"...Apart from the Super Furries album, and the Suede and Boos ones. Oh and ours wasn't bad..." Since the Manics won MM's Album Of The Year by miles, it seemed only fair to invite the viciously opinionated Nicky Wire to sink his gleaming teeth into the other contenders...
1. Manic Street Preachers - Everything Must Go
"It's ironic how it's finally OK to like us! We always evenly divided critics in the past. Lately, a lot of them have admitted that they went through an American fetish of listening to shit like Sonic Youth, then they came out of it and realised they liked us. Maybe we're just acceptable because we've been hanging around for five or six years now. I dunno, perhaps it's because we've actually made the best record. I think 'The Holy Bible' and 'Everything Must Go' are both perfect, but we wouldn't have expected as many people to like 'The Holy Bible'. Of course, we were anticipating a certain sympathy vote this time. People don't like to rock the boat, and it's a tragic situation which ever way you look at it, so obviously we were gonna get a honeymoon period. But if we hadn't had a record like 'A Design For Life'...I mean, if we'd brought out something like 'Of Walking Abortion' as our comeback single, I don't think it would've lasted so long."
2. DJ Shadow - Endtroducing
"The acceptable indie face of hip hop. I wasn't moved by it. If I want to listen to rap music in my cosy house in Wales, and pretend I'm doing something dangerous, I'll listen to proper rap music and live vicariously through it, indulge in the sentiments for a while. But I've got to be in the mood, and I have to force myself. For James, ever since Public Enemy, it's been natural: he played 'It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back' over and over. I could admire it, but it wasn't natural for me. I'm a bit Joe Public in that way."
3. Super Furry Animals - Fuzzy Logic
"Definitely my favourite album of the year, It reminds me of 'Bummed' by Happy Mondays, the way the chaos and disorder comes together at certain moments into perfection, and they're a gang who get fucked out of their heads on drugs...but I think there's an otherworldliness to it, the way they'll use really simple Status Quo 12-bar then put some Roxy Music stuff over the top. 'Gathering Moss' is a beautiful song - 'You an Me, united by itemised bills, thrills, my agony' - I could never write that,
4. Tricky - Pre-Millennium Tension
"I bought this last week when I came back from France with tonsillitis, I was really delirious, just laid up in bed feeling horrible, and it was perfect for that. I can't say I took anything from it particularly, but I imagine that's what it feels like to be on drugs - I've never been on drugs ever . I find Tricky interesting as an artiste. There are comparisons between him and us, all that end-of-the-world stuff. I do feel really scared whenever I think about the year 2000. I don't know why. I tend not to think about it now, either through being busy or blocking it out. If I do think about it, I feel exactly the same as I did when we made 'The Holy Bible'. Tricky is one of the few people to...confront his personal demons, that old cliche. I do think he's a genius. And he looks stunning in make-up and a fur coat. But I heard he's relocating to New York because he's scared Goldie's gonna kill him. It's like 2Pac all over again. Yet another way in which we're becoming Americanised."
5. Underworld - Second Toughest In The Infants
"I don't think the album is that fantastic, I must admit. I do like the title. It's the sort of thing I listen to when I'm hoovering. The two albums I play when I'm doing housework are Underworld and The Orb. I'm not going to pretend to you Simes, that I am converted to dance culture, because I find a lot of it extremely lazy. They call rock musicians Luddites, but they can't even pick up a fucking pen and write lyrics half the time. I'm not talking about Underworld, obviously. I like The Prodigy, Underworld, The Orb - nothing hardcore, I know. I'm just a populist by nature."
6. Beck - Odelay
"Shite. Pathetic lyrics, utterly embarrassing, the pretence of intelligence at its worst. It's that Beastie Boys/Dust Brothers axis of white American coolness. I fucking hate The Beastie Boys. It's so much emphasis put on the quality of a sound loop: if you talked like that in rock about a guitar sound, everyone would take the piss out of you, but people will wax lyrical about Beck no end. Damon like him, Noel obviously like him, but I'd rather listen to NWA any time. Black music is definitely at the cutting edge of technology, and certain production values in hip hop I can admire, but this is just old stuff tried to be made new, and I don't like that in rock music or any music.
7. Suede - Coming Up
"Yeah I was really pleased for 'em. Good luck to the boys. Without sounding too patronising! Everyone though after Bernard it could really turn into karaoke, and I just think it's a really good comeback. It isn't earth-shattering, but it took a lot of effort and determination. Brett's got it together. 'Lazy' is my favourite, but 'Saturday Night' is that Elton John song (he starts singing) how does it go? 'Life...isn't everything...' find that keyboard player [Neil Codling] a bit odd. Everyone's meant to fancy him, but I can't imagine Ocean Colour Scene fans fancying him. They'd probably want to batter him! We're often associated with Suede. We used to share a lot of the same fans, but we've probably got more...normal fans these days. But also because of that European tour we did together, which was really miserably with Richey and everything. Sometimes they've taken flak for it, but it was nothing to do with Suede. We used to watch them every night. We were utterly fucked up at the time. You know, you were there a couple of times. As a band, we had more personal problems than probably any band in the history of rock 'n' roll."
