Useless punk rock revivalists or the sloganeering future of glam rock? Mark Day sets the controls for maximum rock 'n' roll with eyeliner encrusted oiks the Manic Street Preachers.
By all rights the Manic Street Preachers should be sitting in a squat somewhere shit, mumbling platitudes about dead dope fiends like Johnny Thunders and Stiv Bators, or maybe dribbling into pints of snakebite in one of London's seedier pubs and swearing blind the Dogs D'Amour were better before they had a record deal. Making their own demos of bad, hammy American accented, shuffling two chord rock and getting nowhere. Why not? A thousand other glam losers do.
Instead these four wired Welsh skinny bodies have scammed their way onto the front covers of the indie dominated weekly music papers by conning music journalists who, according to the band, "Think you're rock 'n' roll if you can drink five pints of lager, because they're not used to it. We just used a little intelligence because we know how easy it is to impress those sort of journalists." Guitarist Richie took this to extreme lengths recently by hacking the legend '4 REAL' into his arm with a razor blade during an NME interview.
They've cropped their hair and adopted a 'Generation Terrorists' manifesto of cult American movies, soundbite slogans and cut 'n' paste iconography that looks good even if it's saying nothing much. The music staggers the blurred line between the guitar thrashing rock 'n' roll of Hanoi and the '77 Punk whirlwind of the first Clash album and early Damned. They're the deatg of glam and its Tippex and glue encrusted rebirth and you probably hate their guts.
"Hanoi Rocks and Guns 'N' Roses are the biggest bands where we come from," explains Nicki, "But we always looked back to The Who, the Stones, the Clash and the Pistols to get more meaning from the lyrics. I don't know if we're perceived as a glam band yet. I hope we are."
They're not, but they will be. The Manics (Nicki on bass, Richie on guitar, Shaun on drums and James on guitar) want to record one killer double album then split up. They've already had talks with G'N'R producer Mick Clink and producer of The Cult's 'Love' album, Steve Brown. Their latest single, the sneeringly ironic 'You Love Us', sounds tinny and scratchy but Nicki swears that as soon as they get into a decent studio they'll be sounding like a decent rock band.
As far as the British scene goes Nicki laughs, "I think rock got messed up with bands like the Dogs D'Amour and the Quireboys who didn't really understand rock 'n' roll the way Hanoi did. They didn't make that extra effort..."
Unlike the Manics, they aren't listening to Public Enemy. Tyla and Spike would probably tell you that rap music is "Shite". The Manics know better. The Manics want to make politics sexy. They've already opened for The Throbs in London and discovered the first major obstacle between them and rock 'n' roll infamy. They just redefined glam but your average audience only recognises the stuff when it comes in obvious packages. Adulation was duly denied them.
"Yeah, I think people were just shocked to see a British band playin' that kind of stuff. A few kids came up afterwards and told us we reminded them of Hanoi because we played so badly! We took that as a compliment!"
But if they're really serious about going to make a platinum album shouldn't they try to be more likeable?
The initial phase will soon be over when we become the most loathed band in Britain. Everyone's a bit scared of us but they'll all come round to us soon. If they don't then we'll split up. At least we tried and we made some sort of impact...one of the first things we set out to do was annoy people."
So who's going to split up first, the Manics or Jane's Addiction?
"At the end of the day I don't think anyone would really care if they split up. He's too obsessed with art and sunbathing. It's only him, they never seem like a band, really. All the great bands seemed like a unit with individual personalities you can pick out. That's what we've always gone for. We always want to look like a band and live together, getting pissed off with each other."
If the Manic Street Preachers ever do stop annoying people - and the rock audience is a notoriously unforgiving one - it'll be worth it. Band of the year for all the wrong reasons!