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Preach For The Stars - The Word, December 2007

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Title: Preach For The Stars
Publication: The Word
Date: December 2007
Writer: James Medd

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What could be more festive than some agit-prop arena-punk?

Return to the original formula of anthemic rock, political studies and slagging off other bands has worked wonders for Manic Street Preachers this last year: "We've come to accept all those things that make us old-fashioned and just realised that they're what make us what we are," says the straight-talking Nicky Wire. But 20 years on, with the bassist/lyricist fast becoming a kind of inverse Jeremy Clarkson with his talk of "fat-arsed Urban Outfitters London teenagers wearing Motorhead T-shirts" and "young cunts wearing their basses as a necklace", how long can they keep doing it for the kids?

A pretty good year for you, then?
If you'd talked to us two years ago, after Lifeblood, and you'd told us we'd be here today, we'd have been absolutely overjoyed. A stiff seventh album - there's not many bands that come back from that. But then a lot of bands we came up with have split, reformed and split up again.

How does it feel to be on the cover of the NME at 38?
It feels great. I grew up with the NME, I still trust journalists - that's how old-fashioned I am. When we get a good review it still gives me as much happiness as a Number One single. I was on the cover with Tom from The Enemy, and it turned out he was one when we wrote Motorcycle Emptiness.

No worries about dignity?
I think there's different forms of dignity. Jack White gets away with doing an advert for Coca Cola - that for us, would be the ultimate form of indignity. We've never done an advert in out life except for a free on for the Wales Tourist Board for the rugby world cup. When it comes to getting on stage, we still feel young, but I think hitting 40 will cause some problems.

How do you keep it exciting for yourselves after 20 years?
We're doing a lot of old songs - even Motown Junk, which is about the first thing we wrote, and we still play it twice as fast as the record. It's so naive and full of idealism - almost stupidity if I'm being honest - bit sometimes it's important to remember how it feels to be young, otherwise you start seeing yourselves as "artistes" instead of being a rock band.

Is that what happened with Lifeblood?
Yes, definitely. We reinvented ourselves and we just ended up confusing our audience and confusing ourselves. There's still loads of the record I like, but we struggled to play it live, it was way too subtle. We're still a really physical band, we just can't shake that off. I'm terrible onstage for getting bored. I have been known to get my skipping rope and just skip through a song.

What song gets the best reaction? There are different fractions - it's like the Labour party used to be. The hardcore, anything from The Holy Bible and obviously they go apeshit. But If You Tolerate This is probably the biggest - it gets people genuinely involved. And when James does his little acoustic bit in the middle - Small Black Flowers That Grow In The Sky - people love that. You've got couple holding hands to lyrics like "Harvest your ovaries, dead mothers crawl", That is proper subversion.

And that's what it's still about for you?
Oh, yeah. Your Love Alone Is Not Enough is the biggest hit we've had for about ten years and it's pretty much a song about suicide. It' nice to know that couples are snogging in suburban homes to that.