the soul seems like its richey slowly crumbling inside. while bible featured richey's last batch of bleak lyrics, which are some of the bleakest in history, this album also has some amazing lyrics. and by the way, the music on this album is great too. heres a track by track rundown and review:
Sleepflower-5/5:amazing opening song , with a great riff to back it. the songs on this album don't speak for themselves like they do on the holy bible, so i don't know what half of the songs on this album are about.
From Despair to Where- 4/5: The music on this song sounds a little too poppy for my tastes, but it features one of my favorite lyrics on the whole album (There's nothing nice in my head/the adult world took it all away)
La Tristesta Deurera- 3.5/5: Alright song, i really like nicky's bass in this one, but not too crazy about the lyrics
Yourself-2/5: maybe my least favorite song on the album. the guitar at the beginning sounds really awful, so that part always kind of drags me away from the song.
Life Becoming a Landslide: 5/5: one of my favorite manic songs. music is great, lyrics are wonderful, and it has possibly one of the best lines in the bands entire catalouge(My idea of love comes from/ a childhood glimpse of pornography)
Drug Drug Druggy- 4/5: I like th guitar in this song, and i really like the lyrics
Roses in the Hospital- 5/5: I'd ive it better odds if i could. Maybe the best street preachers song ever, but i know thats probably not true. some very heartbreaking lyrics, that you know are exatly related to richey(roses in the hospital/stub cigarettes out on my arm) and (roses in the hospital/heroin is just too trendy) the forever delayed part at the end sold me to this song.
Nostalgic pushhead- 1/5: maybe the worst song the manics ever wrote. rubbish.
symphony of tourettes- 3.5/5: the second half of this album is nothing compared to the first, but this is a real good song. great riff by the way.
gold against teh soul- 4/5: good song, good closer, very solid lyrics. way to go.
in other words, this album is no bible, but its better than emg. get the holy bible if you can find it, then come to this one.
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on November 4, 2002
I wouldn't agree that this is the Manics' "pop"piest album. I'd look to This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours for that. I believe another reviewer already pointed out that there are bootlegs of these songs that pack the punch that the studio recording does not. It is very true. I still enjoy it as a good listen and as a sort of MSP time capsule.
1. Sleepflower: At first I quite liked this, but it gets tired after a bit.
2. From Despair to Where: Yes, there is a sing-along chorus, but it simply feels good to sing it. Maybe it's just me, but it beats singing "Y-M-C-A" at a loud volume.
3. La Tristesse Durera (Scream to a Sigh): Most beloved of early Manics singles by the so-called die-hards...it is well-crafted, yes. It is catchy, yes...but after a while it becomes slightly annoying. Favorite lyric: when JDB screams "I sold my metal/It paid a bill/It sells in market stalls/Parades Milan catwalks..."
4. Yourself: "You look at ads all day/Everyone is perfect and you're so lame". Insecurity central. Remember that the Manics were about fashion before they were about the music.
5. Life Becoming a Landslide: Just the line "My idea of love comes from/A childhood glimpse of pornography/Though there is no true love/Just a finely-tuned jealousy". This isn't winning the Pulitzer Prize, but it still gets a point across; one or a succession of those days where everything just seems to fall on you, and you are clawing your way out.
6. Drug Drug Druggy: Catchy. That's all I can say about it. It doesn't quite stand out for me. I prefer the "live" version from Glastonbury '94.
7. Roses in the Hospital: Ditto about the "live" version. The Clash reference at the end gives some lift.
8. Nostalgic Pushead: Kay-tel Records commercial; commentary on the wave of nostalgic wallowing that has gripped us since hopefully-buried decades decided to come back. Can you imagine nostalgia for the '90s? Rico Suave a classic? *shudder* Another one of those catchy chorus-things...
9. Symphony of Tourette: "Children can be cruel she said/So I smashed her in the f*ckin' head/Sorry dear that's the nature of Tourette". Great track, but needed a little more of the sense of unpredictability that is a hallmark of the syndrome.
10. Gold Against the Soul: We wish rock 'n' roll did have a conscience. Musically, not bad. I love the slide towards the higher notes on lead guitar as a suitable backing for JDB's voice. Nice harmony.
Even if this is not The Holy Bible, this album points more in that direction than Generation Terrorists. Maybe this is the Manics' "indicator" album. They were getting there.
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on June 19, 2006
I would have given this four stars but I hope my five drags this out of the 3.5 level. I like this album and offer this personal review.

