Manic Street Preachers have been analysed by a sociology expert - and they'll be relieved to hear that he has come back with a verdict of "clever" and 'thoughtful".
We asked Roger Silverstone, Professor of Media And Communications in the Sociology Department of the LSE, to help us make sense of the band's enigmatic new video for "Tsunami", - which is released by Epic on July 5. A black and white performance video with multiple images, it flicks up an extraordinary running commentary, via messages, as the song progresses.
The messages include phrases such as "Two beds, two heads, one mind", "A life, our life, always together forever, drawing strength from one another', "I want to find a part of me that doesn't belong to you", "Someone is driving you insane, it's me", "This is our war, this is our life" and "You are me, you and me." The written words conclude: "We once were two, we two made one, we no more two, through life be one."
After several viewings and a bit of head scratching, you might deduce that this amounts to the story of a simple love affair, perhaps involving a baby, told with typical Manics trickery, but you'd be wrong.
The song is about the notorious "silent twins", June and Jennifer Gibbons, who took a pledge of silence as young girls and ceased communications with the outside world, communicating with each other through a secret body language. Drifting through a life of crime, they were imprisoned in high-security hospital Broadmoor, where one of the pair later died. The title, "Tsunami", is a Japanese word for tidal wave. Quite where the tidal wave fits into the scheme of things has been perplexing us here at Melody Maker, but Professor Silverstone was less confused.
He said of the video: "I think it's quite clever. I think that, like so many of these, it depends so much on what you already know. You've got to know that 'Tsunami' is a tidal wave. You've got
to know somehow that this is a story about those girls, and if you don't know that. it can be read as quite a conventional account of intense and otherwise ordinary erotic love.
"Once you know that it's about these two twins, it becomes quite thoughtful and there's an intelligent juxtaposition of two different kinds of bonding - the normal and the abnormal, the erotic and the non-erotic."
Professor Silverstone scored where The Maker didn't by noticing "all the different ways in which people can disappear into each other".
He said: "It's quite a neat little metaphor. It's a single observation well expressed. It cant, in a song, do very much more than that, and it doesn't really explore very many of the questions that be raised. But I think it's neat."
"I think musically quite good, too. I'm of another generation. I'm not giving it five or four or three. Whether I'd have given it a moment's thought if I'd just seen it on MTV, I really don't know, but given what I might know from reading the press or publicity before it emerged, yes, I did find it interesting. What can you expect in three minutes?
"I think what it's done is identified something that's freaky, if you like, unique, and without really commenting on it, is just simply saying, 'Here are these two people and their relationship, tile boundaries between them are non-existent and they're on the margins Of society.' They're just saying, 'Here is a mirror, a rather perverse mirror.' "If you wanted to be more sceptical, they've read a good story somewhere about these people and said, "How can I turn that into a song?"
Moving on to a point of particular interest to The Maker's sociological dunces, he said: "What the link to the tidal wave is - I can understand that what the tidal wave represents is the power of this total identification, one with the other. I'd follow up the group's own logic by saying that that's what it suggests.
"The point I want to make is that they're using things quite cleverly - the metaphor of the tidal wave to signal the overwhelming power of a certain kind of a relationship, the closeness and lack of boundaries in two people, and the perverse and exaggerated intensity of over-identification as a metaphor for other forms of erotic attachment, and at the same time offering a kind of reflective refraction of that - here's something we take for granted and we desire having a rather disastrous and perverse effect in another context.
"I'm not making any judgement as to how clever Manic Street Preachers are, but in terms of what they've produced, it has a sense, i think, and it not stupid."