Punk veterans stiﬂe a weary yawn when Manic Street Preachers take to the soapbox, but Fiona Shepherd thinks Britain needs the band to alleviate rock’s current attitude crisis.
"We want to be in every magazine and on every TV screen. We want to be in a position where we can sell millions of records. We want people to hear what we’ve got to say. We want to be the ﬂowers of hate that clear everything away and we will prostitute our art to get our message across."
On the back of another year of blissed-out togetherness and indifference, when countless genres married and gave birth to adulterated offspring, a band emerged that wanted a return to undiluted rock’n’roll, with all its most important accoutrements — aggression, sex, outrage and excitement. Manic Street Preachers, a self-styled ‘egotistical, arrogant band with megalomaniac ambitions’, have proved to be the best New Year’s resolution on offer.
Ripples were first detected last summer with their second release, the New Art Riot EP, which recalled The Clash in its energy and anger, and a series of startling missives strategically directed at music publications. But the floodgates didn’t open until ‘Motown Junk’ was unleashed as "an attack on culture and the fact that everybody’s been fed icons from the past who can’t change your life."
The response to their inﬂammatory statements was swift and polarised, and now the band won’t have it any other way: "We’d be doing something badly wrong if people didn’t have an opinion about us," says guitarist Richie Edwards. "That would really disgust and appal us."
Opponents who attack the group with accusations that it’s all been done before are missing the point. Manic Street Preachers are not about originality, despite their protestations to the contrary, but about a gigantic. egocentric attitude.
"We’re the first band in a long while that’s really got up people’s noses. We’re the only band in Britain that’s pissed off. We’re the only band in Britain who wants music to be more than just entertainment. We’re the only band in Britain that’s got a brain cell. That’s our originality; it might not express itself through our musical forms but everything else about us is completely original."
"The only music we’ve ever had any respect for has been the Stones, The Who and punk, but we can’t live out somebody else’s past — it’s just another form of history and we hate history. We’re just obsessed with ourselves. We want to be the biggest, most successful rock and roll band of all time."
The Stone Roses were the last band to voice comparable ambitions, and Manic Street Preachers have an even higher controversy count. Emblazoning their beliefs across bold, sloganeering T-shirts, they hold a wholly negative vision, because, as Richie explains, "that’s the only feeling we’ve got at the moment. People say to us if we’re talking about expressing people’s feelings then we should write a love song because everybody’s been in love. But you can go to any record shop and find a love song, yet you can’t find any frustrated, alienated record and everybody’s felt like that as well. The worst thing about the 805 was that negativity became resignation. I don’t know many young people that love the Queen. but they just don’t give a toss. I’d rather they really hated her."
"We take care about everything we do," he continues. "We go out of our way to spray our clothes and find tight trousers when all we see is ﬂares. When we look at bands like Ride and The Charlatans, we piss ourselves laughing that they wear such unﬂattering baggy clothes. We just want to look feminine. We’re the only band in Britain that wants to look glamorous."
Again they’re plundering rock’s vaults, combining New York Dolls chic with Pistols bondage. But why the desire for femininity? "Because women are much better than men. Every man I’ve ever met is a moron. They’re just obsessed with inter-group conﬂict — they like fighting with their mates. nicking their mates’ girlfriends. They’re just dullards."
The next single, ‘You Love Us’, is a "sarcastic reply to all the press and the people who see the gigs", and when a deal with some "massive corporate machine" is finalised, the band are going to "start recording a double LP. which will take about three months, and then we’ll be the biggest rock band in the world. We want our first LP to sell 25 million copies and have the biggest impact for a debut release the world’s ever seen. Then we’ll just become redundant and somebody else can carry on. No band’s ever made that statement before — to get to that position of power and just blow it all away, just to show how worthless it is. It’s only music."
In their ideal world, Manic Street Preachers would be the most loved and the most hated band ever, but public apathy waters down their ambitions. However, even if they spend the rest of the year wiping egg from their Letraset T-shirts and sprayed hair. they’ll still have left a challenging single, a wake of frothing opinion and most importantly, a precedent. If everything else about them reeks of pretension, one thing is certain — bands will form because of Manic Street Preachers.