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Against The Masses - Musikexpress, April 2001

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Title: Against The Masses
Publication: Musikexpress
Date: April 2001
Writer: Michael Sailer

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Those, like the Manic Street Preachers, have had every opportunity to succeed: to leave honorably in pre-retirement or to seek new goals. They could for example try to break into the United States after the sixth time. Or do exactly the opposite...

Cologne, end of January 2001: while the first onlookers gather in the Cathedral district, it is a somewhat tired James Dean Bradfield who sits in a well-heated Sony office, on his opulent belly is a guitar acoustic ; he looks out the window at the Mediapark, which seems to be the result of a collective nightmare that five architects would have done after a visit to Disneyland. James goes out with a black humor: "So, what's up?" First of all himself. Certainly your servant has known him for eight years, but he did not remember his interlocutor of a jovial and cordial man. When Bradfield rethinks the 1993 James, he sees "a shy young man, surrounded by confused people who did not understand anything because he spoke so fast. Our anger had to do with the fact that some people claimed that the time of the rock bands was past, that we were an archaic phenomenon. We wanted to prove to them that they were wrong. "

In their early days, members of the group gave themselves all the trouble in the world to provide this proof: their t-shirts were adorned with arrogant slogans such as "All Rock'n'Roll Is Homosexual", "Suicide Babe", "I Hate American Indie Rock ", they eloquently spurned in their interviews against all those who asked them. Instead of hanging out in rags and baggy frusks, he was dressing up like the transvestite New York Dolls in Barbie and their idols gallery was a strange mix of Guns N'Roses, Marx, Rimbaud, Public Enemy, Nietzsche, Camus and Confucius , whose quotes covered the covers of their records. They have paid dearly for this assault on the world: instead of selling as announced 16 million of their first album and to separate, the group has gone through all the lowlands of derision and contempt, Everything Must Go . After that, the trio delivered with This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours a tiring stadium rock album, finished a world tour like zeal strike and pulled out after a performance in front of 65,000 people in Cardiff on Holy Day -Sylvestre 1999 - definitely, as some people thought. Rumors of a best of titled Forever Delayed as last statement were running.

Yet, again, everything is different: disappointed to have shot in rockstars "ordinary", the Manics have embarked on an adventure at the end of which is the new album Know Your Enemy . The title was a whole program: "The enemy was what we had become," says bassist and lyricist Nicky Wire. "We had two rules," James said. Firstly, we did not repeat anything. There is a kind of law for all groups: before going to the studio, you will go to the rehearsal studio. This time we only had four songs. We played three or four times the others, and we recorded them in three shots maximum. Second: no ropes. Okay, we hear about Miss Europa Disco Dancerbut they were done on the keyboard. When we started, it was a total disaster. It sounded like Public Image Limited - and we decided: that's exactly how we'll do it! "

The result is so varied that confusion sets in at first listen: between the noise and the walk, we can almost find everything, it's what happens when three people play spontaneously, when one of these people has a flair genius for the melodies and another found the big mouth that gave him his bad name. Nicky Wire does not sing that his Wattsville Blues himself, one can also hear it on the curious disco track Miss Europa Disco Dancer  : "braindead motherfuckers!" He whispers at the end of the piece. "In Spain, we had the satellite in the studio and we watched that thing, Big Brother, in which they put ten stupid and excited people and they watch how they get drunk, take drugs, fuck, explains James. Then there was Jamaica Uncovered , exactly the same. It was like a conspiracy of the TV producers and we thought: if we keep looking at this, we will become brainless assholes. It is with great seriousness that James made his first (completed) attempt as a lyricist. The touching ballad Ocean Spray is dedicated to his mother, who died of cancer on July 27, 1999. "She was in one of those ancient hospitals that only exist in Britain. There, they had a huge fear of infection, so they recommended people to drink a lot of cranberry juice. So my mother sent me three times a day to get her brand Ocean Spray juice . It struck me that someone who is so close to death relies all his confidence in a simple fruit juice. That says a lot about the human spirit, that we still believe there can still be a chance. "

The death of James' mother has come at a time when some things are changing - for example the figure of ten in the age of the three musicians, and with that the point of view on life: do not we feel at home approaching the thirties the feeling of having more things behind you than before, more memories than expectations? To prefer to rediscover old things than to find new ones? "Yes, it's true. I spent three weeks at Christmas at my father's house. I searched my old records and found for example the first album of Saints, I'm Stranded, which I had completely forgotten. Many people change when they turn 30, but I think this change starts something new when things come back. Many things today seem better and more important than before. "

