The Manics are planning their "final phase", channelling Bowie, Simple Minds and...folktronica?
This time last year, Manic Street Preachers appeared on the cover of this magazine to celebrate an epic 25-year career, but also to sign off what they saw as the era of the pop single. Despite being champions of the medium, they felt like it was a thing of the past. They were going away for two years and, after that point, they said, the band would take a very different shape.
Now, halfway into their self-imposed exile, Nicky Wire has given NME a progress report. "We've got a lot of demos," he told us. "We've got maybe 15 or 16 songs. There's a tender, acoustic, unsettling side and there's a very European kind of Bowie/early Simple Minds side at the moment. There's two sides to the record, whatever form it ends up taking. There's a very dense and dark European side and then something much more acoustic and sort of folktronic. We're just fucking around; sometimes Sean's playing synths, I'm playing guitar, James is playing drums —we're just pissing around a lot."
Back in 2007 'Send Away The Tigers' marked a grand return to form for the band, which took in an NME Godlike Genius Award and culminated in their epic 02 Arena show in London last year. But, feeling the years advance, they reckon that this reinvention will mark the start of their last chapter.
"When you get to our age you've gotta do something so fucking engaging and exciting for yourself, let alone the public," says Wire. "The last five years we've had such a great run, up until that Oz show, that you don't wanna fucking [spoil that]. It's already been two years since 'Postcards From A Young Man' came out, and they've just fucking disappeared! It's not that we're short of songs or anything. It's just gotta be the final phase of the band, really, one more leap, one more reinvention."
Apart from a summer spent watching sport, Wire has been writing "tons and tons of words". And since the band have been scratching their live itch by playing in territories they've never visited before, their travels have given Wire a fresh source of lyrical subject matter. "The album very much has a feel of inspiration through travel and the amazing privilege that we have of seeing so many extraordinary things," he says. "Wherever you go there's always an interesting story. That could be Tenby, it could be Tallinn, but there's so much to open your eyes to around the world. It's pretty positive in that sense, which is odd...for us."