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Not So Manic Street Preachers, Belfast News Letter, 20th March 2001

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Title: Not So Manic Street Preachers
Publication: Belfast News Letter
Date: Tuesday 20th March 2001
Writer: Phil Gould

The Manic Street Preachers might have been making hits for a decade, but they still manage to surprise and irritate - in different ways.

They constantly produce melodies which have more to offer than your average pop song but irritate by trashing some of their finest musical moments. James Dean Bradfield, Nicky Wire and Sean Moore have earned the accolade of the best selling Welsh act of the 90s. They have won Brit Awards, played Cardiff's Millennium Stadium and are responsible for one of the best number one records ever - If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next.

But you get the feeling that they are still not happy with what they have achieved. Their last album, This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours, sold by the sackful and endeared them to the thirtysomething record buying market.

"Our last album was our most successful record. We are proud of it, but we treated the songs in a conservative way," says Wire, giving a weak smile.

"We played in front of 10,000 people in Helsinki and saw an audience in Barcelona sing If You Tolerate This and understand the words," he says.

"We were also able to shed some baggage with the last record. Perhaps because we sold so many records we felt we had justified all the arrogance we had when we started out."

Only last month, they criticised this album in a well-known music magazine and they seem to feel their latest offering, Know Your Enemy, is much more praise -worthy. It is a back-to-basics affair, all the lush orchestration of their last album has been removed and replaced with gritty guitar-edged tunes. For all of this you cannot help but think one of the highlights is the Beach Boy sounding single So Why So Sad.

"This album is a tribute to our youth," reveals Wire sitting in the VH1 television studio in Camden, north London. "It is inspired by Iggy, the Beach Boys and early New Order. The songs are little tributes to all this music that made us want to be in a band."

The band recently were back in the Top 10 with two singles at the same time. "Releasing the two singles together, like us playing in Cuba, was just us trying to do things differently," says Wire.

"We were worried that So Why So Sad would give a false impression. It is the most poppy track and not representative of the rest of the album. It's very Beach Boys.

"We don't know if our new album will appeal to Mondeo Man. If you give it a listen, it's a great album," he says.

"If you listen to it just once, you might think what a noisy racket. I think there is a lot more to this album - if you scratch deeper."

Originally the Manics were a quartet, but on February 1, 1995, guitarist Richey Edwards walked out of a London hotel, where they had been staying. He was due to fly out to the States, to do a series of interviews but, instead, he visited his home in Cardiff - and disappeared. There has been various alleged sightings of him, but he has never been found. He is now classified as missing, presumed dead. Know Your Enemy is the third album to be recorded by the band as a trio. Wire feels that, after six years, the band are now better-equipped to deal with the loss of a band member and their friend.

"We didn't deal with it very well until about two years ago. We have now found a peace within ourselves and can get on with things better.

"It is six years since Richey disappeared, that is such a long time, you find you have got to move on or else you just become trapped.

"People find it hard to get past the fact that he disappeared as a member of Manic Street Preachers. He was a friend before he was a band member. I had known him since I was 10."

Once some bands achieve success and find fame, they move to London and start living the showbusiness lifestyle. Celebrity-studded parties, trips to the Met bar and copious amounts of illegal substances. But Wire still lives in a modest terraced house not far from his birthplace - the mining town of Blackwood, in Gwent.

"Drugs and showbiz girlfriends are not part of my life and I don't want to end up like those people.

"You read their lyrics and just fall asleep with boredom. They might be larger -than-life personalities, but they have nothing to say whatsoever. I have chosen a different path," he laughs.

"You have got to provide an alternative. Everybody would like to live the vicarious life of a celebrity but it is not my way."