8. Afghan Whigs - Black Love
"Now, we're going to have arguments about this. We played some gigs in Germany with these guys ages ago - this is back in my old hateful days - and I though 'He's a bit fucking fat and old, innee?! Wearing black shirts and black trousers when you're in your mid-thirties!' Then I read you saying that 'Gentlemen' was one of the essential albums you always carry when you travel, so I bought 'Gentlemen' and 'Black Love'. You went on about the Sixties soul/Stax influence, but I can't see it. I don't think Motown's junk by the way. James loves all that, it's all he fucking plays on the bus. It's his sexmusic. You can hear it on 'Everything Must Go', even if it's clouded by a few rockisms. As far as Greg Dulli's lyrics go, personal relationships and sexual politics have never been on my agenda. Richey might have been more interested in that. Basically I think men are cunts and women are fine (Yeah, right on Nick) No, I'm not perpetuating any kind of victim culture towards women. You can give all the excuses in the world, but 95 per cent of violent crime is still caused by men. Men are nastier. We are beasts. Everyone knows that. It's just a matter of control. Fred West wasn't a woman, was he? Thomas Hamilton wasn't a woman. That bloke in Belgium wasn't a woman. I do get on better with blokes, but I know deep down we're all pretty...dodge."
9. Baby Bird - Ugly Beautiful
"You know Lion bar? You know how they're a poor man's Picnic? Well, Baby Bird are a poor man's Pulp. The only thing I admire about him is that after making all these indie albums, he's obviously thought 'Fuck it', and even if it does sound like U2 or 'Sit Down' by James, he's gonna try and get some money. But he's 34, innee? I find that really infuriating: if you hang around long enough these days, you'll probably make it. There's hardly any bands who fail any more. It's a knock-on effect from Oasis: the market is so big at the moment and with the indie crossover, it's harder to fail than to succeed. 'Generation Terrorists' sol 150,000 for us, and at the time that seemed like a big deal, but now that'd be nothing."
10. The Boo Radleys - C'mon Kids
"If you're talking about incorporating elements of dance music, the Boos are much more daring. This was verging on commercial suicide, but I just think it's a fucking mad, brilliant album...although I love 'Everything Is Sorrow', which is more straight, and 'New Brighton Promenade' which is pure Simon & Garfunkel. It's a genuine attempts, not just some band arsing about and throwing a few bits in, which is what I'd always worry about with us: if we ever tried anything like that, it'd end up really half-arsed. Having said that, with the next album, we've learnt enough to do something a bit different. But we'd never just do it for the sake of credibility."
11. The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Now I got Worry
"Just shit. I absolutely despise Jon Spencer Blues Explosion with a vengeance. He signed to his major label and tried to lose some weight and look cool, but it's corporate Nick Cave with a pretence of having some kind of edge. He reckons he's incorporating hip hop: bollocks! That's like saying just because we got remixed by the fucking Chemicals we're bastions of the fucking dancefloor! I can't hear it. I can hear pseudo fucking southern wailing and blues bollocks which is completely fucking irrelevant to the whole of Western civilisation. With our remixes, we have no input at all, we just say 'Get on with it, do whatever the fuck you want, have no lyrics on it, make it 20 minutes long.' I genuinely like the Jon Carter mix of 'Kevin Carter', but apart from that, I don't even like our remixes. I mean, that fucking Bjork remix album: how did you journalists ever fall for her?! Talentless piece of shit! But you can't say that because Goldie will probably beat you up."
12. The Make Up - Destination: Love (Live At Cold Rice)
"I couldn't believe this! What's that about? Everyone says they're really good live, but I've never heard anything more retro in my entire life. It's got a lot of middle-Eighties mod in it: Television Personalities, The Time, Prisoners...I'm sure there actually was a band back then called The Make-Up. That little movement was probably the ultimate indie expression, which led to things like Huggy Bear. (MM explains Ian Svenonious' background in radical situationists surf-mods Nation Of Ulysses) Never heard of them. That's the thing about you journalists. A band could be more retro than fucking Ocean Colour Scene, but if they appear to have some sort of political/social agenda to them and something intelligent to say, you'll forgive anything. (Realises the irony of what he's just said, and grins) No, come on, 'Motown Junk' starts with a Public Enemy sample and skids to an end, and I thought that was sort of different, at least..."
