The timing couldn’t be more perfect for the re-issue of the Manic Street Preachers This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours. It’s hard to look at neo-Nazis marching in the streets and not think “If You Tolerate This, Then Your Children Will Be Next.” It’s hard to hear lyrics like “The world is full of refugees/They’re just like you and just like me/But as people we have a choice/To end the void with all its force” and not think of the people we leave in wire cages or send home to violence. Is it true, then, that as it coincides with the 20th anniversary of the album’s release, that history is doomed to repeat itself?
Truth hasn’t aged a day, completely bypassing the tell-tale late ‘90s mope-core veneer in favor of introspection that is musically lush and lyrically harsh. From the Beatles-esque sitar on “Tsunami” to the bitter-candy guitars on “Black Dog On My Shoulder” the album is melancholia for adults.
Of course, the album’s singles – “Tolerate,” “The Everlong” and “You Stole the Sun From My Heart” – remain as delicious and urgent as when they were recorded. If anything, they’ve had a chance to marinate and mature. “Tolerate” is still the album’s standout, with James Dean Bradford’s dry opening riff and Nicky Wire’s despondent call-to-arms still capable of chilling your blood. But it’s not all gloom and doom – musically, anyways. “Sun” and “Tsunami,” which grim in subject matter, are endlessly charming on the melody line.
“Born a Girl” is a dysphoria-laden heartache, perhaps more relevant and understandable now, but along with “I’m Not Working,” their inclusion in the middle of the b-side makes them feel more like filler than songs of genuine need. Well-composed and articulate, but with the Cali-folk cribbing “You’re Tender and You’re Tired” and “Be Natural” waiting in the wings, they still sound like an intermission.
The reissue also contains two discs of demos, remixes and b-sides, which are always fun for the collector but may be overwhelming, or, in some cases, repetitive for the casual listener. At best, the Dave Bascombe mix of “If You Tolerate This Then Your Children Will Be Next” doesn’t sound much different until the bridge, and then it’s just a breathy extension of that. But it’s better than the lackluster Massive Attack remix of “Tolerate,” which strips the elaborate orchestration down to just vocalist Nicky Wire’s deliberately drab vocals, and tracks like the “The Everlasting (Deadly Avenger’s Psalm 315)” are just distracting.
The demos themselves show the band goofing off or counting down in the studio before launching into fuzzier, unmixed and often rawer versions of “Tsunami” and “The Everlasting.” Interesting, but not unique enough to warrant more than a few educational listens. And b-sides like “Black Holes for the Young” and the grimy “Buildings for Dead People” deserved better than to be ghettoized on Disc 3.
Reissues are rarely a necessity, but Truth doesn’t feel like a vanity project. If anything, a new generation needs it now more than ever. Here’s hoping we can right things for the 30th anniversary.