Close-Up And Personal - Dazed & Confused, June 1996
Timing has never been the Manic Street Preachers’ strong suit. Whilst the world draped itself in the utilitarian workwear of baggy, they chose to be mascara—eyed glamour-pusses. When FM America finally tuned into grunge, they constructed a stadium-lite rock LP and, just as the world got Britpop-happy, with ironic high-jinks being the order of the day, they made one of the bleakest and most densely-constructed albums ever made. And now, they are back with the masterful Everything Must Go, surrounded by the dressed-up, self-satisﬁed glitteratti of ’96, looking and sounding as reflective as they’ve ever been.
And all we can really do is trust them. Because with the release of their quite splendid new album the Manics have reached some kind of virgin territory for a pop group. What the record represents, before you even get to the music, is a safe arrival following one- of the most harrowing journeys any pop group has ever encountered.
One which has sent them through a maze of contradictions and dark confusion all stemming from the day, almost 15 months ago, when Richey Edwards walked out of Room 516 of the Embassy Hotel in Bayswater, and out of their lives forever. In those agonising months since, the group have suffered everything the media has been cold-hearted enough to throw at them. Grim, pessimistic tracts bout the likelihood of Richey being dead; sombre reports about how his body would never be found if, as the evidence suggested, he'd jumped from the Severn Bridge on the morning of St. Valentine’s Day, 1995; even, unforgivably, rumours that Richey’s disappearance had been staged. All had to be dealt with as diplomatically as possible.
Meanwhile the group, bewildered by the entire episode, have been forced to reconsider their future in private and deal with the whole sorry affair as best they can. Nicky and Sean retired to a surreal serenity as home-loving DIY enthusiasts, whilst James embarked on a demon-exorcising career as semi-permanent London gadabout. The band, up until now, stayed firmly on ice. Yet to dwell too heavily on the events of the last 12 months is somehow to miss the point of the Manic Street Preachers.
For, ever since their electric-yell of a debut single, they’ve managed to exude a wildly maverick survival instinct. "Motown Junk” spat in the face of cloying fan-worship, "You Love Us” swore vengeance on the doubters and "Stay Beautiful", with its glammed-up insouciant howl of a chorus, Why don ’t you just fuck off!, practically redefined outsider chic. And that’s way before you get to the epic spitefulness which characterised parts of last album The Holy Bible which, for all its obsessions with the Holocaust, serial killers and self-abuse, still managed to include the splenetic dazzle of: I am stronger than Mensa, Miller and Mailer, I spat out Plath and Pinter amongst its lyrics. A sign that, as long as Richey's words were supercharged by James’s last-chance howl, the band would never veer off into the realms of introspective depression. (more...)