Released on: Gold Against the Soul (Album #2) Columbia Records, 14 June 1993
Compared to its sprawling predecessor, Gold Against the Soul zips along to its final track quite quickly, as the album is only a relatively modest 45 minutes in length. ‘Gold Against the Soul’ is the first ever Manics title track (there has been one on exactly half of their albums as of 2013) and the only one to close out a record.
A disproportionate amount of the ire directed at the album as a whole has been levelled specifically at this closing track. Looking at the band’s discography as a whole may offer some degree of explanation for this, as both the previous and subsequent albums each have far superior closers – [T35] ‘Condemned to Rock ‘N’ Roll’ and [A60] ‘P.C.P.’, respectively. Taken within the context of the album, however, the song looks rather better. It actually makes perfect sense that it is the title track, as it reflects so well the sound of the album as a whole.
Where ‘Gold Against the Soul’ differs from the rest of the record is in its lyrics, which are much more political than anything preceding it. It is here that the album title begins to make sense – it represents a conflict between “gold”, meaning material concerns and financial greed and the “soul”, meaning human compassion and integrity. In a way then, the phrase reflects the same conflict over the “soul of a man under capitalism” that the Manics had been confronting in one way or another throughout their career up to this point.
Unfortunately, returning to these kinds of concerns is perhaps the reason for the less-than-inspiring lines which end up getting used on the track, which definitely bring to mind much of Generation Terrorists. However, the problem is very much the expression of the ideas in the lyrics, rather than the ideas themselves. Edwards said of the track,
“It’s an apocalyptic vision of Britain from the Thatcher years to the ‘caring Nineties’. People got so selfish in the Eighties. To me, Roy Lynk (the right-wing leader of the Union of Democratic Mineworkers) was the archetypal Eighties person. He probably thought he was doing people good – but he’s a class traitor. I hope that his children grow up to realise that. The media thinks that if you’re working class, you’ve got to be one of two stereotypes – either tipping your cap to your employer, or a drug fiend permanently bombed out your skull. You’ve got to be a lager lout, or an effete Morrissey fan who never does anything. But working class people can be violent and sensitive.”
The song’s musical composition must bear much of the blame for Edwards’ very real points from being expressed memorably. ‘Gold Against the Soul’ is one of the best examples of the band’s hard-edged sound of the era compromising, rather than strengthening, their message. Bradfield’s heavy-handed guitar work, the very ponderous chorus and Moore’s thudding drums simply don’t suit the kind of very serious and potentially important song underneath. Very soon, the band would become increasingly conscientious about choosing the right styles for their songs, which would reap great rewards on subsequent albums.
Choice Lyric (Full Lyrics)
“and who gives a shit about sexuality”
Vote Conservative – reference to the Conservative Party, officially known as the Conservative and Unionist Party, of the UK. The party was formed in 1834 and proved a major influence on the lives of the Manics who grew up in a South Wales devastated by the Miners’ Strike of 1984-5. The party are known for their policies of economic liberalisation and Euroscepticism, as well as their widespread support among the country’s rich and privileged.
Roy Lynk – head of Nottinghamshire-based Union of Democratic Mineworkers who continued working during the Miners’ Strike, undermining the position of the strikers.
OBE – Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, a relatively junior class in the order of chivalry, the Order of the British Empire, founded by King George V in 1917. Awarded to people who have made a service to the country.
Yorkshire – by far the largest of England’s ceremonial counties, in North-East England. Known for its high concentration of coal mines.
Marlboro – founded in 1904, the world’s largest-selling brand of cigarettes. Produced inside the US by Philip Morris USA and elsewhere by Philip Morris International. The brand is associated with the Marlboro Man marketing concept, the character being portrayed in part by three men who went on to die of lung cancer.
Smack – slang name for heroin.