These are the facts: On Feb. 1, 1995, a promising young Welsh musician named Richey Edwards simply disappeared.
Police found his car - but not his body - near Britain’s Severn Bridge, a popular suicide spot. Granted, the Manic Street Preachers founder was depressed at the time, fresh out of rehab, and heading to the States to promote his band’s edgiest album, “The Holy Bible.”
The group soldiered on as a more anthemic trio and sifted through countless Edwards sightings over the years, until last November, when he was legally declared dead.
But the Manics have chiseled a unique epitaph for their friend.
Two weeks before he went missing, Edwards handed bassist and lyricist Nicky Wire a notebook filled with drawings, photo collages and lyrics.
“He was always giving us lyrics, but not to this extent - there were more than 25 songs there,” says Wire, who turned said poetry into a full album, the Steve Albini-tracked “Journal for Plague Lovers,” which the group is backing in concert in The City this week.
“So doing this record wasn’t so much about closure - it was really about celebrating Richey, rediscovering him as an artist. His words were so instinctive, academic and entertaining, we realized we sounded like a different band when we used them. So it felt good to be like that again.”
“Peeled Apples” opens the set with a dialogue snippet from Christian Bale in “The Machinist,” since Bale is the one actor Wire believes could accurately reanimate Edwards in a proposed biopic.
Then it hurtles with proto-punk velocity through the Baudelairian verses of “Pretension/Repulsion” and “Jackie Collins Existential Question Time.” All are given extra vocal passion by frontman James Dean Bradfield.
There was a self-destructive aspect to this coda, Wire admits.
“But Richey just consumed so much culture and crammed it all into his lyrics, and I think he’d come to some conclusions,” he says. “He wasn’t quite as disgusted and raging as he was on ‘The Holy Bible’ - he was a man at his intellectual peak.”
The loss is still reverberating. Whenever the group travels to London, Wire says, “We drive over that bridge, so we have to face it pretty often. But I think we’ve found a middle way, really, of just existing with the uncertainty.”
Because there’s still the slim possibility that Edwards might have wanted to disappear.
“That’s much more common than anyone could guess,” Wire says. “Literally, some people are living just five miles down the road and they’ve never been discovered. So who knows? We don’t make any judgments.”