Manic Street Preachers' sixth album, due out at the end of March, is their most eclectic and musically daring yet. As bassist and lyricist Nicky Wire reveals in the current issue of Q Magazine, it was largely inspired by the band's disappointment with its predecessor, This My Truth Tell Me Yours: "It was a record that made us react. Gold Against The Soul made us do The Holy Bible and This Is My Truth made us do this."
Wire, singer-guitarist James Dean Bradfield and drummer Sean Moore began recording the album in November 1999, but the bulk of the work was done in Spain during June and July of last year. Most of the songs were recorded in only a handful of takes, without extensive rehearsing or demoing.
"We didn't want to play these songs any more than five times," says Bradfield. "I think it stemmed from the fact that we saw ourselves at Glastonbury and didn't realise we were as tight as we were. There was a certain anxiety lost."
The new songs will be debuted in Havana, Cuba on 17 February and, on 5 March Found That Soul and So Why So Sad will both be released as singles - the first time a major band has ever released two singles on the same day.
"I know every band says their newest album is their best, but I don't really think that," says Wire. "I just think it's one of the best albums of all time, not our best."
Q4music can reveal the full, Manics-annotated tracklisting...
Found That Soul
Punchy, Stooges-style punk rocker announces change of direction in no uncertain terms. Self-confessed "Clash baby" James Dean Bradfield very chuffed with this one.
Featuring Bradfield's first ever recorded lyric, a tender number inspired by the death of his mother from cancer in 1999. The title refers to the brand of cranberry juice that she drank in hospital. Sean Moore provides the elegiac trumpet solo.
Spiky guitars and distorted vocals. One of the first lyrics written and "sums up the album a lot", says Nicky Wire. "It's about maximum intake of reality. Sometimes this album is literally too much lyrically and that's what's good about it."
So Why So Sad
Sounds like a Beach Boys Christmas record, with sleigh bells, ba-ba backing vocals and a soaring stylophone break in the middle. "We had a lot of arguments about whether we could get away with it or not," admits Bradfield.
Let Robeson Sing
"Our transatlantic Number 1", jokes Wire. Their most unashamedly anthemic song yet, dedicated to (and sampling) Paul Robeson, the black American actor and singer who campaigned for civil rights in the 1930s and was ostracised in the 1950s over his support for communism. Lighters aloft.
His Last Painting
Recorded in just one take. Marked '60s feel with see-sawing guitar refrain and Hammond organ. Bradfield in fine voice.
"The Fall meets the Chili Peppers", says Nicky Wire. Named after his South Wales home town, and a retort to a sneering Daily Mirror article. Wire writes music and takes lead vocal for first time ever. Climaxes in distorted, Mark E. Smith-style rant.
Miss Europa Disco Dancer
Neat medium-message combo: lyrics about braindead voyeuerism of Ibiza Uncovered et al set to sunny Chic-style disco. Bradfield calls it "furiously camp". Tempting ironic possibilities of releasing a remix in summer and scoring an Ibiza anthem.
Guitars cranking up in the distance then bursting in through the door. Punky turbulence and shuddering electronics. Despite lyrics like "Dead martyrs always take it further/Dead heroes know no fear", it's not about missing guitarist Richey Edwards.
Year Of Purification
"It's got a bit of an early '60s West Coast vibe," says Bradfield. "I don't know how that ended up on there." Upbeat melody disguises lines like "Moral little shitkickers/Liberal asinine pricks." Striking resemblance to R.E.M.
A squonk of amplifier noise, then a grimy guitar riff and down-the-phone vocals. Influence of Jesus & Mary Chain's Psychocandy evident as catchy, anthemic tune battles it out with rough, distorted production. Great false ending.
Six minutes of choppy Nuggets-style garage rock. Nicky Wire calls it his most autobiographical lyric yet, based on the pictures on his bedroom wall. Sources of inspiration namechecked include mad actor Klaus Kinski, golfer Payne Stewart and Marilyn Manson. Choice tongue-in-cheek lyric: "Kleenex kitchen towels and Teletext TV, my favourite inventions of the 20th century."
Winner of award for most self-explanatory title. Caustic attack on sycophantic royal correspondents over low-key acoustic guitars and a sonorous, almost gothic bassline.
Another iron fist-in-a-velvet glove job. Bleak lyrics "Feels like there's no escape except through my hate" yoked to groovesome '60s stomper.
Finished on the very last day of recording, and only included after much debate because of apt lyrical content. Named after Elian Gonzales, the Cuban boy at the centre of a custody battle between Cuba and Florida last year.
Freedom Of Speech Won't Feed My Children
A Nicky Wire favourite, about poverty in post-communist Eastern Europe. Seething, spiky groove mixed by David Holmes with additional guitar by My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields. Includes blatant dig at pet hates the Beastie Boys.