Not many know this about me but I’m a massive Manic Street Preachers fan. Whether it’s the earlier, grittier releases, through their mid-era of massive popularity, to even the poppier, latter releases, I am just sucker for their brand of brit-rock-hovering-on-punk. One of the main reasons I love them is for their cutting lyrics and deep perception, slicing to the core of social, psychological, and economical phenomena. Perhaps the best example of this is “4st 7lbs”. In its incisive portrayal of eating disorders (“I want to walk in the snow / And not leave a footprint / I want to walk in the snow / And not soil its purity”), the track represents one of Manic Street’s most unapologetic and tough to bear commentary.
Which is why I was thrilled to hear that Ghostbound, the avant-garde/post-black/post-punk band who released the excellent All is Phantom in 2018, were releasing a cover of this track and that we could premiere it. Apparently, it (the track, the album, and the band) plays an all important role in the mythology of the band, as expounded on by Alec A. Head, front-man for the band:
Manic Street Preachers’ The Holy Bible ranks as one of my favorite albums ever, and I would even go so far as to call it one of the greatest records of the 1990s. “4st 7lbs”, its centerpiece, has always carried a lot of emotional heft with me. The music and lyrics are perfectly intertwined to create an unrelentingly bleak and harrowing atmosphere as it pertains to what goes on in the mind of someone who is suffering from the deleterious effects of an eating disorder, almost as if it was written and performed from within a padded cell. It has a tense, nervous energy in the vein of the very best of Killing Joke, PIL, and Siouxsie and the Banshees combined with an almost “proggy” rhythmic sense. I would venture to say that “4st”is as overwhelmingly dark and aggressive as any extreme metal song; its multifarious twists and turns, clever guitar parts, and completely whacky vocal phrasings made it an ample challenge to cover; it is also fun as hell to play. It is now a staple of our live set, and we are honored to pay homage to it.
The cover itself, recorded and performed live by the band, does a great job of capturing the “emotional heft” of the track. From the prominent bass which carries the track on its shoulders, through the agile guitars which lend it its scintillating energy, Ghostbound capture the unmistakable formula of Manic Street Preachers in their rendition. Perhaps the most obvious, personal touch though is Head’s vocals, his timbre a few notes deeper than James Dean Bradfield iconic voice. This lends the track an operatic tinge which does much to both amplify the original swagger of the track and lend it another layer of delivery and vibe. Also check out the drums embellishments closer to the end of the track, further speaking to Ghostbound’s own sound and take on the original piece.
The end result is a powerful rendition which communicates with the original work but also adds the band’s own vision and approach to music. Ghostbound are currently working on more music, for which you should stay tuned as we get closer to a tangible release. For now, don’t forget to check out their Bandcamp page. If you liked this cover, there’s plenty more great music in there, bearing the unmistakable mark of Manic Street Preachers, among other great rock influences, in its varied and detailed folds.