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Manic On The Streets Of London - NME, 5th January 1991

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Title: Manic On The Streets Of London
Publication: NME
Date: Saturday 5th January 1991
Writer: Steven Wells
Photos: Martyn Goodacre

NME050191 (1).jpg NME050191 (2).jpg

Want to throw yourself off the groovy train? Do you hate the grinny face of equity culture? Do you look askance from Public Enemy to The Inspiral Carpets and back again and year for a white riot? The MANIC STREET PREACHERS scream fear and loathing into the ear of Steven Wells

"Smash Hits is more effective in polluting minds than Goebbels ever was..."

The following article is 100 per cent head over heels hype. I am in hate with a poxy Welsh rock band. They look like shit. Their music is stunted and struggling. They will smash their way into the Top Ten or self-destruct in the process. The Manic Street Preachers are a speed band in an E generation, slogan-vomiting missionaries for violence in The Garden Of Good Vibes. "The E generation still faces the long suicide of work every Monday morning. We need a constant state of kicking. Turn on to a winter of hate. Keep Warm - Make Trouble. Music is useless if it keeps on prompting hedonism in a war zone..."

Flowered-up muppets stood and stared when the Preachers, necks rigid with tension, knee- eep in bum notes and spittle, poured hate and war over an audience chemically inclined towards love. "You're wearing a girl's blouse!" yelled punk veteran and observer journalist ion Savage, pogoing furiously. "We're the first androgynous band of the '90s!" screamed the mascara-ed guitarist. He wore a page torn out of the London A-Z stuck to his mum's old cheesecloth and he'd disfigured it with the stencilled message, "DEATH SENTENCE HERITAGE".

"Parliament is more ugly than a gas chamber. Money controls. Palestine is invaded and occupied like Kuwait but there's no oil so nobody cares. The state says a soldier's or a politician's life is worth more than a dead lrishman's. That rich bankers have a right to appeal while Winston Silcott rots in jail. The working class cannot draw its poetry from the past but only from the future." Look at the real legacy of punk - a generation of coked-out rock pigs, greying journos in love with George Michael and Van Morrison while former punk gurus, Garry Bushell and Julie Burchill, both jump through hoops and snuffle "Good Boy" chocolate drops from the sweaty hands of the Tory press. The Manic Street Preachers are already beyond the reproach of ageing punks. They are, quite simply, the most articulate, and the most politicised, and the most furious and the sexiest white rock band in the entire world. See, I told you this was hype.

Tight and jittery, singer James smashed to shards a guitar he had always hated. A 23-inch- beflared lovechild ran up to him like an eager puppy. "Uh!" said the kid. "Uh! That was f--ing brilliant!" When you've grown up taking drugs that make you act nice and you're encouraged to think that a flickering strobe and a man dressed as little Weed add up to something radical, the Manic Street Preachers are a revelation. "I wish I could do that!" "Whenever we've played to a young audience," claims blonde beanpole bassist Nick, "they really loved us - even if they just thought we were nutters.'

THE PREACHERS are "cripples" from a South Wales comprehensive. Turned on by Albert Camus and early Who, George Orwell and the pre- senility Stones, Hunter S Thompson and Big Flame, they buy the first Clash album to see if it makes any sense. They think it is shit. Then, in I986, they see the local mining community kicked to crap by the police and starved back to work by the Tories and they see The Clash perform on a Tony Wilson-presented tenth anniversary of punk TV show. Something clicks. When that happens to articulate, self- educated and dangerously angry working-class boys whose bollocks have just started kicking a natural amphetamine soup into their gangly frames, the results can be explosive...

When the dust settles they look again at the music papers pushing Simple Minds and The Wedding Present they listen with fresh ears to the jangly introspective wank of the indie scene and they ask - what the f-- went wrong?

1986: James has no friends at school - every weekend he decamps to Cardiff to scream "Garageland" at bemused shoppers. Meanwhile, Nick is putting on his make-up in the pit village of Blackwood. The locals call him Shirley.

Little Sean the drummer is also mistaken for a girl. He is lying in a pool of vomit after having drunk a bottle of his dad's whisky. Richey is ploughing his way through Timothy Leary and William Burroughs and trying to "Sid" his hair with liquid soap. They are f-ed off about everything - The Labour Party, Jeremy Beadle, the local rugby players, The Alarm, the Conservative Party, U2 - you name it they are f--ed off about it And nowhere can they find a music to hate to. "You can't expect anyone who comes from where we come from to like The House of love. it's so boring that everybody just stays in and gets drunk and you don't want to bear Guy Chadwick droning on about love and stuff..."

