Sound — 9
Released at the height of Britpop, many have said that the Manic's adopted this sound on Everything Must Go. I agree with this to an extent; here we have a collection of very melodic, pop- orientated songs, often with atmospheric strings involved and not a great deal of punk rock sting or distortion in the guitars. But the songs lend themselves to this kind of arrangement, and I don't see it as a pejorative that the album is lacking in any hard rockers. Almost every song really stands on its own two feet as being unique from the others, with only a few disposables near the end and a few similar elements from track to track. The song that people will be most familiar with is A Design For Life and this is a good representation of the album in that it's anthemic, melancholic and has that polished, torrent-of-strings production that is common throughout. Kevin Carter is another single and with its funky riff and saxophone solo, as well as its lyrical content, it really shows the bands unique sound bordering on quirkiness. Adjectives that spring to mind on tracks like Australia, The Girl Who Wanted To Be God and Everything Must Go are Lush and simply Huge sonically. For those interested in lead guitar playing, James Dean Bradfield has several impressive yet tasteful virtuoso moments; mostly I'm impressed with his tone, which sounds bassy and aquatic, and for someone who claims to have learnt guitar soloing from Slash, he manages to avoid clich.
Lyrics — 9
Part of the bands strength is that they are clever writers who don't write about the same subjects as everyone else. There are several examples of this on the album; they have songs inspired by animal cruelty, photographer Kevin Carter, painter Willem de Kooning, and politics, which have always been imperative to the band. But the lyrics are subtle and ambiguous enough that they are not cramming anything down your throat, and the music itself is poppy enough that you can happily listen to it without getting bogged down in any intellectual content. My guess is that a lot of the words actually come before the music for this band- although there are strong, hum-able melodies throughout, the syllables per line on a track like Elvis Impersonator create an unorthodox rhythm that is highly different. Perhaps the most impressive element is that although they moved into very commercial, pop territory with Everything Must Go, they did it in a way that was totally unique, and again not at all clich as you might expect from a bands more pop-rock endeavours.
Overall Impression — 9
In summary I'll say that this is a really good album for anyone who likes the more pop side of guitar music and isn't expecting too much of a grungy or fast-paced encounter, or someone who wants a new inspiration from a band that's totally different. Admittedly I am quite a casual fan of the band so I can't comment on how this compares to all there other albums, but I've been told this kick-started their departure from a more gnarly punk sound. I think what the Manic's have here is much more interesting than a straight rock album, and having bought their greatest hits I would say this competes with it as a body of work, which says a lot.