Eighteen years after they first burst onto the scene, the Manic Street Preachers are going back to their roots. The band's most recent, eighth studio album, "Send Away the Tigers," has been widely acclaimed as a return to its early rock-and-roll sound, after a period the band describes as "confused."
"I think we looked back to our youth," said bassist and lyricist Nicky Wire, speaking by phone from his home in Wales.
"We looked back to what made us want to be in a band in the first place - the enthusiasm and idealism and anger.
"We looked back to the start, when it was just the three or four of us in our bedrooms writing songs together. That's what we wanted to recapture. We wanted to make a really exciting rock-and-roll album, and I think that's what we achieved."
However, one thing will never be the same, as the band's guitarist and lyricist Richey Edwards has been missing since 1995, which remains one of rock's most tragic mysteries. On the album, the song "Your Love Alone Is Not Enough," a duet with Nina Persson of The Cardigans, deals with the loss.
"Obviously, that had a big effect on us, because I went to university with him," Wire said.
"He was not just in the band, but he was one of our best friends as well. We used to sit down and write lyrics together. He's very much still in our thoughts, so there's always that kind of influence on the record as well. Just the idea of loss, closure, and trying to come to terms with stuff."
Always politically conscious, the Manic Street Preachers touch the subject of war and human rights violations that it leads to in such songs as "Imperial Bodybags" and "Rendition."
"It's just something that's always been with us," Wire said.
"I got a degree in politics, which just stayed with me. I'm not really, say, a campaigner; I'm not like Bono or something like that. I just find politics really interesting - the way it works and the implications of war. I think it's important to write about what you really care about, what you feel. I'd be lying if I were writing about going to nightclubs or doing drugs, because I don't do that."
This interest in politics brought the band to Havana, where it performed a much-publicized concert to an audience that featured Cuba's top officials in 2001, but Wire said the goal was not to promote the regime.
"It was a real experience, good and bad: There was a lot about it we really enjoyed and some which was also difficult," he said.
"The concert itself was amazing. And the fact that Fidel Castro was there, and after the gig he came back and chatted to us for about an hour. That was just weird, and it was hard to take it all in. But I am glad we did it."
Looking at younger British bands, Wire said there's little interest for political or social issues, with musicians preferring to care about
"music and drugs and entertainment," and offered an economic explanation.
"We've had 10 years of economic growth. We've all the good times in Britain," he said.
"Now we're facing recession and maybe people will become more politically aware, because for the last 10 years it's been quite decadent. But this is going to change in the next year or two.
"A lot of Britain's best music has come at times of recession, you know, be it the punk explosion, or 2 Tone and The Specials and everything before that. You know, like in the 1960s, the explosion of political consciousness. I think it will happen soon."