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Public Enemy?, Magic!, March 2001

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Title: Public Enemy?
Publication: Magic!
Date: March 2001
Writer: Christophe Basterra

As much adulated in Britain as hated in France, the Manic Street Preachers are nonetheless one of the most exciting and intelligent formations of recent years. Better, since 96 and the release of Everything Must Go , the course of the Welsh group - become trio since the mysterious disappearance of Richey Edwards - near perfection. The latest proof, the new album Know Your Enemy , which owes as much to the power of the Clash, the darkness of Joy Division as the lightness of the Beach Boys, even pays the luxury of a disco incursion. It would finally be time for music lovers in France to drop their weapons...

The idea might have seemed absurd. It would have mostly frightened most of the current groups. Sincerely: who today, apart from the Manic Street Preachers, could have decided to make a comeback on the scene by becoming the first Western band to play in Havana since Fidel Castro's takeover? "While the new album was almost finished, we made it listen to a friend," says on the other end singer-guitarist James Dean Bradfield, flushed to Dublin in the middle of the promotion phase-marathon in Great Britain. Brittany, where the release of Know Your Enemy is obviously a major musical event. "It was he who pointed out to us that there were three references to Cuba on the record. It was an accident, it was not really conscious, the proof, we did not even realize it! Nick then suggested the idea of ​​the concert in Cuba. And it was once we realized that it was going to happen that we said to ourselves: But in what trouble we are stuffed again... (Laughter.) Often, the most spontaneous ideas can to prove the best. It is still more interesting than to return the fist taut giving a concert at Wembley Arena. Of course, we do not really know where we will set foot...But, at the same time, if this concert is a disaster, it will be an interesting disaster".

The Manic Street Preachers have never done things like others. At home, it sounds like second nature. When they take their first steps, in the late 80s, they only boast the merits of rock and guitars, while everyone smiles stupidly to the sounds of acid house. When mysteriously Richey Edwards, theoretician and emblematic figure of the group, disappears in February 95, the other three hesitated a long time before deciding to pursue the adventure, more united than ever. They even come back with their most inspired album, a Everything Must Go in the form of a manifesto, where the rage of the beginnings was channeled, where the group has finally dared to assume the light of day all its influences - that we already knew eclectic, Public Enemy to ... Guns'N'Roses, through Burt Bacharach, whose Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head was subtly taken from the compilation Help - the time of a record that looks like a classic. And who will turn the ugly Welsh duck into a majestic swan. A metamorphosis confirmed two years later by a This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours certainly more austere, but the melodic strength intact. An opinion that James Dean Bradfield would tend today to moderate. "I like the record, but I think we were a little autopilot... We did not really question. It was surging on the wave of success and there was perhaps a tendency to apply recipes. It's an entirely different attitude that drove the trio to record Know Your Enemy . After three years of absence, just interrupted by a puny single with the message rather clear ( Masses Against The Classes ) which foreshadowed a future album for the less vehement, he had decided to rebuild its foundations. "For the first time, before entering the studio, I really felt anxious. Today, according to modern criteria, we are an old group. For people, we are no longer representing the future. So, we had to be violent . This is why we have voluntarily changed our approach. We decided to just repeat the tracks before recording them. Most were not even finished... " Condemned to work in constant balance, the trio also opted for the change of scenery. Farewell the Castle of the Red, located in the countryside of Normandy and host of the last two recordings, hello the sun of Spain. "And we were ready to go even further! To pass the desire to our management and the people of our label to come to visit us. We wanted to have complete freedom... " A freedom that has obviously benefited the trio. Because Know Your Enemy is a prodigious and varied record, oscillating between invigorating punk energy, disarmingly relevant arrangements - Ocean Spray trumpet , So Why So Sad choruses, terribly effective melodies, not to mention a disco incursion , beautifully titled Miss Europa Disco Dancer . "The very first single I bought is My Old Piano from Diana Ross. I've always liked that kind of stuff, but maybe we did not have the money to try that before ... To get back to the eclectic side, I've never really understood a band like the Ramones who throughout his career made it a point of honor to ring the same way, even went so far as to dress identically. After recording five songs rather edgy, we needed to move on... "This need, the group felt so much that he let go trying things for the least amazing. And successful. In any case, it is well known, who does not try anything has nothing. "We had these three songs, Dead Martyrs , The Convalescent and Freedom Of Speech Will not Feed My Children which were 80% complete. We had arrived at a moment in the recording where we did not know where to turn, we had already completed twenty-six pieces... So, we thought that it could be interesting to leave these titles in the hands of a person of confidence, so that he gives his interpretation, so that it frees us a little. We chose David Holmes because he had already remixed two of our songs, we loved his records. It was really cool to work this way...Cooler than when I went to listen to the result, he slipped me at the time of Freedom...: Hey, Kevin Shields came to play on this title! News like that I want to have it every day..."

On March 6th, the Manic Street Preachers made in Great Britain not one, but two singles in warning signs of this long awaited sixth album. A choice that allowed them to perform the same two songs - Found That Soul and So Why So Sad - on the legendary show Top Of The Pops , a rare privilege that only the Beatles and Jam had seen until then grant. "I know some people will think it's a marketing move...or a disguised tribute to Guns'N'Roses. While it's just a decision dictated to reason. We quickly realized that only one extract of the album could not account for the diversity of Know Your Enemy. We wanted people to understand right away that the record was not one dimensional, as it was This Is My Truth..." And if, from his first radio plays, the stubborn and very Beach Boys So Why So Sad divided into two camps the bitter fans of the group, James Dean Bradfield does not worry more than that. "I remember If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next had caused a public outcry. Everyone thought this song was bad... You can not worry about this stuff... Otherwise, you spend your time analyzing everything. If a group exists by its audience, it should not make its artistic decisions for its audience. The only thing that really bores me is that I feel like a band like ours does not have the right to record a single like So Why So Sad. If Mercury Rev came back with a song like this, everyone would fall in love with the incredible genius he's shown. " Yet, the genius of the Manic Street Preachers is well established: we do not sign pieces of the caliber of Motorcycle Emptiness , La Tristesse Durerra (Scream To A Sigh) , A Design For Life or The Everlasting by chance. To wonder if the merry-go-lucky people who continue to mock this amazing group - often more adventurous than Blur, certainly better songwriter than Oasis, as open-minded as Primal Scream and melodic as Pulp - have ever deigned to listen to songs The trio... "The two countries where we have failed so far are the United States and France. But I do not really know why ... though. Maybe I have an explanation for you: if one day you finally realize that we are not English but Welsh, you may start to listen to our albums ... "