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Raging Against The Machine - The Western Mail, 17th September 2010

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ARTICLES:2010



Title: Raging Against The Machine
Publication: The Western Mail
Date: Friday 17th September 2010
Writer: Karen Price



WesternMail170910-1.jpg



Many bands releasing a 10th album no doubt feel they can rest on their laurels.

After all, they've built up their fanbase, back catalogue and bank balances in the process.

But the Manic Street Preachers aren't like most bands. Almost 20 years after the release of their debut, Generation Terrorists, the intense Welsh rockers have invested as much energy - if not more so - into their latest offering.

In fact, with their trademark mix of heady tunes and raging melancholia, many critics are already hailing Postcards From A Young Man as their best yet.

"When you look at most bands, by the time they get to their 10th album, people may still come to the shows, but everyone knows that the albums have been rubbish for years," says the Manics' outspoken bassist Nicky Wire. "Or you're an artist like Patti Smith or Leonard Cohen and everyone goes to the Royal Festival Hall to see you and thinks it's marvellous. But noone listens to your new record. Well, that's not good enough for us.

"From the moment we started, we wanted the biggest number of people to hear what we had to say.We want to hear these records on the radio.

"Everyone is talking about the death of the rock business. I don't know, but if it is, then this is a last shot of mass communication."

Postcards From A Young Man comes after the acclaimed Journal For Plague Lovers, a record of steely intent and corrosive power on which every lyric was taken from the final folder of work left by former member Richey Edwards just before his disappearance in 1995.

That album in turn was a stark and startling follow-up to 2007's triumphantly resurgent Send Away The Tigers, an album that introduced the band to new countries, new audiences, new possibilities. Before those are a canon of albums, singles, shows, gestures, interviews, wisecracks, manifestos and the occasional outfit that have made the Manics the most interesting, intense and inspirational band of their generation.

On Postcards From A Young Man, they have lost none of their raging melancholia within the soaring tunes.

As frontman James Dean Bradfield says: "We've always had it. If you look at the lyric to Motorcycle Emptiness, it could be sung in some cold Teutonic way.

"But we've never been that kind of band. We want that sense of uplift somehow. We still feel there's an eloquence in screaming, that these feelings can make you feel good, they can empower you."

Wire adds: "Evelyn Waugh said you only ever write two great novels and you end up repeating them.

"There are two versions of this band maybe. There's the journal and Bible version and then there's this version.

"That over the top hysterical dignity, that flash of intelligence.

There's something glorious in celebrating what we really are. Our peers are gone. It's up to us."

The 12-track album was recorded at the band's studio in Cardiff. The title track is a hymn about the passing of time and gives a nod to Queen.

"I've sometimes had to keep quiet about my love of Queen, but this is me letting it show," admits Bradfield.

"It's wanting to let your guard down and show another side. We've never been angry in amacho way. Yes, we're from the Valleys. We love our sport and trade unionism. But we've always had another side.

"Nicky and Richey always loved their make-up and their Kylie.

"Nick used to have this pink sign in his bedroom that said 'love' and a funny, fluffy duvet. We're at our best when we're 50% dumb and 50% lofty pretension."

The track gets its name from the postcards Wire collected as a young man. He says: "I've kept all the postcards that Sean, James, Richey and my mum sent me when I was at uni.

"We were prolific communicators.

Every time you got the post there would be a bundle in there with a collage or a poster."

While Bradfield may reveal his secret passion for Queen, Wire reveals his obsession with a certain boy band which he feels comes through on the track Golden Platitudes.

"I was obsessed with the chord sequence of Back For Good by Take That. I threw the kitchen sink at it - choirs, orchestras," he says of the new song.

The Manics still believe in music's power and Bradfield says negative comments about the industry spur him on.

"It would never occur to me to comment on the economics of the art world or of publishing," he says.

"I wouldn't lecture someone who thatches roofs about their industry. And yet every news programme and business correspondent is always giving his expert opinion on the music business and how it's finished.

"It drives you to write. This faint notion that you're defending the art."