Wednesday 16 July 2014

agony's last edge

I’ve been listening to Manic Street Preachers a lot this week. They’ve just released “Futurology”, their 12th studio album and it’s really very good (although I actually like the demo versions of the album that were included as a bonus with the download even more).

They’re one of those bands that I’ve followed almost since the very beginning, listening to “Generation Terrorists” and listening to the likes of “NatWest-Barclays-Midland-Lloyds”, “Slash and Burn” and “Motorcycle Emptiness” as a teenager with my best friend at school. Unbelievably, they’ve been together now for twenty-five years and have made many more albums without Richie Edwards than they ever did with him (he disappeared, presumed dead, in 1995).

They’re not the band they were back then, and “Rewind the Film”, their album from last year, was positively elegiac, the sound of a band reflecting on the past. It wasn’t to everyone’s taste, but I loved it. Then again, I’m not quite the same person as that awkward teenager either.

For me, their absolute high point (so far) was their third album, “The Holy Bible”. I saw them performing songs from it at the Reading Festival in 1994, and actually stopped at Milton Keynes shopping centre on the way home to try and buy it. Back then – and readers under the age of thirty may struggle to believe this – although the album was released that Monday, it was a bank holiday and literally all of the shops were shut and I had no way of making the purchase. Amazing, eh? Imagine that.

It’s incredibly bleak and unflinching in its examination of some of mankind’s darkest moments and urges. It’s not always an easy listen, but in twenty years of listening, I’ve never grown tired of it. I was studying in Venice for a few months from September in 1994, and I often listened to a cassette of the album as I walked back through the deserted city in the small hours of the morning. Some of the lyrics are remarkable. How about this, from “4st7lb” as a description of anorexia:

I want to walk in the snow and not leave a footprint.
I want to walk in the snow and not soil its purity

Or this from "The Intense Humming of Evil":

6 million screaming souls
Maybe misery - maybe nothing at all
Lives that wouldn't have changed a thing
Never counted - never mattered - never be

I’ve always been a lyrics man, but that’s in a different ballpark to some of their contemporaries, isn’t it?

What a life it would be
If you could come to mine for tea
I'll pick you up at half past three
We'll have lasagne

Wow. Deep, Noel. Deep. Mind you, I’d rather Oasis wrote songs on inconsequential subjects as, to be honest, I’d rather not hear them attempting to tackle the Holocaust.  Can you imagine?

The Manics have been playing material from the Holy Bible in their live sets recently- they played a couple at Glastonbury – and there’s talk that they might take a 20th anniversary tour out onto the road in the winter. I’m all over that, if it’s true. What a band.

I wonder if they took their own toilet to Glastonbury this year?


  1. I find it interesting that Manic Street Preachers seem to be very popular/well known in the UK, but are virtually unheard of over here.

    Back in 1999-2001 I worked 3rd shift (midnight to 8am) for a 24-hour quick copy company (that has since been bought by an overnight shipping company). When there was nothing to do, I'd get on the computer and play various Yahoo! games. Since most people in the US were asleep at that time, I ended up playing with a lot of people from the UK. Most of them were stay-at-home moms. One of them "introduced" me to her younger sister in the game we were playing. We'd chat & play whatever game it was. She is the one who mentioned that her favorite band was Manic Street Preachers.

    Then, a few years later, I ran across your blog (I think I found you through Mark, who I found via the Next Blog button).

  2. Funnily enough, Dan, they only got big here sort of by mistake -- their album "everything must go" came on the back of the disappearance of their guitarist. It's a great album, but that publicity was timely and brought them to much wider attention. They remain an anomaly though: their first number one single includes some politics you would never expect to hear in the singles chart. And now they've been around so long, they're basically national treasures.

  3. They had a big crowd at Glastonbury this year, that's for sure.

  4. I discovered mark through the manics too: I stumbled across a mocked up album cover that either he or Graham did, and started reading from there.

  5. Most people in the uk have no idea who Jimmy Buffet is either, to be fair.