Anger Through Grace: Nicky Wire's Favourite Albums - The Quietus, 26th September 2013
Marc Burrows , September 26th, 2013 07:47 Following the release of their eleventh LP Rewind The Film, the Manic Street Preachers man scours his record collection for the list to end all lists
Queens Of The Stone Age - ...Like Clockwork It’s the first album in two years that I’m totally enthralled and inspired by. I don’t know if it’s because of his [Josh Homme’s] near-death experience - Josh did nearly die on the operating table, during a simple operation that went wrong - but the lyrics are really a massive leap. James [Dean Bradfield, Manics guitarist] and Sean [Moore, drummer] have always loved Queens but I’ve never been a massive fan, then this album really got to me. There’s a track called ‘If I Had A Tail’ that’s almost got an In Utero feel to it. The drums are massive, the lyrics are brilliant: ‘I Appear Missing’ what a title! ‘I Sat By The Ocean’ is a bit like ‘Ocean Spray’, it’s got the same sort of bassline. The first time I heard it absolutely blew me away, the musicianship on it is fucking astounding as well. It makes you feel quite defeated. There’s a desert dryness to it as well - anyone who’s been in hospital will relate to it, it has a bare whiteness to it. It’s forensic. It’s actually a really earthy album, but not earthy like Crosby, Stills and Nash. Earthy like you’re lying there having an out-of-body experience.
I’ve struggled over the last two years, I’ve loved loads of songs and records, but there’s been no albums that actually sound like an album - this one does.
Super Furry Animals - Radiator I could pick loads of Super Furry Animals and their assorted other albums. I really loved Cian’s [Ciaran] album from last year, Outside In. But Radiator has ‘Demons’, it has ‘Down A Different River’ and ‘Mountain People’ which I think is the best exploration of Welshness ever written in a song. It’s almost a poem put to music. I think they’re one of our favourite bands full stop. They’re unbelievably talented and I wish they would come back together and tour with us.
Echo & The Bunnymen - Ocean Rain It might seem a bit predictable, but a really good test for me for an album is if, when I put it on, I can sing along virtually every word, and whenever ‘Ocean Rain’ comes on or ‘Silver’ comes on… [he starts to sing] “Swung from a chandelier/ My planet sweet on a silver salver/ Bailed out my worst fears/ 'Cause man has to be his own saviour/ Blind sailors/ Imprisoned jailers/ God tame us/ No one to blame us.” I can do that for the whole album, that line “Screaming from beneath the waves”, just that desperation, I think it’s Mac at his finest. No-one’s ever taken the piss better than him, he was my kind of role model. ‘My Kingdom’ is such an underrated classic, the title track, ‘Killing Moon’ obviously, it’s a classic.
Cluster - Zuckerzeit You could be generic and call it krautrock but I think it’s much more than that. I really think it’s the most modern of that era, you can hear it on so many records, especially on The Good, The Bad & The Queen, those kind of filtered drums that just shuffle. You can hear it everywhere. The track ‘Hollywood’ - we were touring America and I had it on repeat. That, ‘Caramel’, ‘Marzipan’... Damon [Albarn] must have nicked ‘Caramel’ for a title for a Blur song, on 13. I love the cover as well. Artwork has always been really important. I think every band will admit that there’s at least three Neu! tracks they love or three Can tracks, but it’s hard to love a whole album. I genuinely love Zuckerzeit.
The Cardigans - Long Gone Before Daylight I think everyone will know our admiration as a band for this record. Unfortunately I don’t think it sold that great for them, although everyone expected it to do well, that kind of Swedish coolness. I think they described it as their “beardy album”. The track ‘Communication’, whenever it comes on all three of us well up with tears. ‘For What It’s Worth’ is one of the greatest records ever made, it’s just fucking outrageously perfect. I’m a huge fan of Nina’s lyrics, I think she’s hugely underrated. Obviously her voice is amazing. She ended up doing a duet with us, which was one of our greatest moments I think.
The Smiths- Hatful Of Hollow Hatful of Hollow by the Great Ones. It’s funny really, because it’s not a proper Smiths album in many ways, it’s all the sessions and everything, but I think a lot of people realise it’s the best version of ‘Reel Around The Fountain’, the best version of ‘Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now’, there’s so many variations and I think every best version is on that album. ‘William It Was Really Nothing’ is two minutes long, but it packs such a punch. ‘Still Ill’, ‘You’ve Got Everything Now’, the bleakness of the cover, the grey and blue, it sums up the time. I can remember every lyric off it. The level of artistry on that record is staggering. To think that half the time they were in a shitty studio in the BBC with an engineer who didn’t know what they’re fucking doing. Johnny Marr must have been so on it. Right from the start. I know it’s predictable to pick a Smiths album but they’re just such a massive part of my youth. That’s what I’ve realised - there’s records you always go back to. It bothers me a bit, because I should be picking different records, but there you go.
