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Manic Street Preachers: Back To Basics For The True Grit Approach, Birmingham Post, 21st March 2001

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Title: Manic Street Preachers: Back To Basics For The True Grit Approach
Publication: Birmingham Post
Date: Wednesday 21st March 2001

The Manic Street Preachers might have been making hits for a decade but they still manage to surprise and irritate - in different ways.

They surprise by constantly producing melodies which have more to offer than your average pop song but irritate by trashing some of their finest musical moments.

James Dean Bradfield, Nicky Wire and Sean Moore have earned the accolade of the bestselling Welsh act of the 90s. They have won Brit Awards, played a mammoth concert at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium and are responsible for one of the classiest number one records ever - If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next.

But you get the feeling that they are still not entirely happy with what they have achieved. Their last album, This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours, sold by the sackful and endeared them to the thirtysomething middle England record club buying market.

'Our last album was our most successful record. We are proud of it but we treated the songs in a too conservative way,' says Wire, giving a weak smile, his eyes hidden behind sunglasses.

'We played in front of 10,000 people in Helsinki and saw an audience in Barcelona sing If You Tolerate This and understand the words,' he says referring to their 1998 number one hit about the Spanish Civil War.

'We were also able to shed some baggage with the last record. Perhaps because we sold so many records we felt we had justified all the arrogance we had when we started out.'

Only last month they criticised this album in a well-known music magazine and they seem to feel their latest offering, Know Your Enemy, is much more praiseworthy.

It is a back-to-basics affair, all the lush orchestration of their last album has been removed and replaced with gritty guitar-edged tunes. For all of this, you cannot help but think one of the highlights is the Beach Boy sounding single So Why So Sad.

'This album is a tribute to our youth,' reveals Wire, sitting in the VH1 television studio in Camden, north London. 'It is inspired by Iggy, the Beach Boys and early New Order. The songs are little tributes to all this music that made us want to be in a band in the first place.'

The band recently were back in the Top 10 with two singles at the same time. 'Releasing the two singles together, like us playing in Cuba, was just us trying to do things differently,' says Wire.

'We were worried that So Why So Sad would give a false impression. It is the most poppy track and not representative of the rest of the album. It's very Beach Boys but we are not ashamed of that.

'We don't know if our new album will appeal to Mondeo Man. If you give it a listen, it's a truly great album,' he says. 'If you listen to it just once, you might think what a noisy racket.

'It was a relief to do what we did with the last album but I think there is a lot more to it if you scratch deeper.'

Originally the Manics were a quartet but on February 1, 1995 guitarist Richey Edwards walked out of a London hotel where they had been staying. He was due to fly out to the States to do a series of interviews but instead he visited his home in Cardiff and disappeared. There have been various alleged sightings of him but he has never been found. He is now classified as missing, presumed dead.

Know Your Enemy is the third album to be recorded by the band as a trio. Wire feels that, after six years, the band are now better equipped to deal with the loss of a band member and their friend.

'We are acclimatised to it now,' he admits. 'We didn't deal with it very well until about two years ago. We found a peace within ourselves and found we could get on with things better.

'It is six years since Richey disappeared, that is such a long time, you find you have got to move on or else you just become trapped.

'People find it hard to get past the fact that he disappeared as a member of Manic Street Preachers. He was a friend before he was a band member. I had known him since I was 10 and we had played football together since we were 12.

'He used to cook me Fray Bentos pie with peas at university. I remember that more than when we played some hell-hole in Germany.'

Once some bands achieve success and find fame they move to London and start living the showbusiness lifestyle - celebrity-studded parties, regular trips to the Met bar and copious amounts of illegal substances. But Wire still lives in a modest terraced house not far from his birthplace - the mining town of Blackwood, in Gwent.

'I think it's really important. Drugs and showbiz girlfriends are not part of my life and I don't want to end up like those people.

'You read their lyrics and just fall asleep with boredom. They might be larger-than-life personalities but they have nothing to say. I have chosen a different path,' he laughs.