Just when you thought it was safe to put on your stretch denims, the Manic Street Preachers have returned! Richey James bends Mick Wall's ear about the Manic's new EP, their headlining spot at Glastonbury, life and the universe...
Awright, wake up at the back now and get ready to receive the good word. Everybody's favourite rant an' rollers, the Manic Street Preachers, are back to taunt us this month with the release of a shirt-lifting four-track EP, masquerading as a double A-side single.
Of the four tracks, only a live version of 'New Art Riot', one of the numbers recorded at the band's rib-squeezing performance at London's Brixton Academy last January, is not brand new.
The double A-side tracks - 'P.C.P.' and 'Faster' - are certainly a step on from the gleefully polished, almost mainstream Rock tones of last year's 'Gold Against The Soul' album. Ditto the final track, a full-on, under-two-minutes Punk Thrasher entitled 'Sculpture Of Man'.
If songs like last year's hit single, 'From Despair To Where', was the Manics at their most preternaturally commercial, 'P.C.P.' and 'Faster' appear to herald a return to the rootsy Garage Goth of the band's original, more Punk-inflected direction.
A heart-reaction to the chart-reaction, perhaps?
"No," says Richey James, sprawled out on the bed in his hotel room in London. "Nothing so deliberate or so vague."
"It's just what's next, that's all. The idea that a band finds a sound that proves successful and sticks to it, milking it for all it's worth album after album is so old fashioned. Our aim has always been to release the records that toy didn't expect to hear from us, not the ones toy did."
Well they've certainly achieved that with this one. 'P.C.P.' is a brutal depiction of a near-future world where spurious concept of 'political correctness' has become the governing philosophy of a population too doped out on media-splat to give a shit anymore.
The lyrics retch out at you: 'Teacher starve your child/PC approved/As long as the right words are used/Systemised atrocity ignored/As long as bi-lingual signs on view...'
"In principle, I think the idea of PC is actually OK," muses Richey. "But where it might be good at qualifying the big things - racism is bad, prejudice of any kind is despicable , and so on on - the so called minorities it's supposed to protect end up being victimised by these restraints to the point where they have no identity left at all."
"Not being able to say exactly what you mean, even if it's hurtful to someone else's feelings, is an important part of free speech. Without it, you're not protecting anything, you're censoring it! And that's a whole different thing to think about."
End of lecture. Back to the bitching. I ask what the other A-side, 'Faster', purports to be about. Richey, who co-writes all the Manics' lyrics with bassist Nicky Wire, curls his lip and says, "It's about the sort of people who like to take their frustrations out on other people, particularly those who can't defend themselves."
Richey recounts the story of how he was in a plush London restaurant recently with one of the top-nobs from his record company when the subject matter of 'Faster' came back-achingly to life in front of his dark brown eyes.
"Oh God it was pathetic. He caused a really big scene with the waiters just because his fucking wine wasn't chilled enough or something. It put me off my food..."
Once again, the lyrics bit back: 'If you stand up like a nail/Then you will be knocked down/I've been too honest with myself/I should have lied like everybody else...'
To complement the release of the EP, the Manics will be appearing live in Britain this month, headlining the Friday night bill of the Glastonbury Festival on June 24.
"I'm looking forward to it, but it's not like we'll be hanging around afterwards chatting to the hippies over their camp fires," Richey sniffs in his curiously classless Welsh accent. "We'll be straight in and straight out again."
Richey's head, he says, is still full of memories of the band's special appearance on May 28 at the Anti-Nazi League's 'Carnival Against The Nazis' festival in Brockwell Park, London. Other bands appearing on the bill that day included The Levellers, Credit To The Nation and Urban Species.
A great day out for an undoubtedly righteous cause, Richey dismisses the idea that such events are little more than preaching to the converted by reminding me that he, at least, took the threat of a resurgence in fascism seriously enough to have majored in the subject when he spent six years studying for his degree in Political Science.
"It's very important that people like us stand up and be counted, I think, not just as a gesture but as a platform with which to bring these issues up and put them under the microscope. If us doing a concert like that helps persuade Manics fans that fascism is a bad thing, then I think that we've done all we can do."
the third Manics album, still untitled but scheduled for an autumn release, is still being tinkered with, though Richey admits that, "most of the hard work's already been done".
Other than that, he's predictably tight-lipped on the subject of the band's long-term future. He lets slip that there will be at least one more new Manics single released, probably this summer, before they even consider "throwing the album to the wolves".
All he'll say is, "It's not going to be one of those mega-expensive follow-up-to-the-big-hit jobs you usually hey from a band in out position."
"The record company originally asked us if we wanted to go to Barbados to make the album and we said, 'Fuck off, no way, that's not us!'"
They ended up recording the album at home in a small studio in Cardiff.
"It was great,we got to go home at the end of every day and just take things normally, instead of making a big deal about things. We save the big deals for the music..."