13. Screaming Trees - Dust
"Barking Branches! Crazy Conkers! That's what Liam kept calling them every night. They played the American tour with us, and there was constant animosity between them and Oasis. Just take a look at them! I may have become a nicer person, but I still could never like a band who looked like that. The two fat geezers are actually really nice, and it's not very often you come across nice Americans. But the singer's a complete dickhead. He couldn't do anything, he was completely out of his box, the bloke was rotting. There were so many smack cases at the time, with the Pumpkins, and that woman out of Hole, but still somehow people found it romantic and cool. I was absolutely amazed when anyone gave this pile of shit a good review. No one's bought it in Britain, have they? It's just cock rock. (Thought that's what you were into, Nick) Bollocks am I! I know I'm partial to a bit of Alice In Chains, but I think they were genuinely...dark. Richey liked Screaming Trees' last album. But then he was into Pearl Jam and all that stuff."
14. The Aloof - Sinking
"I know it's a bit like they're cashing in corporate-wise on that semi-Portishead drumbeat, but I really like that single, and I like the name, The Aloof, that sense of arrogance. They're playing it quite safe as far as critical respect goes by falling in between that Tricky/Underworld territory, but even if you're a copyist, you've still gotta be good to get anywhere. Anyway, there was a record Rod Stewart made in 1968 called 'I've Been Drinking', and it's totally that beat. You can almost hear the Portishead sample, that creepy Hammond organ, right from the beginning."
15. New Kingdom - Paradise Don't Come Cheap
"I dunno this one. (MM plays him the opening track, and the single 'If Horses Were Unicorns') Sounds like a heavy metal name, New Kingdom, doesn't it? Are they white or black? I find it hard to make a judgement, to be honest with you. Talking of rap, I got really confused with that Blackstreet record. For ages I thought it was the Backstreet Boys, cos the logo's really hard to make out. For a while I was thinking, What the fuck's going on here, Backstreet Boys getting all these good reviews?!' Then a couple of months later I realised I was being a twat."
16. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Murder Ballads
"I've never ever seen the point of Nick Cave. If you treat it as a sector of music to itself, ie Bad Seeds-inspired goth/Australian rock, I've never liked it. I think he's really cool, Nick Cave, really thin and handsome, but what he said about 'Murder Ballads'...I'm not sure if he was misreported, but he said, 'There are worse things to life than murder'. And I don't think there's anything worse than taking someone's life. He's allowed to get away with writing songs about smashing a woman's head in with a rock, but if a rap band does it...actually, if a band like us did it, there'd be even more outcry. The only album I ever liked was 'Kicking Against The Pricks', the cover versions album, and that was only because I was going out with a dodgy goth at the time. I've never known anyone plough the same old furrow of themes as him, constantly for 12 albums. It's all right leaving a body work, but Jesus!"
17. Black Star Liner - Yemen Cutta Connection
"Even the name of the band is like all those typical Jesus And Mary Chain indie names - "sugar", "honey", "black", "star", Half-indie...with a touch of something else, and it's just drivel. We still buy CDs on the recommendations of the press, to pass the hours on the tour bus in Europe, because you can't get British radio. I'm not ashamed to say I still read the press. Most bands say 'Aah, fookin' 'ell, I don't read that crap.'"
18. Silver Jews - The Natural Bridge
"It just sounds so...(spits the word) American. Damon'll probably love it, with his new English Slacker mode! The bloke from Pavement is sharing a flat with him, Thurston Moore's remixing a Blue track...This is more harmless ineffectual drivel, just like Sparklehorse. Puts you to sleep. It sounded a bit like K Records, which I used to like: Beat Happening, all that. Again, it's a critic's record, but I don't mind that. When I was young and I read critics' polls, I wanted to buy every single record. There's always a place fr the weirdo critic who wants to keep everything precious. And for the pretentious one who'd rather get into LA rap and swing..."
19. The Bluetones - Expecting To Fly
"The last single was...bad. But the thing I like about them is the slightly feminine touch: they're quite vulnerable. Not musically, but as people they're much less Lad Rock. I think the singer is quite pretty, you know. It's not something I'd ever jump up and down about, but it's a debut album at the end of the day. You don't get many ground-breaking debut albums. I can understand people's hatred of them in terms of the Classic Rock vibe, but...I dunno, I'm ambivalent. I can't muster up the energy to hate a band like this. Perhaps five years ago I'd have said this was the biggest pile of fucking retro shit in the world. Now I just find it quite pleasant."
20. Sparklehorse - Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot
"God, there's a lot of horrible Everett True music in here, isn't there Simes? I did actually buy this after hearing it on 'The Evening Session', although I didn't want to when I saw the cover [a blurry photo of a plastic clown's head], I had to force myself. I like a bit of Galaxie 500 indie-schmindie now and and again. And I always like titles when they're all joined up, like our 'Ifwhiteamerica...blahblahblah'. But it's just completely average. Very much a critic's record, you know what I mean? Mind you, what with the new breed at The Maker and the rap boys, I didn't realise that faction was still so influential..."