well, it's no secret that i'm quite the fans of the Manic Street Preachers. it gives me no joy, then, to have to write something that slates them for one of the most idiotic decisions & releases in the history of music.
as i posted a little while ago, the Manics are to issue a new "Best Of" set towards the end of the year. this one claims to be a "complete" single collection. despite the fact that their previous, first "best of", Forever Delayed, is not even a decade old yet this seemed like a fair enough release - since then they have, after all, released four studio albums (although, in an act of sheer criminality, no singles were issued from the best of them, Journal For Plague Lovers) and many raised an eyebrow at the omissions from the "best of" tracklisting anyway.
the formats announced were a standard 2CD set, a 2CD set with a bonus DVD containing (they say) "all" the videos, and then a very large, very expensive sounding "complete singles" box set, compromising 39 CDs of all the singles and some extras.
although the standard CD issue set tracklistings were released, no further information was given about the proposed "big box set" straight away. that has changed, and here is what it looks like.
oh. it's a conventional looking white/cream box with "Manic Street Preachers" written on it in some sort of off-gold colour. not the most imaginative or attractive thing the band have ever released, but never mind, those "complete singles" inside are what we want, and surely that is what we shall get. yes?
the text in the above picture is a bit small, so here you go with the details :
- 39 audio tracks on 39 CDs
- 38 Video tracks on 1 DVD
- 3 Vinyls
- 7” poster
- A lipstick and a compact mirror
a number of apologists and optimists are hoping that this is some sort of bizarre typo, but apparently no it is not. you are reading the above correct. the "complete singles" collection is complete only to the extent that it will feature, at the rate of one song per disc, only the a-side released. the price for this? best on offer at the moment is a staggering £165. the words "rip" and "off" spring to mind, let us have a look at why.
firstly, it is not being pedantic nor picky to say this set without the b-sides cannot really be called "complete". the Manics are well known for the high quality of the b-sides to their singles. just about every one of their singles had at least two new tracks on it and some of them contained remixes and live tracks. when you add up the fact that a number of them had 2 or 3 versions issued with unique tracks, a conservative estimate would have it as well over 150 available on the singles only tracks have been discarded.
adding to the frustrating disposal of all the b-side material would be the fact that even if you have bought all of the singles anyway there are a number of tracks that you own which you are limited in the ability to play. the 2 DVD singles from the Lifeblood album feature some songs that were only ever on those singles. the three 7" singles release from Postcards For A Young Man all had b-sides that were vinyl only too. it would have been excellent to have them, amongst others, in a more flexible format like on a CD.
there is also the question of, if anyone is dedicated enough to actually buy this, who on earth is going to bother ever playing so much as one disc? i mean, most Manics fans (and you have to assume this set is aimed at the fans rather than the casual buyer) will have all the songs here at least once on CD already. why would you take out a CD with one track on and play it?
a sign of concern would also be that there's no images of what exactly is inside. if you assume that there's no way the discs will contain replicas of the original single artwork (how could it? that would involve listing b-sides which are not there), i'll bet a penny or two that the CDs are just in plain envelopes or boxes.
it's not like the inclusion of 3 7" vinyls offers any excitement either. for a start, one of them is Motown Junk whcih was made available on a 7" in May of this year and another is a real slap in the face. why? because it is Jackie Collins Existential Question Time off Journal For Plague Lovers, that's why. despite the fact that they made a (still unreleased) 'radio edit' and promotional video for the song, it was never released as a single.
there are a number of uber-loyalist fans who shall, of course, buy this release. a mixture of "wanting to own everything they release" and the extras (one or two shall be keen on the lipstick and compact, believe it or not) shall make it irresistable to some. for the most part, though, this is a real slap in the face to fans who would be prepared to make sacrifices and save to buy a set of this cost if it, literally, "did what it said on the box". it doesn't.
i would love nothing more to put the blame for this, to say the least, disappointing release on their record label. they do, after all, have a very good reputation for being the most consumer unfriendly organization in the world. i refuse to accept, though that the label had 100% control over this and that the band had 0% input. i can only hope that at least one journalist has the guts to ask them why exactly they feel it is ok to release this set in this way, for it can be seen as nothing but a waste of time and money.
this is all rather out of step with other re-releases at the moment. over the last few years a number of bands have issued expanded, "deluxe" versions of their albums and greatest hits, and there are two superb, exhaustive re-releases on the way from Nirvana and U2 this year. it is only the Manic Street Preachers, apparently, who think that what the fans want is less music than was released the first time around as opposed to more.
for examples of how good actually-complete Complete Singles sets can be, go off to google or similar and search for the singles sets issued by acts like Duran Duran, The Stranglers, The Clash, Morrissey and Marillion. fans of those artists were lucky enough to get all the tracks released on singles, either as a box set of them individually or as a 3 CD set.
word from the moutpiece of the band, Nicky Wire, is that the group are going to take an "extended break" after a celebratory concert for this release in December. quite honestly, if this set is really what they think the fans would appreciate then perhaps it is time for them to take a final break. rather they go away now before they tarnish their image any further with insultive gestures like this. there are better, more acceptable and fair ways to extract money from their fans.
do by all means by the standard set of National Treasures, but everyone - even the most die hard fan of the band - should avoid purchasing this. buying it will only encourage record labels to issue even more poor, shoddy and incomplete sets like this.
be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!