Marvin Gaye - What’s Going On Me and James were obsessed with the NME ‘100 Best Albums Of All Time’ in the mid 80s, so we started buying as many as we could - Marquee Moon, Blonde On Blonde, The Clash... some of them we had anyway, but then there were things like Pet Sounds, which was really high, and when you’re 14 you think of the Beach Boys as fucking idiots going “doo wop”, don’t you? We both got What’s Going On and I think it’s the first time I realised, in an exotic way, that politics could translate. Through colour, through country - you could still feel the desperation of someone else even though it was your first exposure to music like that. Obviously my Mum and Dad had tons of records, but the intimacy of playing that in your bedroom and being transported to another world of the same anger you were feeling, but then in such a graceful way. ‘Inner City Blues’, the title track, ‘Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)’. There’s lot’s of brackets - lot’s of songs with brackets. I love that idea of brackets. I love the cover. You can still put it on today, and obviously in the studio we have lots of vinyl and a record player - you put that one in particular and it drifts, it seduces you but it also stimulates.
McCarthy - I Am A Wallet It’s one of the most influential records ever, on me. I’ve talked about it many times. I always feel duty bound to ram it home, what an amazing achievement to get so much Marxist anger into an album, which is actually really delicately played. People always accuse them of being Smiths copyists but it’s much faster, stuff like ‘Antinature’ and ‘The Well Of Loneliness,’ ‘An MP Speaks’, it’s a seamless album that can grind you into submission, like all good communists should. Brilliant cover as well. Of all my records this is definitely my most played piece of vinyl.
Hüsker Dü - Candy Apple Grey They’re the one band I’d love to see reform and get all the money and all the credit they’re due. They were so explosive, so prolific, so ragged and quite harsh live. They were very much of a pre-90s world, if you know what I mean - under-rehearsed, slamming it out, not caring. Probably never had a fucking tour bus. They were on the cusp of greatness, then it all fucking imploded. Songs like ‘Too Far Down’, ‘Hardly Getting Over It’, ‘Sorry Somehow’, I love that because of Grant Hart’s desperation on it. I always preferred Grant’s voice but I think Bob [Mould] might have shaded it on the lyrics.
Public Enemy - Fear Of A Black Planet I was later than James on Public Enemy, he’d be copying all the raps. You’d go down his house and he’d be rapping ‘It Takes A Nation Of Millions’ to the record, like I’d be singing along to Ian McCulloch, which was really disconcerting - he really nailed it. I guess <>i>Fear Of A Black Planet is the bigger, more obvious album but it just felt like the rap equivalent of London Calling to me. It was really extensive and scattershot, obviously ‘Fight The Power’ was the main point of entry, but ‘Burn Hollywood Burn’ and ‘Who Stole The Soul?’ in particular are some of the best angry lyrics ever written. It felt like some sort of peak. I love the idea of NWA being the nihilistic, horrible Sex Pistols and Public Enemy being The Clash. I always loved those comparisons, and that album reminded me of a time when you thought things were possible. Before you were defeated.
Bill Fay - Life Is People It’s one of those things you discover when you’re old. It relates to you. The simplicity of existence, that’s what you get from the album. I love the cover of ‘Jesus, Etc’, which is one of my favourite ever songs by Wilco. The Bill Fay album had a bit of an influence on Rewind The Film, but a generation in front of us. Guy Massey who did that album mixed a lot of our record as well, we were looking for the woodiness of it, the authenticity. It’s not something you’re just born with. There’s such a fucking fragile “I’m barely here”-ness about it. It’s not very often I go for that, but with this album the more you play the deeper you get into it.
John Lennon - John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band The drum sound! The greatest bass sound ever! The rawness of it. ‘Isolation’ I absolutely love, and obviously we covered ‘Working Class Hero’. It’s really tight but there’s something about it that feels like they haven’t rehearsed much either - you see the film and they’re all coming in on the hoof. There’s some kind of bluesy nastiness - and I’m not a fan of the blues either - but there’s something about it, John Lennon’s guitar is really good on it, I think his guitaring was underrated actually. There’s so much savage bitterness there, ‘Mother’, just to start with the fucking bell chiming. I love that savageness. He’s having a go at McCartney, but he does it with so much wit, he can always glide over the top of it. I wish I had that ability, not to always drag it down with pure pettiness. “I don't believe in Elvis. I don't believe in Zimmerman/ I don't believe in Beatles” - I don’t think he could get “The Beatles” in, so it’s just “don’t believe in Beatles”. I love that album. There was a lot of that on [Wire’s solo album] I Killed The Zeitgeist actually, and there’s a lot on this album. I tried to learn that critical self-examination. I think John was a lot more psychoanalytical, he could use what he considered help, where as I was fucking on my own.
Lloyd Cole And The Commotions - Rattlesnakes “Louise is the girl with the perfect skin/ She says turn on the light, otherwise it can't be seen/ She's got cheekbones like geometry and eyes like sin/ And she's sexually enlightened by Cosmopolitan”. To think that was a hit record! It can be done. It can be done. I can remember everything. Again, it’s one of my favourite covers ever - the mystery of this story of a hazy door - are you going to open it and enter this world of student bedsit literary excellence? It’s a really underrated album and I absolutely adore it to this day. I’ve been trying to get my kids into it, but they’re not having it. It’s all Daft Punk for them.