Released on: Know Your Enemy (Album #6) Epic Records, 19 March 2001
Know Your Enemy ends (kind of – of which more later) with a slightly unusual kind of final track. Traditionally, many rock and pop records – including Manic Street Preachers LPs – end with a track with tends to be longer, slower and more “epic” in scope than most or all of the other songs. Despite its fairly wordy title, ‘Freedom of Speech Won’t Feed My Children’ is actually a relatively straightforward, energetic rock track which ends the record on a note very much unlike tracks like [T114] ‘S.Y.M.M.’, say, or [T51] ‘Gold Against the Soul’. It’s a pleasing effect, though, and while it can go slightly unnoticed or even unheard on such a long album, ‘Freedom’ is actually probably one of the most immediately enjoyable songs on the whole record.
Besides a curious middle eight which amps up the distortion on the guitars and removes the drums altogether, the instrumental setup is fairly standard fare for KYE – ramshackle rock with some washes of electronic noise to add some texture. The ending is oddly abrupt which is a little disappointing, but broadly speaking everything is solid, suitably hard-hitting and yet another good vehicle for Bradfield’s vocals.
Speaking of which, Bradfield has some excellent lines to work with provided by Wire here. The title is far from cryptic in this case and very much encapsulates a large part of the song’s theme – it’s another version of famous quotes like “food first, then morality”, which appears in The Threepenny Opera by German Marxist dramatist Bertolt Brecht. The specific meaning of all the lines taken together is complex and debatable, but part of it certainly relates to the fascinating idea that the world of ideas, values and imagination we all take for granted is entirely dependent on a more practical world in which our physical needs are met. This is tied into American psychologist Abraham Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs. Besides anything else, it may be a rather harsh but Wire’s savage criticism of the Dalai Lama is very funny.
All in all, ‘Freedom’ is a fine closing track which makes up for its oddly sudden ending by (after a long silence) leading into the first of two hidden tracks the Manics have released to date.
Choice Lyric (Full Lyrics)
“so we protest about human rights / worship obesity as our birthright”
Berlin Wall – the wall that separated West and East Germany during the Cold War, between 1961 and 1989.
Dalai Lama – a high lama (teacher) in “Yellow Hat” Tibetan Buddhism. The current and 14th Dalai Lama was born Lhamo Dondrub in 1935.
Beastie Boys – New York hip-hop act formed in 1981.
Stalin – Joseph Stalin (1878 – 1953), de-factor Soviet leader from the mid 1920s until his death. Founder of Stalinism.
Hammer and Sickle – a common symbol associated with communism. The hammer and sickle represent industrial and agricultural workers respectively, combined to reflect their unity and cooperation.
Richard Gere – (1949 -) American actor who became known as a sex symbol in the 1980s.