With their second career-spanning compilation ready for release, a massive Christmas farewell show and then indefinite hiatus, is it possible Manic Street Preachers are trying to tell us something?
When Nicky Wire declared that the Manics were going for "one last shot at mass communication", it appears that was more than just a line. With the touring rounds for 'Postcards From A Young Man' now complete, the band are putting a full stop on their "second great era."
There's a new, definitive singles collection, a massive Christmas au revoir, an enforced hiatus - and then one big unholy question mark over the Manic Street Preachers' future. October 31 sees the band reach a milestone in any band's life, their second greatest hits, in the form of 'National Treasures' - a 38-strong collection of every single they've ever released between 1991 and 2011, from 'Motown Junk' through to their new offering, a cover of 'This Is The Day' by The The.
The track will kick off the next round of activity for the Manics, leading into the coyly named singles collection. "It is really cheeky, isn't it? I had thought about it for a year or so. It is half-cosy and half just a piss take as loads of people hate us, as you know, an it's a hit AC/DC, isn't is? It just seemed to stick to everything really well, and I think we've earned the right. There's not many bands who have had the run of singles that we've had and kept a pretty high standards along the way. It's something that we feel is probably over, the idea of having massive hit singles - unless something dramatically changes in life, it's probably at an end. The single is no more, as such, from what we grew up with - anyway, let's face it, it's a totally different dimension. There are no guitar bands that get in the charts really, if you look at the Top 40. You've got to come so terms with that at some point."
Indeed, Wire may have reason to sound forlorn. After that shot at mass communication, 'Some Kind Of Nothingness', the second single from the album, became the first proper Manics single not to make the top 40, going in at 44. The follow up, 'Postcards From A Young Man' itself, scraped 36 in the midweeks but dropped to 54 by the Sunday. And yet, for putting a pop spring back in the band's step - and earning them a slot on Strictly Come Dancing, Wire is taking 'Postcards...' as a victory.
"To do what we did on our 10th album, sell 150,000 albums, and loads of tickets, and be relevant, on the radio, any guitar band would fucking die for that at the moment!"
"And for us to be doing it on our 10th album, were still really proud. It's genuinely, for the three of us, one of our favourite records. There's just something, there's a sense of us giving it all we've got, and I think we've got to wave our goodbye a bit. I think this greatest hits is completing the end of the second great cycle of Manic Street Preachers. Hopefully there'll be a third, but we've got a big job to take on to do that."
Wire pledges that the band will be away For an least two or three years, to rest, write (he's also threatening an autobiography) and reconvene - although he adds, not entirely joking, "and who knows what we will be left with in terms of a music industry by then? We'll just have to wait and see."
Fittingly, three will be a going-away party. December 17 will see Manic Street Preachers take over London's O2 Arena with an epic, and likely very gruelling show that will see them play every single one of those 38 singles, complete with some special guests and even an interval. "We've never done anything on this scale before, so well be playing for an hour-and-a-half, then there will he a half hour interval, with lots of stuff, film, stuff to do. And then we'll finish with another 20 songs.
"It's going to be an immense project, production wise - screens, videos, you name it, you know, it'll be a completely unique thing. And we'll never do it again...it's really, kind of finishing up. I mean I can't remember the last time we played 'Revol'. I literally have no fucking idea."
It remains to be seen whether Nicky, James and Sean can make in through the pain barrier, but whatever the future holds, it promises to be a hugely emotional night. "It's Christmas, so there will be glitter, there'll be confetti, there'll be lipstick, video screens, there'll be tears, there'll be joy," adds Wire. 'And hopefully there will be 38 songs blasted through as well."