[B52] ‘Patrick Bateman’

Released on: La Tristesse Durera (Scream to a Sigh) (Single #11) Columbia Records, 26 July 1993
Peak UK Chart Position: #22
Band Ranking: #12

Three singles were released from Gold Against the Soul, a fairly typical number for a ’90s rock record and also very standard for a Manic Street Preachers album. However, the era saw many fewer new B-sides released compared with the Generation Terrorists period due to the long run of singles the band needed to build their notoriety in 1991-2 and the tendency to include previously-released tracks on GATS singles. Despite this, it is a B-side from the La Tristesse Durera single that remains the most notorious in the band’s history – ‘Patrick Bateman’.

Named after and very transparently themed around the protagonist in Bret Easton Ellis’ 1991 novel American Psycho (later adapted into a 2000 film starring Christian Bale), ‘Patrick Bateman’ is the second Manics song to be named after a fictional character, following [B15] ‘R.P. McMurphy’. Whereas that song feels very disconnected from its title, ‘Patrick Bateman’ takes the form of an extended character study, with all of its lyrics focused on Ellis’ character and referencing various aspects of his lifestyle. Although the novel’s primary draw is that Bateman is an upwardly mobile Manhattan businessman who doubles as a serial killer (at least in his mind), the song focuses less on the killings and more on Bateman’s superficiality, alienation and ridiculously inflated ego.

The first obviously noticeable thing about the track is its length – at 6:34, it is the longest track in the entire Manics discography. This is mainly brought about by the highly verbose nature of the lyrics, which feature an unusual structure perhaps best broken down as verse-verse-bridge-verse-verse-bridge-chorus; Bradfield has sung a huge 24 lines before he reaches the first chorus. While the song is often thought of as a particularly heavy rock monster, the tone is actually fairly subdued for the bulk of the track, only truly picking up towards the end. Due to this and the slight metal influences throughout the track, ‘Patrick Bateman’ has something of [A38c] ‘Suicide Is Painless (Theme From M.A.S.H.)’ about it.

The response when ‘Patrick Bateman’ was not included on Lipstick Traces demonstrated the strength of fan feeling towards the track (the reason for its absence was, purportedly, its length). The song’s length and connections to Ellis’ book and by extension the film adaptation probably explain the bulk of the popularity. For his part, Bradfield has gone as far as to say on MTV Europe’s Alternative Nation that he was “ashamed” of the music he wrote for the song, but that the lyrics were “great”. While there are some interesting lines, a number of them sound rather forced, and it seems difficult to argue that the song has anywhere near enough musical merit to match its popularity, even if the heavier closing sections are fairly impressive.

The opening and closing samples to the track create an ironic atmosphere, as they sandwich the study of an egotistical maniac between two cornerstones of American civilization – The Star Spangled Banner and the Pledge of Allegiance. Again, this fits with ‘Suicide Is Painless’, which used the United States flag as its cover.

Choice Lyric (Full Lyrics)
“I am melancholy, flower cutting through stone”

References
Less Than Zero – Ellis’ first novel, published in 1985 and named after the 1977 Elvis Costello song.

Travis – Travis Bickle, the protagonist of Martin Scorsese’s 1976 film Taxi Driver.

Rhinehart – most likely a reference to George Cockcroft, American author whose novel The Dice Man (1971) was published under the pen name Luke Rhinehart.

Genesis – British progressive rock band formed in 1967. Patrick Bateman discusses them as well as Huey Lewis and the News in Ellis’ novel and the film version, particularly the Duke album (1980).

Huey Lewis – American musician and frontman of the band Huey Lewis and the News, whose album Sports and song ‘Hip to Be Square’ are enjoyed by Patrick Bateman.

Filofax – a British company known for their organisers, much-loved by yuppies in the 1980s.

CD5 – possibly a reference to compact discs, which are almost 5 inches across.

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