Then they get to bear Public Enemy. Pissed-off black boys from a couple of thousand miles away. Something clicks again. It's time to form a band.

They bombard the music press with speed-addled, two-finger typed hate mail - "In mundane 1991 we look like nothing else on Earth. A car bomb kiss-off to The Face. Politics and adolescent cheap sex. F--- the rotten edifice of Manchester. Too safe in dressing like a bricklayer. Too boring. Too macho, males afraid of themselves. That's why we look up to the images of Kylie and The Supremes and not bald-fat-ugly- glutton-filth Inspiral Carpets... They make us vomit.'

They write with the fury and teeth-gritted enthusiasm of the hatezines of the early "80s.

And they mean it.

"Yes. Of course we do, Kylie sells more records and they both stand for the same thing - perfect pop. She's bound to be better, isn't she? I find it offensive that Inspirals are on teenage walls."

Whilst some of the young happyheads dig the Strummertime blues - as the young Simon Dudfield (former NME writer) pointed out, "How can it be retrogressive if you've never beard it before?" - older folk are wary. It's OK to clone The Velvet Underground, it's dead cool to stick a dance beat under a Stones riff or a Byrds jangle - but The Clash?

The Manic Street Preachers want to release one double album, go on Top Of The Pops and change the world forever before splitting up to enjoy the tidal wave of spit and fury they think, will explode in their wake.

Before they're capable of creating such a catalyst they're going to have to learn to seriously screw up The Clash the way The Clash screwed up R&B. And that means sounding more like Public Enemy without sounding anything like Pop Will Eat Itself.

In a world where MC Tunes, Happy Mondays and Flowered Up dribble on about 'faggots', the Preachers are more unconsciously and joyfully anti- homophobic, anti-sexist anti-racist and anti-shit than any band since it became fashionable to be an apolitical arsehole. Maybe it's something to do with coming from the politicised working class rather than the drug-gobbling lumpen sump.

"Public Enemy are the only band with anything to say. The music papers constantly hold up political lyrics like "This is How It Feels To Be lonely" as worthwhile. White groups make me disgusted. it is pathetic they wank on about scraping a wage while Public Enemy sing about repression, control, destruction of life. We want to operate alongside Chuck D and not some T-shirt- selling Inspiral Carpets singer."

They've staggered through three singles -'Suicide Alley', 'New Art Riot' and now 'Motown Junk' - all the time desperately trying to distance themselves from the anarcho-grungies, the Steve lamacq muso-punks and above all else, the punkywunky cabaret of Birdland, the band whose addle-headed corpse worship renders them to rebel music what cosy, suburban "flame effect fires are to Welsh cottage burnings. It irritates them in the way that bands like Snuff, The Senseless Things and Mega City 4 seems to revel in the smallness and squalor of their slumming, bumming lifestyle. "We hate playing toilets. We hate losing £50 every gig and having to cram back into the transit van..." And anybody who enjoys such a ghetto lifestyle, they affirm, is a fool. And the contempt is mutual. This band are hated by their peers.

"Every A&R man in London has come to see us and they hate us totally. They come up to us and tell us to learn to play our instruments. Don't they realise that we don't care? We're bored with all that! We don't want to live out their muso fantasies. They run around like headless chickens to sign the latest bunch of no-thinkers who successfully recreate 'Dark Side Of The Moon'. They don't realise that every I4-year-old who sees us doesn't care that we sound awful. He goes home, sells his record collection and wants to burn down Barclays Bank..."

Pop music has many functions, one of which is to articulate and reflect the breathless, cynical, clenched-fist optimism of arrogant teenage naifs who seriously think they can change the world by screaming over a back-feeding guitar. The Manic Street Preachers - operating in a vacuum - want to make that pop music. They want to be The Who, the Pistols and Public Enemy. Their critics accuse them of being ten years too late. If anything they may be ten years too early. And who gives a flying f-- if they're totally and absolute wrong? Better to burn out that to fade away, right? If I can leave rock journalism extolling the same virtues of passion, anger shit-stirring and politicisation that dragged me into it in the first place, I'm happy. Like I said, I'm in hate.