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How The Manics Were Reborn - Wales Online, 6th November 2006

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It was their first album after Richey Edwards disappeared and the one that pushed Manic Street Preachers into the mainstream. A decade on, they have repackaged Everything Must Go. Claire Hill looks at how the album was a turning point in their career

THE date was May 20, 1996, a year after bassist Richey Edwards walked out of room 561 at the Embassy Hotel in London, climbed into his silver Vauxhall Cavalier and promptly disappeared.

After deciding to continue as a trio, the remaining Manic Street Preachers - James Dean Bradfield, Nicky Wire and Sean Moore - found themselves in a strange position.

Despite years of sitting pretty as a cult band in Britain the release of their fourth album, Everything Must Go, pushed them into another league altogether. It won them two Brit Awards - Best Album and Best British Group - plus two other nominations, three NME Brat Awards and they topped all the major magazine polls for album of the year.

It spawned four top 10 hits in the UK: A Design For Life, Everything Must Go, Australia and Kevin Carter.

A Design For Life sold 92,648 copies in its first week, went in at number two in the UK charts and was awarded an Ivor Novello award.

The album didn't beat George Michael for the top spot, something that bugged Nicky Wire at the time, but it stayed at number four in the charts for 56 weeks and sold 1.4 million copies.

In all senses this was a seminal album for the band from Blackwood.

Drummer Moore calls it 'Manics mark two' and a new beginning for the friends after the limbo that they were thrown into after Richey's disappearance. Personally it was a rebirth and Bradfield says they had time to breathe with the new songs that solidified their new direction.

With the gaping flamboyant hole left by Edwards, the band was not keen to fill it. They say it left them visually bland, anaemic and forced to focus on the songs. But the public, it seemed, reacted positively.

And however much the Manics have tried to keep their original nihilist outlook and outspokenness, and, however much Wire still wears the odd dress and layers of eyeliner, the release of Everything Must Go was the moment they crossed over into the mainstream; when they slowly became safe for Middle England to like.

No longer were they the controversial band who apparently boasted of sleeping with more than 200 groupies (step forward Richey), carved words into their arms (again Richey), panicked their record label Columbia with allegations of alcohol and gambling addictions or fought with bouncers, smashed guitars and hurled abuse at the Royal Family at a Cambridge University ball. And no longer were they a band that was critically acclaimed - but unable to fill stadiums.

This was a far cry from their position after the release of The Holy Bible in 2004.

With its tracks about prostitution, the Holocaust, self-mutilation and titles like ifwhiteAmericatoldthetruthforonedayitsworldwouldfa llapart (sic), the album was critically acclaimed but it hardly set the charts alight.

It did worse than the band's first two albums, Generation Terrorists and Gold Against The Sun, and wasn't originally released in the States.

'We were worried about being dropped after The Holy Bible,' James Dean Bradfield admits on the interview which accompanies the Everything Must Go 10th Anniversary Deluxe Edition. 'I think our albums were a case of diminished return.'

With hindsight, despite the NME branding it a 'vile album' this dark tome created in the claustrophobic Soundscape studio, in Cardiff, has been heralded as a masterpiece. But would it have received those later plaudits if its follow up, Everything Must Go hadn't found the band a middle ground where they could languish gaining critical and commercial ground?

Bradfield adds, 'Even though it garnered respect, it hasn't had the respect that it has now.'

While Wire claimed their initial controversial image in the press was due to adept, slick manipulation from the band itself, the process was hardly doing them any favours.

Latterly drummer Moore has been dismissive of the dresses and the sloganising, gimmicks and frills that surrounded the early days of the Manics.

He says of Everything Must Go, 'It was a new start to forget all the gimmicks and the frills and all the other things that went on to annoy people. We just wanted something that conformed.'

While the band were conscious enough that their old fans mightn't like the direction - something which is reflected in Everything Must Go's 'And I hope that you will forgive us' line - they were all happy with the album that they produced.

Without Richey the violence and polemics that characterised the band mellowed into something more approachable. Who would have thought you could make a chart hit out of the erosion of the welfare state? Certainly not the Manics in their earliest days.

Wire himself says, 'Design For Life crystallised everything we had tried to achieve and that record more than anything just took us onto a different level. It caught the imagination of the people.'

Obviously they were working in a vacuum of Britpop, the time when mediocre guitar bands could break through and shift thousands of copies. Britain was open to guitar music and the band admits they rode the coat-tails of the revolution.

Financially, the album's success proved to the record company that the Manics were a force to be reckoned with. They became financially viable filling out the Millennium Stadium and pulling in massive crowds wherever they went.

Personally the album provided the band with a stepping stone, however hard, to a life without their friend Richey.

With everything that happened to the Manics before 1996, the release of Everything Must Go could have so easily been the death knell for the band, but it was, in fact, its rebirth.

Manic Street Preachers Everything Must Go 10th Anniversary Deluxe Edition is released on Monday