Back in the future. The scenic activities for the promotion of Know Your Enemy begin in a place where still no group of the capitalist world had set foot: in the capital of Cuba, Havana. How did this happen? "When we listened to the whole album, someone asked: Why do you so often refer to Cuba? "There are three or four references to Cuba on it: a passage in The Convalescent , Baby Elian , Let's Sing Robeson . As Nicky says, "It would be pure madness if we did the first show in Cuba." Our manager Martin thought: I'll see what can be done. There you go. But I also think that history has a meaning. Many consider us outdated or outmoded, as a glorious failure. And many see Cuba as well ". Does not the idea Cuba also have to do with the fact that the Manics still have not pierced the United States? "No, but since it looks like it worked, we thought: Since we needed a work visa for Cuba, we can not go to the United States any more. The perfect excuse! "And James chuckles again like a little boy who should be ashamed of a joke that worked.

February 14, Havana. If this city did not exist, no one could invent it; the exceptional opportunity seems in many ways to be the pretext for excesses: drunken Welsh film in the midst of riflemen who smirk at the arrival of their even more drunken comrades, the taxi runs swiftly through historic smoke trails, past a Chevy fossil, blocks of house covered with mottled dry linen and past paintings with the inscription " Towards the new millennium with Fidel and the glorious revolution "in the city center. This is the "Dia de los Enamorados" - the day of the lovers, and the wall of one kilometer long located on the promenade of the Malecon beach is covered; if the big party ends one of these days, the only thing left for the Europeans is to hide because of fatigue. We know the cliché: in Cuba we work when the bus passes and it passes if there is gas, and if there is none, we celebrate. The reality is (a little) different: catering employees are everywhere in Havana. In general, it happens like this: the first one is painted, the second is waiting for the mortar and the third is sleeping in the wheelbarrow, but we feel that something is happening. An unbridled mixture of rap, salsa, children's screams and motor noise echoed through the streets; there is something happening everywhere, sometimes it's not even visible. From the point of view of the economy turned towards globalization, it is not considered enough. According to the representation of profit-oriented bursars, the island would become a paradise for advertising, consumption and profit. This is not the case, for an old revolutionary still believes in the benefits of socialism. Castro overthrew in 1959 the one who ruled Cuba since 1933, the dictator Batista. After the coup, everything had to improve. Yet prosperity has not come for everyone. Instead, it is now the ruin that prevails everywhere - despite all the efforts. What does this have to do with Manic Street Preachers? It's very simple: the two - Fidel Castro just as much as the faithful group - have a horror of the power of capital and therefore the United States.

Friday, February 16, press conference. The path to the international press center passes the legendary Hotel National, a splendid palace built in 1930 with money from the Mafia (now exiled). From here, the Manics are just a few steps from the press conference with 120 reporters in the country or already clearly tanned. Nicky Wire speaks (which is not always clear for the interpreter); James and drummer Sean Moore are more discreet. The greatest interest is in the Manics and Cuba. For example the song Baby Elian. It does not only deal with the young Elian Gonzalez, around whom a violent different broke out between Cuba and the United States, but is according to Nicky "a comment on how the American media dominate the opinion of the whole world." Cuba bravely struggles against cultural hegemony: "So still is there no groups like Limp Bizkit there, this abject group that we must hear every day in Britain." But are the group's chances in the United States not being reduced because of Cuban history? "That's what I hope!" Laugh friendly. James introduces Cuban guitarist Dago, whom he met in the evening and invited to the scales. The questions then become more biting: Does not it hide behind all this action a promotional trick? "The Cuban media, Sean plague, are far more open to us, interested in us and friendly to us than were the British to Cubans. " It would be "a great honor" if Fidel Castro appeared in person at the concert, said Nicky, with a broad smile on his face. After repeating that it was among other reflections ("We started our last tour in the most boring city in the world, this time we wanted to do the opposite!") Also a "gesture of solidarity", our paths separate: the group returns to the hotel attractive because not sociable, the rest must still obtain visas, movies, cigars or rum. It would be "a great honor" if Fidel Castro appeared in person at the concert, said Nicky, with a broad smile on his face. After repeating that it was among other reflections ("We started our last tour in the most boring city in the world, this time we wanted to do the opposite!") Also a "gesture of solidarity", our paths separate: the group returns to the hotel attractive because not sociable, the rest must still obtain visas, movies, cigars or rum. It would be "a great honor" if Fidel Castro appeared in person at the concert, said Nicky, with a broad smile on his face. After repeating that it was among other reflections ("We started our last tour in the most boring city in the world, this time we wanted to do the opposite!") Also a "gesture of solidarity", our paths separate: the group returns to the hotel attractive because not sociable, the rest must still obtain visas, movies, cigars or rum.

