Title: Journal For Plague Lovers [tbc]
Production/Recording: Steve Albini
Songs: Me And Stephen Hawking, Facing Page Top Left, Jackie Collins' Existential Question Time
The Buzz: "Richey gave us a book each less than a week before he went missing. Then, last year, me and Nick [Wire, bassist/lyricist] simultaneously had the idea we were ready to write some music for these words." - James Dean Bradfield
"There's not one sniff of a hit on the album."
Manic Street Preachers guitarist James Dean Bradfield tells MOJO. However, the band's new album, due this spring, will feature lyrical references to Stephen Hawking, wrestler Giant Haystacks and 19th century French painter Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. With the LP produced by Steve Albini and - most remarkably - all lyrics written by disappeared Manics ideologue Richey Edwards, the record is tantalising in the extreme.
Recorded at Rockfield in south Wales, the album is likely to be called Journal for Plague Lovers and will share much with The Holy Bible, the band's coruscating third LP, released in 1994. The sleeve will feature a painting by the artist Jenny Saville, while Bradfield's main guitar influence is once again the late John McGeoch of Magazine and The Banshees. The majority of lyrics on The Holy Bible were by Edwards. On the new album all the words are taken from papers Edwards gave to his three bandmates before his disappearance in 1995 (he was officially declared 'presumed dead' last month).
"For a long time we thought nothing could be done with these books, except perhaps to be put out as journals," says Bradfield. "Then it clicked in our minds that [Richey] had left us these books of identical lyrics. It was obvious he wanted something done with them."
Some of Edwards' writing was in prose and had to be edited, but it was all titled.
"Me and Stephen Hawking is just great," says Bradfield. "The kiss-off line is, 'Oh the joy, me and Stephen Hawking laughed/We missed the sex revolution when we failed the physical.' I love that on e-reconnecting with the humour in Richey. Jackie Collins is also mentioned in the lyrics and there's one song that mentions Grande Odalisque, the painting by Ingres. It's the one that caused controversy over how Ingres had elongated the female subject's spine in the painting. Was it deformed? Was it more beautiful? That's Richey - Jackie Collins and Ingres, the lowbrow and the highbrow.
"Nick and Richey had both wanted to work with Steve Albini," adds Bradfield. "They were drawn to the visceral quality you hear on [Nirvana's Albini produced] In Utero. The new album is sometimes bludgeoning, but there's also a track like William's Last Words, which is like a small ensemble piece from [Echo and the Bunnymen's] Ocean Rain - with a string section. There's a side to the record which is very gentle."