It's taken Manic Street Preachers all of 15 years to record the follow-up to 'The Holy Bible', one of the best albums of the nineties.
'Journal For Plague Lovers', the band's ninth studio album, released this month, is not an official follow-up. But its as close as the Manics are ever likely to get to one.
The uncompromising 'The Holy Bible' was released in 1994, six months before the disappearance of the band's guitarist and lyricist Richey Edwards on February 1, 1995. 'Journal For Plague Lovers' features lyrics left behind by Edwards in what's come to be viewed as a parting gift.
Nicky Wire explains that three to five weeks before he vanished, Edwards gave him an old binder crammed with lyrics and photocopied the contents for James Dean Bradfield and Sean Moore. "At the time we didn't think there was anything unusual about this because he was so prolific at that point," says Wire. "He was always handing us lyrics but looking back it was obviously a serious body of work that he wee leaving us".
The Welsh trio have been very careful to honour the memory of Richey Edwards without bowing to commercial concerns. So 'Journal For Plague Lovers' was recorded in the old fashioned way, analogue without computers. And they have insisted that there will not be any singles from the new album.
"It's hard to envisage come of these lyrics being played as a single. It's just such a body of work and the concerns of somebody that didn't care about commercial success. We did worry that our record company wouldn't know how to handle it but they've been pretty gracious," says James Dean Bradfield.
"I think there's an element of bafflement and bemusement on their behalf," adds Wire. But We a tribute to Richey. It's a tribute to the notion of an 'album'. It feels kind of old fashioned, It's pre-digital. It was written on a typewriter because Richey never had a mobile phone or a laptop. We recorded it on analogue tape with no computers."
Cementing the 'Holy Bible' connection, the cover of 'Journal For Plague Lovers' features a painting by Jenny Saville who also contributed artwork for The Holy Bible'.
All 13 songs on the new album have lyrics by Edwards. it will be available on CD, deluxe CD (with a second disc featuring demo versions of all the songs), download and LP. Fans will be eager to get hold of the Japanese edition on import as it boasts two exclusive bonus tracks.