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Manic Street Preachers Explore Internal Galaxies On Roxyesque Album Number 14 - MOJO, June 2021

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When the Manic Street Preachers went to south Wales’ storied Rockfield studios in mid-January, James Dean Bradfield sensed magic in the air. “It was snowing,” he says from the group’s Newport studio Door To The River. “And when the first snowflake came down, and you wake up to a beautiful blanket of snow, it was, Yeah, this is going to be a really good record.”

The story began in late 2019, when the songs Orwellian, Happy Bored Alone and Diapause – named for a kind of early onset hibernation at times of environmental stress – were written and demo’d. Then the Covid pandemic negated all normal planning.

Through separation, frustration, and their longest period ever without gigging, certain happy accidents helped find a way forward.

One was Bradfield inheriting a 105-yearold upright piano, which 80 per cent of the LP was written on. Another was the direction which presented itself when bassist and lyricist Nicky Wire’s words for Orwellian took the singer back to the 1980s, and what he calls the “clarity and poetry” of ’80s Roxy Music, Echo & The Bunnymen and The Smiths.

“There’s a lot of exploring the internal galaxies of the mind on this album, and understanding,” says Wire, who adds that lyrics argue for defending the middle ground and examine the tensions between online connectivity and healthy solitude. “It didn’t feel like the right time for spite. It’s more internalised, bathed in a comforting melancholia, rather than a self-defeating one. I certainly feel like these are some of the best words I’ve ever written.”

After the first lockdown, they reconvened with drummer Sean Moore at Door To The River and carried on demo’ing and, says Bradfield, “building the musical muscle mass back up.” After the second lockdown began to ease, they booked into Rockfield with producer Dave Eringa, working in the studio’s Coach House, rather than their usual berth in the Quadrangle. “It’s easy to socially distance there, and it was, bam!” says Bradfield. “We laid into it and two weeks pretty much covered most of it.”

“I recorded my entire fucking bass parts with a mask on,” says Wire. “But it’s the most rehearsed we’ve ever been for an album. The catchphrase was, ‘like The Clash playing Abba’ – The Clash when you felt they could play in any style. It’s quite a subtle record.

There are, always, guitars, but it’s very restrained for us, and really tasteful! It’s the usual thing, miserable lyrics and great pop.” Songs include a rumination on Tenby artist siblings Gwen and Augustus John, the Mark Lanegan duet Blank Diary Entry and two songs recorded in Newport, which are being mixed the day MOJO calls. Bradfield thinks the last track may be Still Snowing In Sapporo, which Wire calls, “a reverie of when we played [in Japan] in 1993. It was a magical moment for the band, when we felt we could pretty much do anything.”

“The only way you can touch that experience again is by singing it,” says Bradfield.

“Nick can still sense it and smell it and touch it, I can’t. The start is like a hollow, just the voice and a floating, ethereal wisp of something, and then it explodes into something that’s full of hope and discovery. We haven’t been to Sapporo since then, but I’m keeping my eye on going back there, and having one last hurrah.”

Title: tbc (Wire toyed with ‘Intimism.’)

Due: September

Songs: Orwellian, Still Snowing In Sapporo, Blank Diary Entry, Afterending, Happy Bored Alone, Quest For Ancient Colour

The Buzz: “I had a very smug idea of how I saw the world, but I’ve realised I’d undervalued absolutely everything in my life. I think that’s what the album became about. That’s what the music did, it found a way out of lockdown.” -James Dean Bradfield

Manic Street Preachers Explore Internal Galaxies On Roxyesque Album Number 14
Publication: MOJO
Date: June 2021
Writer: Ian Harrison


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