Saturday, 18 April 2009

Friday-Night Blog: Me and the Manics

The handy-dandy iLike application in Facebook informed me this week that the Manic Street Preachers are playing the Roundhouse in Camden in a few weeks time, which got me thinking about the Manics... (see, it's not just thrown together, this. Literally minutes of thought go into it. OK, it's a bit late this week, but hey, I'm only human. Don't see any of you trying to write a weekly blog post... Come on then... You do it if you think it's so easy.... Sheesh. Ahem.)

So anyway, me and the Manics have a very strange relationship. I've been a fan of them since very near the beginning of their careers. I'm not saying I was there at the release of the New Art Riot EP, but, I'm sure I've liked them since Mark and Lard used to play "You Love Us" (and then hijacked it for their "We Love Us" bit on the radio). I loved their energy and their music, but bizarrely, I don't remember seeing any pictures of them for a long time, but I think I would have loved them all the more for their New Art Punk look. I loved the idea that they had the original plan of selling umpteen million copies of Generation Terrorists and then splitting up in a blaze of glory. The opening salvo of "Slash and Burn", the first track on the album, is possibly the greatest statement of intent by any band anywhere, ever. James Dean Bradfield's guitar starts off fast and furious and just gets faster and more furious. (Apparently, Richey Edwards used to dare him to play faster...)

So, time went on, and I bought their second album, Gold Against The Soul. By this time, I'd started to twig that the Manics might be a little, well, political. I don't do politics. It brings me out in a rash. And yet I loved this very intellectual, very political band. Most of the time it didn't matter, because you couldn't understand what James Dean Bradfield was singing anyway. To this day, I still don't have a clue what half the lyrics to their early albums are, I just have to hum along until I get to the bits I recognise...

And in 1994, I went to the USA, and the Manics released their last album with Richey Edwards before he disappeared, The Holy Bible. Although it didn't do too well on first release, it has since become regarded as their masterpiece. I however don't get it. It's not to say I don't like it, I just don't get it. Maybe it's because I was out of the country (the Manics weren't big in Flagstaff), but it had absolutely zero impact on me. It took me a few years to buy it (well after Everything Must Go, and possibly even after This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours) and I've never really got a handle on it. The lyrics were mostly written by Richey, and weren't exactly full of the joys of spring. Maybe it's just too much for my sunny disposition. Don't get me wrong, I like a bit of angst as much as the next guy, but songs about anorexia and whatnot are a bit too much for me.

Then the Manics released Everything Must Go and suddenly they were beloved of your Ben Sherman-wearing lad out on the piss: "We don't talk about love/We only want to get drunk", who as usual, completely miss the point.... Never mind, the album was great, and since then they haven't put a foot wrong in my opinion. I even love Lifeblood, seen by many as their nadir, before their solo work and then the "back to form" album, Send Away The Tigers. When I went to see them on their Forever Delayed Greatest Hits tour, I was totally blown away. It's probably the best gig I've been to in terms of the inspirational effect it had on me. Not that I picked up a guitar and started to write songs, that would be too much like positive action for me. But I wanted to. I couldn't believe the noise these three men made, with James tearing up his guitar and the stage, Nicky loping about like a bass-playing giraffe, and Sean creating thunder at the back. It was incredible.

The good news is that there's a new Manics album due out next month. The not-so-good news (for me) is that it's based on notes and lyrics left to the band by Richey Edwards before his disappearance. So in effect, it's The Holy Bible, Part II. Could be good. I hope it is. No doubt I'll buy it, probably on the day it comes out. I'm strange like that.

So that's me and the Manics. A strange love affair. But a wonderful one.

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