This is not the best Manics album, it is however the one album from their back catalogue that I can listen to why is this...

well, Generation Terrorists is raw and Motorcycle Emptiness apart often too aggressive for passive listening.

Holy bible is far too painfull, this is beauty but in a way its like when you were dumped by your first girlfriend, the pictures of you as a couple are like knives through your corneas.

I overplayed Everything must go and TIMTTMY, and it will be years before I can buzz to it.

Gold is musically very good, Sleepflower is impressive, Life becoming a landslide has major hooks, La Tristesta Deurera, is another impressively produced rock song, however my favourite starts with "...I write this alone in my bed, I poisoned every room in the house..." odd how such obvious words sum up those blue times, sometimes you walk around and just don't what room to walk into, what room you want to go to, or where you will be next. You realise the poverty of your thoughts, but just don't know how to put them right....

This album does not have the pure pain of the Holy bible, but in this it sums up the angst of the modern life, not depression, just angst... in fact the movement from this second album to the Holy bible is a saluatory warning that unchecked simple rage against perceived injustice to you can become self harm.

Suicide is not painless.
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on June 12, 1999
On their second effort, the Manics went for a more mainstream AOR approach than the heavy hair metal of their debut record Generation Terrorists. There's significant on all levels. The essemble playing's much improved and tighter with occasional nods to funk. The songs are fleshed out with better riffs and varied parts including the occasional string arrangements. Finally, the lyrics have gone from political sloganeering to the personal, painting a stark depression. Many of the lines are simply stunning. In fact, among their five current albums, this is second to The Holy Bible in overall lyrics.
So why is this album then stunningly weaker than their debut? Well, ironically their musical improvements has turned them here into Queen (James Dean Bradfield's voice remarkable sounds like Freddie Mercury here.) Full of arena rock cliches (overdone solos, synths, cheesy shout-along choruses) which simply undoes the lyrics. Often, it simply sounds like the singer and music is completely oblivious to the lyrics. Moreover, the production is polished to the point of being sterile, while the playing is accomplished yet bloodless. Gold Against the Soul entirely misses the youthful exhuberance and self-belief of their debut.
That said, there are a few strong rockers here, namely Sleepflower and From Despair to Where and great sing-alongs like Roses in the Hospital and Drug Drug Druggy. Most of it sounds great in the car, and fans of 80s hard rock (like myself) will eat this up anyway. Overall, it is an enjoyable listen; but, given the promise of the album, it falls short by a mile.
Much of the problem with Gold Against the Soul lies in that the Manics really wanted to make a very commercial record. On live bootlegs, the Manics turn these same flatulent songs into lean punk with the sort of attitude and fire they missed on record. Same goes with the Generation Terrorists. It wasn't until their next album, "The Holy Bible", did they finally make music worthy of their lyrics and reputation.
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on April 1, 2001
This is fun. It really is. Easily the Manics' most--dare I say it?--pop-oriented album, but since when was catchiness a bad thing? I really can't stand elitism of that nature. Of course, that's not to say that the album is entirely good, even as far as it goes: it has a tendency to become just loud and annoying at times. Drug Drug Druggy, Roses in the Hospital (great title on that one, though), Sleepflower, the title track--they all feel like they're about to develop into something really great, but then they never do. They're not bad; they're just kind of...there.
On the other hand! We have Life Becoming a Landslide, which has a great groove and really shows what they were trying to do with the whole album. We have Nostalgic Pushead, which works thanks to the indelible chorus. We have Yourself, which is hard and loud in a good way. And of course, we have We have La Tristesse Durera, which is just plain fantastic.
