The Manic Street Preachers' new album hits the shelves in three days. Ally Ross looks at their designs for life after Richey
It's easy to have a dig at the Manic Street Preachers.
Just because they're Brit ain's finest rock band doesn't mean we shouldn't, but there's no point dwelling on the down side.
So let's get this over with:
The Manics are arrogant, (pseu do) intellectual snobs, who pass off a perverse mix of crack pot student extremism and woolly Welsh nationalism as some deep establishment- threatening philosophy.
Still, rock stars shouldn't come any other way. And under neath that telling desire to show us plebs how clever they are, you'll find an ordinary bunch of south Wales lads who enjoy watching the snooker and making inspired music.
"We're sincere but we're aware it's a fine line between that and the Joshua Tree," bassist Nicky Wire confessed recently.
"A lot of musicians think I'm the vainest most arrogant er in the world - and they're right." They're going to see themselves pulled apart even more over the next few weeks because Nicky, James Dean Bradfield and Sean Moore are about to release the year's most anticipated album - This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours.
It's the first made without any lyrical contribution from tor tured guitarist Richey James, missing presumed dead since he disappeared near a suicide blackspot by the M4 in 1995.
Yet his persona still looms over the Manics. Indeed his disappearance - which fascinated the chattering classes as much as it bored tabloids - was, cruelly, the commercial making of the Blackwood band.
"We only notice Richey's absence on stage," Wire told Q mag. "It doesn't feel a huge loss writing or recording.
"After Richey disappeared I said if Everything Must Go sold 100,000 and we got a gold disc and played a few festivals I'd be happy. Now everyone's going to be much more analytical.
On the surface, we're not as sexy as we were when we wore combat gear and Richey was here. But it's all still there."
It will probably outsell 1996's Everything Must Go - which shifted 1.4million - and some fans will be unforgiv ing about that success.
The Manics attract lots of elitist dingbats who hide their own shortcomings by devot ing themselves to obscure bands.
Now we all know what MSP are about, the old guard will dismiss the new material as 'Bryan Adams-esque'.
James has threatened to thump anyone who says any thing so stupid. Nicky probably best summed up the post- Richey philosophy after their 1997 double Brits triumph.
"What happened with Richey made us lose a lot of that strength and anger. It sounds strange, but I've found a bit of peace. I used to be an angry young man, now I'm happiest pegging out washing."