A Shallow Piece Of Dignity - Rip It Up, May 2007
MANIC STREET PREACHERS A SHALLOW PIECE OF DIGNITY An interview with Sean Moore by Scott McLennan www.ripitup.com.au
It’s more than a decade since incendiary Welsh act Manic Street Preachers returned from the brink with their album Everything Must Go, an album that found them rallying together after the unsolved disappearance of lyricist and band idol Richey Edwards in early 1995.
Since their rebirth the band has taken a critical beating for releases such as their muddled Lipstick Traces collection and 2005’s Lifeblood, but a musical rethink by the trio has seen them scale the upper echelons of the UK charts again with new album Send Away The Tigers.
Speaking from a rehearsal in London while preparing for a summer tour, drummer Sean Moore believed the bad reviews of Lifeblood were necessary to get the Manics back on track. “The good thing about it was that it made us fight back on this album,” Sean suggested with an understated dignity. “It was good for us to be able to react against that and say, ‘Sod it, we’ll go out there and give you exactly what you expect of us’. That way we can knock ‘em for six.”
Despite often meeting with critical derision at the time of album releases, the Manic Street Preachers seem to be a band that are respected more in retrospect. “This is it!” Sean eagerly agreed. “They did exactly the same thing with The Holy Bible all those years ago. It was in and out of the UK Top 35 album chart within three weeks and it sold really poorly when it first came out. It’s only the test of time that’s seen it hang in there and now it’s considered the greatest masterpiece we’ve ever done.”
New hit Your Love Alone Is Not Enough, a number two single in the UK, finds the oft provocative group collaborating with the gorgeous Nina Persson, the lead singer of Sweden’s The Cardigans. “We’d always loved The Cardigans,” Sean revealed. “Their career had mirrored ours in a way since their last two albums hadn’t done particularly well despite them being great albums. We’d always loved the truth, depth and feeling of Nina’s voice, so we plucked up the courage to give her a call.”
The single also hints at a sense of humour at play, with the band’s former single You Stole The Sun From My Heart name-checked by Persson. “There’s always been humour in our band,” Sean stated. “Going back to the This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours era, we thought it would be really, really funny if a radio DJ had to announce, ‘This is the Manic Street Preachers and their new single If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next from the album This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours’. It would have been the longest radio link for a single ever, so some people might think ‘You stupid sods!’, but there’s a lot of subtlety in our humour and we just love comedy.”
That’s an interesting juxtaposition considering that album also contained South Yorkshire Mass Murderer (SYMM), written about a 1989 soccer stadium disaster. “I know,” Sean acknowledged. “There’s some things that get us going and puts the fire in us and some things need to be said, but that seemed like a fitting end to the album. A lot of people have told us they don’t play that track though.”
Commercial success This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours found the band successfully meddle with the mainstream. Although it was a time of victory, the weary 1998 single The Everlasting suggested, “In the beginning when we were winning, when our smiles were genuine”. “We seem to be winning again at the moment,” Sean offered, “but at times you feel you are against it and your head dips a little bit. You’ve just got to suck it in, hold your head up high and carry on with the things you enjoy the most. We enjoy making music and that’s the reason we are on our eighth studio album. There’s nothing better than getting that CD at the end of all that work and promoting it in the public arena.”
The band toured Australia with the Big Day Out in 1999 following This Is My Truth’s success, but avoided engaging with headliners Hole and Marilyn Manson. “We did go to one of the Big Day Out parties – I think it was in Melbourne – and we just looked at these people like they were from a different planet,” Sean recalled. “They were living the rock‘n’roll myth. They’d seen a little book of rules of how to live like a rock star and they were living it step by step. You need to create your own rules and space rather than retrace the steps of previous artists.”
The first Western rock act to play Cuba, Sean noted that news of Fidel Castro’s deteriorating health was unfortunate considering the fire in his eye when the band met him in 2001. “When we were there he was a very strong character and he was a very imposing and forthright man,” Sean stated. “He was still mentally sharp and looked much the same as in the good old days of the ‘60s. It’s sad to see his decline, but it’s a new chapter in Cuban history and hopefully things will be able to move on and improve for the Cuban people.”
From abrasive punk and Marxist rhetoric of their early incarnations through to the singalong stadium rock of today, there’s a marked difference between the Welsh act’s initial stages in the 1980s and the powerful sounds of Send Away The Tigers 2007. What would the Manics of the ‘80s think about the Manics of today? “We’d probably hate ourselves, to be honest,” Sean laughed. “We should have split up after one album, which we tried to do, but we didn’t attain the heady heights of Guns N’ Roses and Appetite For Destruction. We’re still trying to get there now.”