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"This Country Needs Us" - NME, 21st April 2007

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Title: "This Country Needs Us"
Publication: NME
Date: Saturday 21st April 2007
Writer: Dan Martin
Photos: Sam Jones, Ed Sirrs

NME210407.jpg NME2104071.jpg

Eyelinered up and gobs at the ready, Manic Street Preachers are reborn. Here are five reasons why they're back to their mouthy, political and vitriolic best.

We did a gig in Cork once and some kids had a big banner: 'Manic Street Preachers will always stand for something.' That's definitely true." Please welcome back the real Manic Street Preachers. Gone are the acoustic shows, synths and dreary good taste that infiltrated their camp over the last five years. Today, in a piss and sweat-filled Camden rock venue, James Dean Bradfield, Sean Moore and Nicky Wire are holding court in military regalia with red hair-dye and big mouths talking up 'Send Away The Tigers', their first great record in years. This is the Manics that split the punks with eyeliner and politics back in '91. Thank god.

"There's a genuine belief in all of us today that we still mean something," says Nicky. Of course they fucking do, and here are just five of the reasons why...

1) Fearlessness
They'll piss blood for rock'n'roll

"You ask why people need the Manics," says James, "well we're still one of the only bands that will piss blood for you. Today Gallows may have that, but no-one else does."

"After the Millennium Stadium gig [on New Year's Eve 1999] we pissed around for a few years," admits Sean. "We weren't being natural, just obtuse for the sake of it. That's not to say we didn't write good songs and have moments of brilliance, but it was deeply confusing."

Where 2004's airy 'Lifeblood' sounded like a band bored with themselves, 'Send Away The Tigers', the band's eighth studio album released this May, is the natural successor to 1996's 'Everything Must Go'. It's a record good enough to strip history of 11 years of listless albums and erroneous solo efforts. Big, dumb, euphoric and fun, they've demolished the po-faced Radio 2-isms and made a shameless stadium punk odyssey - and, in tracks such as 'Autumnsong' they've got their best choruses since 'A Design For Life'. "It's our 'Appetite For Destruction'," says James with a grin. "Yeah, it's an album to reconnect with the people who loved us the first time," nods Nicky.

"We had to get match fit again," James continues. "The solo thing was comfy, a really light ride. I want to be in a fucking rock band again."

2) Glamour
They're right stylish tarts

With the Sports Casual Manics of recent years duly dumped, Nicky has reverted to his rightful position as Best-Dressed Rock Star Ever. "I always have been," he beams. "There's a Belgian designer called Raf Simons, really high-end couture, he was once asked for his ideal catwalk model. It could've been Elle Macpherson, but he said, 'Richey and Nicky from the Manics.' No band have ever looked as good as we did in 'The Holy Bible' era. Maybe The Libertines in their tunics got close, they did look brilliant, perhaps The Clash too. But there's no-one else who comes close."

Fifteen years ago they made their name as cross-dressing glam scrotes, but for 'Send Away The Tigers' the Manics have restyled themselves. "I just think we needed an identity again," says Nicky. "Yeah," enthuses James, "when make-up is in the equation, that's when you've got wings to fly."

Today, they're flying as Pete Wentz' drunk uncles fresh from a psychotropic stint in 'Nam - all military fatigues with diamanté studded belts. They look like fucking rock stars. But of course, that's exactly what they are.

"You know, I pre-dated new rave completely," Nicky purrs. "I fucking did all those Technicolor clothes and leopard print. And it was hard to get in those days so I used to buy old grannies' clothes from Norway."

3) Revolution
They still want to save the world

The decade-long elegiac pop nightmare long forgotten, the band's revolutionary text books have been dusted off and their political flame, which saw them point a generation towards Marx, burns again. "We always kind of saw politics as entertainment," says James. Nicky nods, "And ...Tigers' is our 'post-Iraq' album, American and UK foreign policy hangs over us, resulting in a cloud of depression and self-analysis. It seems inescapable. So we've confronted it."

Manics are certainly here to confront. Thunderous 'The Second Great Depression' laments a generation crushed by diplomatic embarrassment, while 'Imperial Bodybags' wonders how much worth the liberal elite put on American lives. "I'm not saying we should feel great about the country, but I have to say that Jarvis singing, 'Cunts are still running the world' was a very stupid thing to do. [Labour MP] Peter Hain almost went to prison trying to get rid of apartheid and now he's in politics and has just brokered the fucking peace deal in Northern Ireland. What has Jarvis Cocker ever done?"

But, with David Cameron making dangerous political headway like a looming pantomime villain, the left's old guard couldn't be more needed. "It'd be desperate if [the Tories] got in," gasps Nicky. "We'd have boom and bust, there'd be fucking repossession, recession, sky-high mortgages - it'd be awful. But at least people would react again, so we might get some better music."

4) Melodrama
They're well emo

The Manics' tragic, alcoholic, anorexic guitarist Richey Edwards was discussing his problems in the public eye back when Gerard Way was still ballet-dancing round to his granny's Gershwin LPs. They were the original line of defence in the war on emo and they're still there, fighting. "I'd much rather my daughter get into emo than The Pigeon Detectives," Nicky spits. "It's healthy. God, everyone needs a goth phase. You need to wear make-up and be effeminate. When Brandon from The Killers said fucking emo was evil and destructive, I mean what the fuck was he on about? The guitarist from The Killers' haircut - that's fucking evil and destructive. It should be shaved off and put in a museum, along with Brandon's moustache. Emo's not something I'd listen to all the time, but I like the way it annoys so many bands. Dickheads with eyeliner making music - that's healthy."

5) Controversy
Nicky Wire's still a funny bitch

Yes, Nicky is armed with one of the great mouths of rock and unlike the gobs of, say, Kasabian, this is one with the benefit of an attached brain that means he still knows the art of shock better than anyone.

"I went for dinner with the woman who wrote Mamma Mia! the other day. I was thinking maybe we'll do a West End musical," he grins, "that'd piss people off."

Nicky the social terrorist still sees it as part of his job to upset the good taste indie establishment, whether it's by calling for a bypass to be built over Glastonbury, praying that REM's Michael Stipe "goes the same way as Freddie Mercury", or attacking indie's latest sacred cow - Arcade Fire.

"They're just incredibly posh, privileged people lecturing the world. I find them really pious and I detest being lectured to by the pious. They've made indie music into stadium indie, and I don't think that's healthy: They're kind of like torchbearers of fierce independence and backward Americana. It doesn't move me, and everyone is so moved by them, aren't they? But y'know, I never liked The Waterboys, so why would I like them?"

Hating on the Fire, is there anything more likely to see you burn in rock hell? Well, perhaps there's one thing. Brace yourselves...

"I love Johnny Borrell! I love his divine ambition. I love it that everyone goes, 'Oh, he's a cunt, he's horrible!' But for me, The's pissed off his band members, his management, his record company and NME, then he's doing something right." Er, if you say so. "Manic Street Preachers have a duty to deliver an alternative point of view to everyone. We should be on the cover of NME," stamps Nicky. "I feel duty-bound to say these things because no-one else is. Do you remember the old World War One poster, 'Your Country Needs You'? Well, that's how it feels to me. I think this country needs us, I really do."

And you know, he's right.