The songs of the Manic Street Preachers are awash in images of despair and drugs, broken dreams and loss, and the ever-fresh discovery that, hey, growin' up is a bitch. But the British band's second album Gold Against the Soul belies its adolescent angst with the kind of guitar-sharpened rock that would make any Guns 'N' Roses fan weep.
"The title song was basically about the loss of innocence; that was sort of a theme for the album," says rhythm guitarist Richey James, who shares lyric writing with bassist Nicky Wire; Bowman and lead guitarist James Dean Bradfield and drummer Sean Moore pen the music. They grew up together in the south Wales town of Blackwood, provincial origins which James blames for an often brooding outlook. Together, they rejected the rave-of-the-week tastes of the U.K. music press in favour of hunting down used copies of Exile on Main Street or London Calling.
After two indie singles in Britain, the Preachers released their U.S. debut Generation Terrorists in early 1992, highlighted by such existential delights as "Motorcycle Emptiness." Despite its facile sense of gloom, Gold Against the Soul is a savvy collection of hard-rock song-writing, echoing the Faces, Thin Liz.), and, particularly, Queen—but then moving from influence to originality.
"When we first went to London, we had guitar reference points from all these London-based bands from the 1970s-Mott the Hoople, Bowie, the Clash—and so many journalists were saying, 'That's so out of date,'" recalls James. "And in the last year, within the British media, it's become the most fashionable thing you can have."