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Born Again Preachers - Irish Evening Herald, 11th May 2007

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Title: Born Again Preachers
Publication: Irish Evening Herald
Date: Friday 11th May 2007
Writer: George Byrne


20 years on, the Manic Street Preachers are still showing the pretenders how it's done.

Bands staying together for almost 20 years is an extremely rare event and it's even rarer that those involved have maintained the credibility and desire which fuelled them in the first place.

Together since 19 and having seen tragedy and triumph over the course of their career, the Manic Street Preachers are still raging with the kind of anger and fierce intelligence as when they emerged from South Wales -raging against the complacency of their contemporaries and threatening that their debut album, Generation Terrorists, would sell 20 million copies and then they'd promptly break up.

Much to everyone's total lack of surprise the debut did-n't reach the intended target but there were few observers back then who'd have laid money on the Manics actually making it as far as their eighth collection, and seeing them outlast pretty much all of their contemporaries bar Radiohead, who coincidentally formed in the same year.

"Ah yes, we were great men for making grandiose claims back then," chuckles bassist and chief lyric writer Nicky Wire, a tall and rangy gent who looks extremely healthy, happy and comfortable beneath his maroon hair and eyeliner."

"We didn't really think that we were going to sell that many albums at all but if Guns'n'Roses, whom we loved, could do it then why should we not have at least the ambition to do the same? Mind you, if we had managed it then that would have left us with a bit of a dilemma alright"

Indeed. For starters it would have meant that we would have been denied hearing some of the best and most engaging rock music of the past two decades, a band whose artistic peak- the Everything Must Go album from 1996 - coincided with, and cut through, the hedonistic froth of the Britpop era with its soaring choruses and thought-provoking lyrics.

With their new album, Send Away The Tigers, they sound at their most invigorated since those days.

"I think when we did our solo albums last year it cleared a lot of air" says singer James Dean Bradfield. "Looking back at Lifeblood [their last album from 2004] and the tour that followed it, I could sense that we were getting away from what the Manic Street Preachers are essentially about. We were overthinking and overegging pretty much everything and it was definitely time to get back to basics."

Send Away The Tigers is certainly the Manics at their most blustering in quite some time, with the album clocking in at a refreshing 38 minutes and the songs crammed with ideas which whizz by with machine-gun rapidity.

"The intention was to reduce ourselves to a pile of rubble," explains Nicky. "We wanted to strip it back to Just the three of us playing in a room and if any of the songs we'd written didn't sound right in those circumstances then it was out."

There were times when James would let rip with guitar solos and was half expecting to be told to tone it down but it felt great Just being a rock band again."

"It was very liberating," agrees James. "I've never hidden my admiration for Slash and there were times when my inclination was to hold certain things back, but this time Nicky and Sean [Moore, drummer and co-composer of several tracks on the album] just kinda grinned and wait 'Get on with it', which felt absolutely wonderful"

Decamping to Grouse Lodge Studios in Co Westmeath last summer the Manics certainly attacked the songs in a gleeful and infectious fashion.

The title track (which is taken from an expression used by the late comedian Tony Hancock when he was about to go on a complete bender) is the Manics off the leash, while there's a gorgeous duet between James and The Cardigans' Nina Persson on Your Love Alone Is Not Enough and even a rockabilly song, Imperial Bodybags.

Needless to say, Nicky Wire has quite strong opinions on the Iraq venture. "It's obviously wrong, of course," he says, "and apart from the destruction of Iraq it will be what has defined Tony Blair's tenure as Prime Minister. I still do believe in politics as a way of solving problems but we're probably one of the few bands who bring that kind of thought or debate to our music."

"It's all too easy for bands to cling to vague, touchy-feely themes which sound compassionate and thoughtful but are really nothing at all. Look at the line-up for any of those charity or 'awareness raising' shows and you know exactly who I'm talking about"

I could hazard a guess at one or two, and with Send Away The Tigers the Manics have moved further away from the blandness of Wristband Rock than ever before.