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Manics Faced An Emotional Decision Over Latest Album - Edinburgh Evening News, 15th May 2009

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Title: Manics Faced An Emotional Decision Over Latest Album
Publication: Edinburgh Evening News
Date: Friday 15th May 2009
Writer: Gary Flockhart

It is a universally accepted fact that James Dean Bradfield is a top bloke. All the same, before interviewing the Manic Street Preachers singer a few years back, I was warned he might not be as nicey-nicey if pestered to talk about Richey Edwards, the band's guitarist/figurehead, who walked out of the Embassy Hotel in London on the eve of a major tour in 1995, never to be seen again.

Richey's unexplained disappearance may be one of the most talked about events in rock history, but it's a subject that's rarely broached by his bandmates.

Halfway through our telephone chat and we seemed, Bradfield and I, to be getting on like the proverbial house on fire, gabbing away about all sorts of band-related stuff, as you do.

Eventually I thought, what the heck, and decided to ask about the missing-presumed-dead rock enigma, whose passport and bank cards were found at his Cardiff flat and weeks later his silver Vauxhall Cavalier discovered near the Severn Bridge - a notorious suicide spot.

This was, after all, the tenth anniversary of his disappearance, so it seemed reasonable enough to ask if the band would be marking the occasion in any way.

I braced myself for the hang up tone, but Bradfield wasn't angry or evasive. Sure, you could tell he was a little uncomfortable taking about his pal, but he dealt with the question all the same.

"The aftermath of what happened with Richey is still so unresolved we couldn't remember it by meeting up down our local," he said. "That would be symbolic of something that is still completely and utterly dangling.

"We have spent such a long time resolving the undecided nature of the event that us trying to play around with some kind of B-movie symbolic gesture would have been wrong."

What happened to Richey is anyone's guess. Some reckon he took his life, while others prefer the notion that he pulled a disappearing act, having had enough of the pressures of fame. I get the impression Bradfield veers towards the latter, which perhaps explains why the remaining band members continue to pay royalties into his unused bank account.

Wherever he is, Richey will be back in the news next week, 14 years after he disappeared, when Manic Street Preachers release a new record consisting entirely of the lyrics he left behind - an album which, according to bassist Nicky Wire, the band had no choice but to make.

"We hadn't really discussed Richey with anyone in any way for, like, ten years, thought it wasn't right, wasn't tactful," said Wire, adding he was almost "too scared" to look at the folder his 27-year-old friend had given him weeks before he vanished.

"We decided instead to keep it to ourselves for a long time, but I now feel a pride in displaying what I've always considered to be Richey's amazing words, and reading them has made me a huge fan all over again.

"They made me realise just how much I missed him and his fierce intellect, his ability to go to places that I couldn't or didn't want to go and the perfect symmetry we had as a band.

"I felt that by doing this, in some dreamlike way, we could get that back for a year or so - and maybe what we've made here is a kind of tribute album," he added.

Richey was finally declared officially dead at the end of last year, bringing, in some way at least, an end to more than a decade of fevered fan speculation as to his where-abouts and rumours he'd been sighted in such far off places as Goa.

The decision to publish Richey's lost lyrics must have been a tough call, but it is a good call. I've had the pleasure (and a pleasure it is) of listening to Journal For Plague Lovers and the hint of early Manics in Richey's lyrics combined with the band's musical skills makes it the best Manics album in years.