Manic Street Preachers Lipstick Traces

It doesn’t come as a huge surprise that these Welsh superstars followed-up their greatest hits compilation Forever Delayed with a collection of b-sides and assorted non-single material. What is a surprise is how good most of this material is — often bettering the singles with which they attracted so much attention. The material spans the majority of their career, dating back to 1991’s excellent "Spectators of Suicide,” an odd omen considering the eventual fate (or so it is assumed) of late band member Richey Edwards. The newest tracks are definite highlights, including "Judge Yr’self” and "4 Ever Delayed” — likely a reference to the infamous "4 real” arm carving stunt by Edwards. Their politically-motivated themes are well represented, particularly on "Socialist Serenade” and "Democracy Coma.” On the other hand, they let their lighter side show through on the Bacharach-styled lounge-pop of "Horses Under Starlight,” and the softer, acoustic-based tracks like "Bored Out of My Mind.” The best thing about this compilation, however, is the second disc, which gathers most of their cover versions, including a couple of Clash songs, a live version of Guns N’ Roses’ "It’s So Easy,” Chuck Berry’s "Rock and Roll Music,” and the infamous "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.” They even take a crack at George Michael, Nirvana, the Happy Mondays and Camper Van Beethoven’s classic "Take the Skinheads Bowling.” This is a great compilation overall, with two noticeable flaws: not including the cover of the M*A*S*H theme song "Suicide Is Painless,” and the lack of proper liner notes explaining the source of this material, the latter being a serious and major oversight. (Sony)