According to recent rhetoric from the always entertaining Manics camp, this compilation marks a line in the sand in terms of their career. (With typical disregard for economy, a 70-song triple-album has already been mooted for their next project.)
Disc One here sees the band evolve from self-aggrandising glam-punk upstarts (Motown Junk, You Love Us) to sensitive widescreen rock (Motorcycyle Emptiness, La Tristesse Durera), through the brutal self-examination of The Holy Bible material before winding up with the soaring, contemplative likes of A Design For Life and Australia. It’s a near-flawless run of alternative hits that stands up to the record of any of their peers.
Unexpectedly, Disc Two is where things get retrospectively interesting, for better or worse. Their first new release since achieving the success they’d spent most of a decade striving for was the noble If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next. It’s aged surprisingly well: an understated, brave and contrary choice of single. This headstrong urge would further manifest itself in some inspired, odd choices (the Joe Meek-does-Spector of So Why So Sad) and some clunkers (awkward potted biographies The Love Of Richard Nixon and Let Robeson Sing). Special mention, too, for the deliciously gloomy and undersung There By The Grace Of God. For the most part, however, this disc deals in diminishing returns as Empty Souls, Indian Summer and Postcards From A Young Man bluster by unremarkably.