There is, of course, always going to be a certain irony in the release of a deluxe ten-year anniversary package from a band who, in 1992, announced to an expectant music press that they were going to make one album, sell 16 million copies and then split up. But to dwell too long on that irony is to miss the essential point that The Manics deal with on Send Away The Tigers: times change, bands change, not everything you believed when you were 18 is necessarily still true 15 years later. The quote from Wyndham Lewis on the inside sleeve of this re-issue reads: “When a man is young, he is usually a revolutionary of some kind. So here I am, speaking of my revolution”. It could not be better chosen.
Send Away the Tigers was a storming, riff-laden return to form after two lukewarmly received records in the previous few years. It’s the first time since the turn of the century that The Manics produced an album of new material that managed to combine their stadium-filling status with the polemic that has always been the backbone of their music. Built around two key singles (Autumnsong and Your Love Alone Is Not Enough), the album contains elements that could only work in a large arena - the titular Send Away the Tigers featured early in the setlist for most of their 2007 tour and there are regular anthemic string interludes, reprieved from the songwriting school that created the phenomenally successful Design for Life.
But this is a Manics album, and would not be complete without political and personal songwriting. And so, we have Rendition (“Rendition, rendition, blame it on the coalition”), Imperial Bodybags, which combines riffs and plenty of space for James to construct the odd G’n’R-style solo with some powerful imagery (“Children wrapped in home-made flags”). Then there’s The Second Great Depression, an intensely personal number and Indian Summer, which seems to deal directly with growing older and changing as a band, without losing a sense of purpose and conviction. It’s a song that acknowledges their longevity and the challenge of staying relevant – “If God persists, persists in saying yes / I guess we'll have, we'll have to test ourselves”. Nicky Wire, who is oft-quoted as saying he writes from a female perspective, gets a female vocalist to interpret his words for the second time and, while Your Love Alone is Not Enough is certainly less spikey than Little Baby Nothing, it’s wonderful to hear the extra element that Nina Persson’s voice brings to the mix.
Ten years on from release, the album still sounds alive and important. The Manics have been quoted as saying that this album gave them “a new lease of life and helped us to rediscover our love of the band”, and that comes through loud and clear in this new edition. The demos that accompany the album showcase the evolution of the songs and it’s particularly interesting to hear fully stripped-down versions of I’m Just a Patsy and Indian Summer, recorded solo by James with a guitar and a tape recorder. The studio demos show the songs taking shape and show off a more experimental approach to the recording process. The second disc of the boxset contains B-sides and rarities and includes some real gems. The version of Your Love Alone… performed solo by Nina Persson is fascinating to hear and the misledingly-named Fearless Punk Ballad shows the full range of James’ vocal talent. The accompanying DVD contains the full set from their 2007 Glastonbury appearance. Not only is this a nice memento for Manics completests, it also shows just how well the new songs fit neatly into the set alongside long-established favourites: not seeming out of place in what is clearly a “festival set” of hits.
So, ten years on, it’s easy to see why this album was considered a return to form and how it’s shaped the records that came after it. This package is for the dedicated, but there is a lot on here that will please new and die-hard fans alike. Nicky Wire described Lifeblood as the Manics’ “elegiac pop” record. He was wrong about that, but it’s an epithet that would fit Send Away the Tigers like a leopard-print, kohl-smeared glove.
Get a copy of Send Away The Tigers: 10 Years Collectors' Edition here