The sun sets at six-thirty in a sea of ​​mercury. The Teatro Karl Marx is half an hour away from the Hotel Nacional, quite isolated between the shore and the Miramar district where the alleys and gardens have become tunnels and miniature jungles respectively. On the taxi station in front of the hall sounding in the soft air of the evening the beefy chords of Found That Soul. The Manics make their balance. Otherwise nothing is alluding to the event being prepared. 24 hours later, it's a different story: the street is crossed over the entire length, the organizers at the barricades let pass only pedestrians. In front of the room, there are messy tails composed of Cuban minors, among them are mixed adults with a broad smile and British with a striking pallor. The agitation is in the air, in a small house on the side, the cameras of the journalists are subjected to a mysterious examination.

The rows of front seats in the pit and on the two mezzanines fill slowly. A handful of organizers placed near the three glass doors distribute small red flags with the inscription "Manic Street Preachers Cuba 17-02-01" and one of the fervent employees of the Ministry of Culture who take care of foreign journalists. whispers excitedly: "Maybe there will be a chance to photograph Fidel Castro!" When? Or ? "Right here. Apparently, he'll be here soon. " Indeed: while most of the 4900 seats are occupied, everyone suddenly gets up, turns around and acts his little flag. This is where a gray beard shines in the middle of the lower mezzanine, the old man makes a friendly sign and sits in the front row. Maximo Lider is in the house !

Shortly after, the jubilation is about the other side of the room: it is in front of an oversized Cuban flag that the Manics enter the scene and they unleash with Found That Soul a frantic noise that shakes the venerable theater of many congresses historic. The set is a balanced mix of old and new, whose albums Gold Against The Soul and The Holy Bible are unfortunately discarded. Motorcycle Emptiness follows Found That Soul , and a Cuban trumpet player reinforces the group for Kevin Carter and Ocean Spray . Later after The Masses Against The Classes, the atmosphere is reminiscent of the first appearance of the Rolling Stones in front of frenzied hordes of German teenagers in the mid-60s. But the group still retrograde a speed and while James sings Baby Elian alone on his acoustic guitar, Castro is Raise and applaud - clearly - for a good minute. For the confusion, Nick takes charge of Wattsville Blues , a song that may seem hard for Cuban ears. The deafening chords of You Love Us and Motown Junk finally make the excitement over the frenzy - James shortens the line "I laughed when Lennon got shot" in "I laughed": indeed in Havana is recently a memorial to the ex Beatle. Then, after a monumental version of A Design For Life , it's over. The group salutes, Castro goes away - and misses the highly unusual event of almost two Manics reminders. The allocation of seats is definitely abandoned, James prays (unsuccessfully) the public to sing the stanzas of Rock'n'Roll Music of Chuck Berry he has forgotten - the classic will be a semi-instrumental. And this underlines once again the new thirst for experimentation of a band that has rarely been seen in recent years so exuberant and so good-humored. A short time later on the square in front of the room, it seems that the heat wave suspended for days has run out in storm to crown the event. But the clouds disperse quickly. The media are just as quick: half an hour after the concert, the presenter of the news program En Tres Minutos announces that Commander Castro has attended a concert of the "British rock musical group Manik Estret Bretschers". And, of course, "a gesture of solidarity with the independence of our island".

During the very late after the colossal "Salon 1930" of the Nacional press a small motley people on local music: Sean talks business with his new friend of the ministry about mobile phone, James shakes hands and exchanging some bottles of beer from the local brand Cristal, the legendary boxer Félix Savón (the "Faust of the Revolution") is simply himself, the veteran of the race Alberto Juanterino smiles. The bartenders are obviously overwhelmed, a new form of shortage of currency occurs: the beer must be sold at a bargain price because there are more Pesos to give change. To the question if Fidel read the texts of the Manics before the concert, the official of the Ministry of Culture almost twists laugh: "What do you mean by that? I can imagine it! "James, always approaching a broad smile, tells the meeting with Castro behind the scenes: "Of pure madness! There's a guy who shows up and asks us if we want to meet someone in the lodge. We open the door and he is there! We jiggled in all directions like morons and trembled with all our bodies! "And Nick has - with regard to a particular humor - found his master in the person of the long-time revolutionary beard. To the remark that it is to be hoped that it is a noisy evening, Castro answers: "It is surely not as noisy as a war!"

Havana goes to bed shortly after sunrise. On the way through the secluded side streets, a weird feeling is felt: we will never see that again. But if you believe the group's statements, Havana is only the first in a series of spectacular actions in the year 2001. "There is so much to prove!" said James in Cologne. Those who still consider the Manic Street Preachers as an "archaic" phenomenon must lose their food and drink.