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In The Studio - Q Magazine, September 2010

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Title: In The Studio
Publication: Q Magazine
Date: September 2010
Photos: Alex Lake

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The walls of Faster, the Cardiff recording studio owned by the Manic Street Preachers, are plastered with pictures and quotes from inspirational figures: JG Ballard, Derek Jarman and Straw Dogs author John Gray, the images of Fela Kuti, Norman Mailer and, err Liam Gallagher, "Me and Richey [Edwards] loved doing stuff like that," says lyricist and bassist Nicky Wire, "So this is a high-class version of what our bedrooms were like when we were young."

The latest Manics album is their 10th, and has one eye on the past, specifically the band's mid-'90s commercial peak. If 2009's Journal For Plague Lovers was the sequel to 1994's The Holy Bible, the next one is a cousin of 1996's game-changing Everything Must Go.

Composed using lyrics left by Richey Edwards, Journal For Plague Lovers was, says Wire, "a beautiful, brilliant, deeply rewarding experience that left a bit of a hole. It was the last of Richey's work that we could use in a creative way." Devoid of singles, the album was also a potentially damaging interruption to the commercial purple patch hit 2007's Send Away The Tigers. Says Wire: "Coming out of it, we thought, Let's give it one last shot at mass communication with the new record. Let's pretend it s the '90s and try to cross over to people."

Practically speaking, this means gospel heaps of strings and vintage Manics-style songwriting - a sound that Wire describes as "euphoric melancholia" - plus lyrics about the banking crisis and the decline of British industry. If it seems like the firebrand group have rediscovered their ire, the mooted first single, It's Not war - Just The End Of Love, confirms it. "It's saying, We know we're not 20 years old any more but we're still driven by injustice and rage and anger," says Wire. "It's a brilliant, valedictory thing."

As Wire's notebooks were already full of ideas, the trio started work on the new record straight after finishing the last one. They began writing in October 2009, while touring Canada and the US for the first time in a decade, and continued back home. By the time they went into the studio in May, they had an album's worth of new material less than a year after releasing Journal For Plague Lovers.

Among the tracks recorded in the month-long session, I Think I Found It is has a Maggie May feel; The Descent sounds like early Oasis ("No one else is doing it, so why shouldn't we?") while Wire describes Golden Platitudes as an "election address".

Another track, A Billion Balconies Facing The Sun, features ex-Guns N' Roses bassist Duff McKagan. "We were derided for wearing Guns T-shirts when we first moved to London," says Wire, "but they were such an important group for us growing up."

Mixed by Chris Lord-Alge (recent clients: Paramore, Green Day), the album will shortly be complete, and the band plan to lie low for the summer in anticipation of a September tour. It's then they'll find out if their latest bid for the mainstream has paid off.

"I think it'll be one of those records that will either really connect to people or be an absolute stiff," says Wire. "But I do feel like there's a space for us. With Oasis going and no young bands coming through, guitar music is on the precipice of disappearing. But there must be more to life than fucking Ellie Goulding and Marina The Diamonds, I feel our album has a lot in common with Paul Weller's latest. It's an old-ish man thinking, Is it up to me to say it?"