So what are you going to do? Probably not the best choice for your first Manics album, but let's face it: once you're a fan, you're going to buy it, and that's that. Come for the highly comical liner picture of James Dean Bradfield screaming into the microphone (maybe his legs are on fire?); stay for the quality tunes.
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on November 23, 2001
I don't agree with the people who say that it's the Manic Street Preachers' "polished album" or "American album" whatsoever. I've never heard an American band as good as the Manics- The combination of the potent singer, superb guitarist & one hell of a melodicist James Dean Bradfield is; The powerful drumming, occasional trumpet & the cowriting of the music provided by Sean Moore; But overall the intense lyrics you just can't stay oblivious to written by the now departed Richey James & Nicky Wire are just some things no American band I've heard of has ever managed to combine. No American band would ever mean as much as the Manics mean to me & so the comment referred to above is just irrelevant. I agree that this is the Manics' second weakest album (Know Your Enemy is their really weakest album for me) but even @ their worse the Manics are still the best & Gold Against The Soul still has its share of unsurpassable songs such as "Sleepflower", "Yourself", "Life Becoming A Landslide" & "Symphony Of Tourette", all lyrically intriguing & (For the most part) well written songs. Of course there are some problematic songs such as "Nostalgic Pushead" & the titletrack which could've been magnificent songs if only they had a musical skeleton as strong as their lyrics. Just think of this album as Bsides material or something & you should be fine. So all in all- Not their best but still worth it for the few songs I've mentioned (Even though "La Tristesse Durera (Scream To A Sigh)" is considered a classic aswell as a fan favourite my personal favourite on this album is "Life Becoming A Landslide" but that's only me so don't let me spoil it for ya hey?).
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on December 28, 2000
1. Music is full of gusto; jagged guitars and screaming melodicism from James. 2. Understandably, lyrics are no cause for academic analysis when compared to those of The Holy Bible. Richey and Nicky's lyrics deal with the personal; rituals, habits, nagging boredom. Less political sloganeering than Generation Terrorists. 3. Their "Metallica" album. Noticeably heavier than recent albums, Everything Must Go and This is my Truth Tell me Yours. 4. An obvious attempt to crack America; disappointingly so, because the slick production becomes quite annoying. Everything is too concise, premeditated. 5. La Triestesse Durera is one of the Manic Street Preacher's best loved songs, amongst hard core fans. A beautiful melodic verse falsetto is repeated in the second verse with the same melody, yet is screamed- "I, see Liberals...I am just a fashion accessory..." is the most powerful moment on this album. The solo is inspirational. 6. Sticks out from the rest of the albums due to its obvious "buy me" intent; less wordy, more muscular. 7. James looks his best in the sleeve. 8. The lowest point, lyrically and musically, in this band's canon.
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on January 15, 2002
Not since Billy Idol's early 80s heyday has there been a group of nastier-looking punks making such radio-friendly music.
For all their snarling lips and spiked hair, on Gold Against the Soul, the Manic Street Preachers wanted a hit and wanted it bad. In North America, "Scream to a Sigh", a formula pop song of the highest order, almost did it for them.
Same can be said of "From Despair to Where", which lets the world finally find out what a Styx with talent might have sounded like. And I mean that in a good way...
Lyricists Nicky Wire and Richy James' topics range from depression to, well, depression, offering personal takes on suicide, sickness, separation, drugs, politics and, yes, even Tourette's Syndrome. Surprisingly, the heavy subjects don't come off as heavy-handed, thanks to the upbeat music of Sean Moore and James Bradfield.
Not as strong a CD as the biting The Holy Bible, but an admirable step toward it. Ignore the haircuts, enjoy the music.
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