Richey Edwards' ghost doesn't linger, it howls.
Thanks to the Manic Street Preachers' new "Journal for Plague Lovers," the Welsh band's long-gone guitarist/lyricist's spirit once more screeches with pain, wit and vitriol.
On February 1, 1995, the day the Manic Street Preachers were supposed to fly to the United States to start a tour, Edwards vanished. His car turned up by the River Severn in Wales, but his body was never discovered. Last year, he was officially "presumed dead."
But this fall, the Manics are touring North America for the first time in more than a decade. And the band, which plays the Paradise on Thursday, will be performing songs from the new album with words pulled from Edwards' journals.
"Our previous record (2007's "Send Away the Tigers") was our biggest in five or six years across Britain and Europe," said Manics bassist and other lyricist Nicky Wire from a Detroit tour stop. "It really made us fall in love with the band again. It felt right that while we were on top to do more of an artistic project and show what a great writer Richey was."
The return of Edwards' lyrics make the band's ninth album unique in the Manics' catalog. "Journal for Plague Lovers" is the first to marry the band's anthemic post-Edwards sound to the skeletal, wild thrashing Edwards adored.
"It would have been too much for us to make a raging punk rock record like (Edwards swan song) 'The Holy Bible,' " Wire said. "It would have been slightly too contrived. The worst thing we could have done was try to be the 27-year-olds we were on 'The Holy Bible.'
"Having said that, Richey's lyrics push us and make us sound like a different band. There's a jagged, post-punk edge to the band that only comes through when we make music to Richey's words. Maybe it's the staccato way in which he wrote. But it's great to be able to be two different bands."
Wire believes there are tracks on the new album that his lost friend would have loved, but is hesitant to presume what Edwards would have made of the disc. He does say that the trio tried to stay true to Edwards' bare-bones, raw ethos.
"We recorded with producer Steve Albini," Wire said, "who Richey was a huge fan of, to analog tape. Richey wrote the words on typewriter so we continued with his pre-digital style."
Wire says the first few gigs doing the new songs were strange for both the band and fans in the UK, where the Manics remain beloved. But now everyone has grown more comfortable with the songs. And after the band's long absence and frequently aborted U.S. tours, audiences in the small clubs the Manics are playing are, well, freaking out over the new material.
"I don't know if it's just that people are happy to see us or that they love the new record, but it's been a celebration of a tour," Wire said. "It feels like we're finally bringing Richey's records to America."
Manic Street Preachers, with Bear Hands, at the Paradise, Thursday. Tickets: $20; 617-562-8800.