Released on: Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of Manic Street Preachers (Compilation) Sony Records, 14 July 2003
Released in July 2003, the Lipstick Traces compilation formed the second half of the Manics’ retrospective efforts in the wake of Know Your Enemy. While 2002’s Forever Delayed compilation was a collection of the most successful Manics singles, this new two-disc set was to be something different – a wide-ranging but necessarily incomplete look at the band’s B-sides and their covers (which themselves were mainly released as B-sides). Aside from the fact that [B52] ‘Patrick Bateman’ had been excluded due to its length, the compilation was largely well-regarded by fans.
With that said, Lipstick Traces is similar to the previous compilation in that it contains very little material not available elsewhere. Of the two tracks solely available here, the first is ‘4 Ever Delayed’ and was – as its title implied – originally recorded for, but not used on, the Forever Delayed compilation. Given the song’s unique sound and high quality, this makes it another entry in the annals of what-might-have-been Manics moments – unusually, the Manics themselves have acknowledged this. In the 2011 NME singles ranking interview, Wire ruefully admitted that this song should even have been put out as a single instead of [A148] ‘There By the Grace of God’. As is so often the case, the song instead languishes in relative obscurity.
One might ask, is there anything besides Wire hyperbole that suggests ‘4 Ever Delayed’ as a potential single? The answer is an emphatic yes. In its epic sweep and universal lyrics, here is a rare Manics recording which has something in common with the music made by highly successful bands like Coldplay, Embrace, and Starsailor. Although the lyrics occasionally flirt with the mawkish sentimentality of those bands, the song also adds an aggressive edge (not least from Bradfield’s tremendous, huge-sounding guitar) which makes it resolutely Manics. The combination could really have been successful had it been released as a single; maybe one of the most successful Manics singles yet.
In many ways, the song feels like the perfect midpoint in sound between the Know Your Enemy and then-forthcoming Lifeblood albums. It represents perhaps the apex of the Manics’ experimentation in combining aggressive guitar sounds and electronic effects that had been such a focus of the former record, but it also hints towards the more pure and clean electronic sound that would come to dominate Lifeblood – again, this seems to bode well for the commercial potential of the track because both of Lifeblood‘s singles would go on to chart very well.
Cruelly consigned to be little more than a footnote in the Manics discography, ‘4 Ever Delayed’ is in truth one of their most fascinating recordings. Combining a gleefully muscular guitar sound with the epic, universal feel lent to the song by the spacey electronic effects, it is a superb vehicle for the simple plea for a world in which we are not “tied to guilt or tied to greed”.
Choice Lyric (Full Lyrics)
“alone, the lost vigilantes”