Week 7: Manic Street Preachers

manics-everything-must-go

Everything Must Go

Apologies for the delay in posting this one and the next.  Will try and catch up.

This week another Welsh band, formed in Blackwood, less than  15 miles from where the Stereophonics came together. I’d imagine the Manics were a big influence on the Phonics and how their career developed.  Couldn’t be much different in outlook though. Manics were part of the rock intelligentsia quoting poets, visionary writers and writing songs about global capitalism, consumerism, prostitution, the holocaust, the death penalty and suicide.  They must have been the life and soul of the party down the pub on a Friday night.

My first memory of them was their first performance on Top of The Pops with the name of the song they were playing, ‘You Love Us’, scrawled across James Dean Bradfield’s bare torso. Worth checking you tube for the clip.  Towering over him was bassist Nicky Wire resplendent in feather boa and make up, on Bradfield’s other side was the ill fated Richey Edwards and on a rather high drum riser was drummer Sean Moore. They absolutely tore the TOTP studio up. Although I loved the song and later single Motorcycle Emptiness, in total there were six singles from Terrorists,  I paid them no more than a passing interest. Thinking back I can’t quite put my finger on why they didn’t have a more significant place on my music listening playlist. For instance La Tristesse Durera from Gold Against the Soul is one of my favourite Manics songs. I guess I’m a fan of their more commercial mainstream side as unlike most Manics fans I know I wasn’t a huge fan of the dark and disturbing Holy Bible. Some great songs but I don’t hold it in the esteem that many do. As it was our relationship didn’t really get serious until the release of Everything Must Go.

band

It was in the aftermath of Holy Bible guitarist Edwards ‘disappeared ‘. Always a complex and deeply flawed character who once carved the phrase ‘4 real’ into his forearm with a piece of glass when being interviewed by Steve Lamaq after Lamaq had questioned the bands authenticity. A wound that required nineteen stitches. Not the actions of a well balanced individual.

With the disappearance of Edwards most would have expected that would be the end of the band as Edwards and Wire were responsible for the majority of the band’s lyrics but after much soul searching and with the blessing of the Edwards family the band decided to continue as a 3 piece and under the circumstances it was quite an achievement that they produced such a successful and brilliant album. It was helped on its way by the single Design for Life that reached number 2 in the charts when such a feat was quite hard to achieve. It’s a bit of a cliche but Everything Must Go does indeed have the sound of a band being reborn. If you played the album side by side with The Holy Bible you wouldn’t think it was the same band. It has the sound of a band being unshackled and just going for it and just see what happens. The dark and disturbing lyrics are still there but the music is bright, clean and surprisingly uplifting given the subject matter. It’s an album that really makes me smile and want to jump about particularly on Australia and No Surface All Feeling. There isn’t a bad song on this album and a total of five singles were released as the Manics became an arena sized band almost overnight.

The album deals with such diverse subject as the tragic life of the photographer Kevin Carter who was a prize winning photographer who committed suicide.  Carter had taken the stark and disturbing image of a starving child in the Sudan on her road to a feeding centre and behind her a vulture settled to wait on her fate.  The photograph was seen around the world and Carter was told not to help the child as she may be carrying disease.  He did however chase off the vulture.  The fate of the child was unknown.  Small Black Flowers That Grow in the Sky dealt with the mistreatment of animals in captivity. Interiors about a painter who suffered from Alzheimers and couldn’t remember what he had painted.  Edwards influence on the band was still visible as five of the songs contained his lyrics and he also contributes guitar to No Surface All Feeling which is only his 2nd appearance on a Manics album as Bradfield took on the guitar parts in the recording studio.  To this day even though Edwards was announced officially presumed dead in 2008 they still have a royalties account set aside for him.

The album was released in May 1996 and my first live Manics experience followed in October at the now long gone Livingston Forum where the majority of the album got an airing.  Since then I’ve seen them live another eleven times and they are an excellent live band.

phoenix

After playing The Holy Bible in full last year Everything Must Go gets the full album treatment this year and it will be a much anticipated trip to the Hydro in May. Although wish it had been the Barras like they did for Bible but I guess that is a reflection of the commercial success of the relevant albums. I personally thought the big arena days were behind the Manics although their last couple of releases have been a long awaited return to form after a decade or so of mostly mediocre albums containing the occasional great song.  Although follow up to Everything Must Go, This is My Truth Tell Me Yours was another excellent album.

See you on soon on week week 8.

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