Manic Street Preachers: No Surface All Feeling
he first few seconds when Sean Moore’s drum beat hits on “No Surface All Feeling”’s instrumental outro are the most redemptive, cathartic moments in the whole of the Manics’ discography. Now personally, I’m not a fan of the device. When a song has to end, I much prefer the fade out or some other method. There are some cases that work, but in general the outro just make the song more boring (cf. Wilco’s “I’m The Man That Loves You” and the Replacements’ “Bastards Of Young”). There’s only one case I can think of where the outro is actually crucial to the song, and this is it
The rest of the song is still good, of course, switching from the quiet strum of guilt-ridden verses to shimmering arena rock on the choruses. “It was no surface but all feeling / Maybe at the time it felt like dreaming” is a pretty clear reference to the exposed nerves and horrible aftermath of The Holy Bible, but when James Dean Bradfield sings “ It may have worked but at what price?” you can feel the second-guessing that went into continuing as a band, into using some of Richey’s lyrics and into making this album.
What really makes it all this work is the outro, though. Just as “No Surface All Feeling” starts with Bradfield’s chiming guitar, it ends with a similarly memorable instrumental part. At the 3:30 mark the track grinds to what seems to be a halt, but before silence can hit Sean Moore slams into action again. This time with curiously hollow, staticky reverb applied to his drums. Bradfield starts playing again too, sounding like a darker version of his opening riff until forty seconds later the whole thing subsides into a series of feedback buzzes.
The song feels like it’s flipped over and started playing backwards, hostile and aggressive where the rest of “No Surface All Feeling” is open and edging towards acceptance. It’s a dark mirror to the rest of the song, maybe the rest of the album, where the Manics’ old orneriness and enmity shines through. Survivors usually feel rage along with sadness and guilt, and that mere forty seconds where “No Surface All Feeling” doubles back onto itself is the closest Everything Must Go comes to exposing any feelings about Richey but the predictable sorrow and tribute. It renders the rest of the album that much more honest.
Without that coda, “No Surface All Feeling” would ring hollow, just another predictably-scripted paean to a lost friend (albeit better than most). But somehow that forty seconds of space at the end of the song, the end of the album, transforms it into something far greater than it has any right to be.