Still spitting furiously intelligent lyrics, and still burning with authenticity, they're Britrock's unlikely sole survivors.
For evidence of the gulf between the Manic Street Preachers and the career-minded, market-sector-driven young drones who call themselves rock stars in the post-millennium, simply type 'Richey Manic arm' into Google Images. The photograph that appears was taken in May 1991. In it, rhythm guitarist and co-lyricist Richey Edwards has just responded to an interviewers question over the band's authenticity by scoring '4 Real' into his forearm with a blade, culling so deep that he almost hit bone. Seventeen stitches later, such doubts would never be raised again.
On record, on stage and in interviews, the Manics are in many ways the perfect rock band. From the start, they occupied a territory all their own: the knife edge between the intellectual and visceral where politics. film, literature and social history were fed through the meat grinder of hook-heavy classic rock They're the only band that can cite Sylvia Plath, Chuck D, Giant Haystacks and Guns N Roses without prompting hoots of derision.
Back in 1989, when the band emerged from the chilly poverty of Blackwood, the original quartet was split clean up the middle: "a positive division of labour," as frontman James Dean Bradfield called it. On one side, the visionaries Edwards and bassist Nicky Wire; mediocre players (at the time), but invaluable both for their aesthetic and the furious intelligence of their lyrics. On the other, guitarist Bradfield and drummer Sean Moore, both musicians whose prowess is often overlooked, and the engine-room that ensured the Manics were more than a string of clever-clogs song titles.
Bands with such fierce ideology tend to burn out fast, and, early on, even the Manics announced a plan to sell 16 million copies of debut album Generation Terrorists then split up. Of course, they never did, recovering from the (likely) suicide of Edwards in 1995 to release their most accessible record , Everything Must Go.
Some say they've faded since then. And, for a time, it was true, with their turn-of-the-millennium records lacking bite. But they regrouped with 2007 's Send Away The Tigers, and even in their 40s they're still raging against the dying of the light.
The Manics are '4 Real'. They burn with authenticity; it bleeds into their albums and fuels their status as Britrock's sole survivors.