Manic Street Preachers / Culture, Alienation and Despair 1989 - 2002

 

1989 - 1994

 

01 Suicide Alley / Single A Side August 1989

02 New Art Riot / New Art Riot EP June 1990

03 Motown Junk / Single A Side January 1991

04 You Love Us / Single A Side May 1991

05 Stay Beautiful / Single A Side July 1991

06 Repeat / Single B Side November 1991

07 Spectators Of Suicide / Generation Terrorists February 1992

08 Crucifix Kiss / Generation Terrorists February 1992

09 Bored Out Of My Mind / Single B Side June 1992

10 Never Want Again / Single B Side November 1992

11 From Despair To Where / Single A Side June 1993

12 Life Becoming A Landslide / Gold Against The Soul June 1993

13 Symphony Of A Tourette / Gold Against The Soul June 1993

14 Patrick Bateman / Single B Side July 1993

15 Comfort Comes / Single B Side February 1994

16 Faster / Single A Side June 1994

17 Of Walking Abortion / The Holy Bible August 1994

18 4st 7Ib / The Holy Bible August 1994

19 Die In The Summertime / The Holy Bible August 1994

20 The Intense Humming Of Evil / The Holy Bible August 1994

 

1995 – 2005

 

01 Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head / Help! Compilation September 1995

02 Design For Life / Single A Side April 1996

03 Enola-Alone / Everything Must Go May 1996

04 Small Black Flowers That Grow In The Sky / Everything Must Go May 1996

05 No Surface All Feeling / Everything Must Go May 1996

06 Prologue To History / Single B Side August 1998

07 Ready For Drowning / This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours September 1998

08 Black Dog On My Shoulder / This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours September 1998

09 Nobody Loved You / This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours September 1998

10 Been A Son / Radio One Session Recorded April 1999

11 The Masses Against The Classes / Single A Side January 2000

12 Ballad Of The Bangkok Novotel / Single B Side February 2001

13 Let Robeson Sing / Know Your Enemy March 2001

14 Freedom Of Speech Won’t Feed My Children / Know Your Enemy March 2001

15 Automatik Teknicolour / Single B Side October 2002

16 The Love Of Richard Nixon / Single A Side October 2004

17 I Live To Fall Asleep / Lifeblood November 2004

18 Emily / Lifeblood November 2004

19 Cardiff Afterlife / Lifeblood November 2004

20 A Secret Society / God Save The Manics EP April 2005

 

   Rock’n’Roll, in the early dawn of the twenty first century, doesn’t matter anymore. Once upon a time, pop music was modern culture. It devoured it, defined it, emblemised it, could stop wars and start revolutions (or at least, so it narcissistically believed). But now it has become merely one of an expanding abundance of leisure options (examine that phrase and savour the taste of death in the very words). Sure the big sellers will still sell, sure the sorry circus of recycled trends will carry on, and sure there will never be a shortage of willing boys with guitars forever raking through the embers one more time, squabbling over the chattels of the dead. And yet, even they know, deep inside, that no one is listening. It’s over.

   Manic Street Preachers were, and still are, a Rock’n’Roll band from south Wales. In the beginning it was their naïve raging against the dying of the light that made them so compelling and which, against all odds commanded absolute attention and seized the imagination. From their first day, those Angry Young Men were an anachronism, ‘a speed band in an E generation', who thought like Chomsky and rocked like the Clash. In 1991 and 1992, the music scene offered a soul crushing choice between lumpenproletarian Madchester yobbery and Buzzcocksian happy happy boy-girl banality. It was a time of hedonistic disengagement. The Manics gleefully rained down alienation on the second Summer of Love, coming on as painfully passionate yet wonderfully unfashionable in their leopard skin glam look, a real kiss off to the black denim and black suede boot uniform of alternativeness. There are far too many stories to pack in here, from James Dean Bradfield’s offer to fight or fuck everyone in the audience, to Nicky Wire’s love of feather boas and hoovering or Richey Edward’s self mutilation. Throughout the outrage and violence of the early days the Manics pronounced their own, and the whole of youth cultures quest for change as useless and you had to admire their courage, even if you were a 31 year old ex independent record label owner struggling to adjust to the ‘real’ world of work, kids and a miserable marriage.

   Nobody thought in 1992 that they would last, least of all the group themselves. After a series of remarkable singles they planned to self destruct following a mega selling debut album. It didn’t happen like that, maybe because Generation Terrorists wasn’t a mega seller, so the question was: what next? The answer was: it got serious. If the Gold Against The Soul period showed a stripped down quartet, more attuned to the mainstream, then the confrontational militarism of The Holy Bible displayed a drawn, intense group. From Nicky Wires battle painted face to Richey Edwards increasingly strained looks, the four of them were slowly inching towards their own heart of darkness, culminating in the December 1994 destruction fest at the London Astoria. Ofcourse, Richey’s subsequent disappearance on 1st February 1995 has become a cause celebre for those in thrall to rock glamour but that inevitably omits the human cost of that inexplicable event. Ironically despite being such an obvious star Richey could barely play a chord on the expensive Fender strat strapped to his groin taking his bedroom mirror routine to its fabulous conclusion. To many, the Manics story divides cleanly into two separate parts: the Richey years and the Success years, and so it is on the two discs within. But the same currents, the same restless intelligence still runs in an unbroken line between the two.

 

   After the initial chaos surrounding the vanishing of Richey Edwards, the remaining three gathered to record their version of ‘Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head’ for the War Child compilation. Given its unhappy personal context, the songs cheeriness was astonishingly evocative and a clear message to the world: we still exist. The Manics returned fulltime with ‘A Design For Life’. Never mind the catchy chorus, Nicky Wire’s words made explicit an affiliation with Wales they had previously rejected, its proud insistence on learning and education at odds with the usual alchoholic self obliteration of British youth. The positivity of the sentiments sign posted an escape route from the nihilism that had stopped the group dead in its tracks. After Richey it was no longer possible to hold onto the illusions of adolescence.

   From Everything Must Go on, the Manics rediscovered their national identity. They’d thought it didn’t matter but it did. The cover of This Is My Truth…. featured them on one of north Wales most beautiful beaches. With lyrics and sentiments reflecting recent Welsh history they reconciled their past and present, between their teenage ideals and their maturing experience. In 2001 they became the first Western group to play Cuba and finding that success was distorting their core values revealed Know Your Enemy, a genuine if less than perfect attempt to recapture something of their past. The cultural and political references kept coming on Lifeblood, still different, still important and containing ‘Cardiff Afterlife’ their long delayed reaction to Richey’s disappearance.

   These days the Manic Street Preachers are a modern myth, a group with a famous history and a celebrated present. For all their success they still retain something of the angst so prolifically mapped by their missing member. The rewards of fame have been predicated on the pain of loss. They have retained their contradictory nature. Yet their future is still as up in the air as it has ever been. They are ‘….the last honest white band.’ Schizophrenia, contradiction, paradox and uncertainty: these are the only valid responses to the fragmentary chaos of the modern world. The Manics still leave me uncertain, which means they still leave me thinking, and that is their ultimate triumph.

 

June 2006