Released on: There By the Grace of God (Single #30) Epic Records, 14 October 2002
Also on: Forever Delayed (Compilation) Epic Records, 28 October 2002
Peak UK Chart Position: #6
Band Ranking: #30
The years 2002 and 2003 were a period of looking back and introspection for Manic Street Preachers; it could be argued that in a wider sense it started a spate of these activities which hasn’t ended yet. In terms of the discography, this meant the release of the band’s first greatest hits LP (Forever Delayed) and their B-sides and rarities collection Lipstick Traces. The release of the former also demanded that a new single be recorded – this turned out to be ‘There By the Grace of God’, released in advance of the compilation in October 2002. Mike Hedges and Greg Haver had come on board for production duties.
Throughout the previous Know Your Enemy era, electronic instrumentation had been quietly growing in importance to the Manics even as the core of their sound was comparatively unproduced and raw. The new 2002 single would put electronics very much at the forefront for the first time, which would foreshadow the slick, highly-produced and synthetic “elegiac pop” of 2004’s Lifeblood. This takes the form of lashings of eerie synths and a drum machine beat that persists throughout the song – indeed Bradfield’s typically excellent vocal is one of the few elements that harks back to past Manics material.
While the band had traditionally been fairly anti-religious up to 2002, this song is one of a few which marks out Wire’s increasingly spiritual bent in terms of personal outlook and lyrical work (while Moore and Bradfield, apparently, have remained steadfast in their feelings about religion). While the band were certainly not about to become a Christian rock act, it is still an interesting gesture which paves the way for a little more uncertainty to creep into the collective band mindset, especially on 2010’s Postcards From a Young Man.
‘There by the Grace of God’ has the unfortunate distinction of having been marked out by the band as their worst-ever single, ranked at a rock-bottom #40 on their list. Wire described this experimental, intriguing song as “grey, dour” which is perhaps unsurprising given the band’s tendency to react negatively to their own experiments, but which also dramatically undersells the song.
The video to the single is quite reminiscent of the one for [A103] ‘The Everlasting’ in that it features the band playing in a public place. Rather than having the band on fire, the twist here is that they are playing separately, busker-style but are apparently invisible to the people bustling around them. It’s an interesting allusion – whether deliberate or not – to the origin of the band’s name. While busking on the streets of Cardiff at some point in the 1980s, Bradfield was described (perhaps by a tramp) as a “manic street preacher”.
Choice Lyric (Full Lyrics)
“lay down all your guns / give them up and then move on”
“and all the drugs in the world / can’t save us from ourselves” – this line is almost a direct lift from the song ‘Coma White’ by Marilyn Manson.