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Rock On, The Manics Who Broke The Mould - South Wales Argus, 25th October 1999

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Title: Rock On, The Manics Who Broke The Mould
Publication: South Wales Argus
Date: Monday 25th October 1999


By the early 1990s, the sump of mediocrity from which rock music drew what it was pleased to call its inspiration seemed virtually bottomless.

Thudding sexual rhythms, inane and in many cases obscene lyrics, outright idiocy and - the very least of its sins - tunelessness, symptomised a scene so dire as to make many an old rocker cry.

And then along came the Manic Street Preachers, a band from Blackwood which expressed real emotions in a comprehensible manner.

The very first people to take an interest in rock'n' roll were 60 years of age as the century drew to a close, sharing a vintage with many of the star performers of the century such as surviving members of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

For many such fans the punk wave of the mid-1970s which abandoned any aspirations towards music in favour of a crashing barrage of sound often accompanied by swearing and spitting, crossed some sort of musical line in the sand beyond which they did not care to venture.

When they burst onto the scene, not only did the Manic Street Preachers restore some of the missing comprehensibility, there was also the fact that they were local.

The oldest generation of rockers will tell you that Newport earned a place in the history of rock'n' roll in the years immediately after the war when American music, which incorporated the beginnings of rock, was smuggled out of the docks to be played and replayed by 'hip, sters', whose most treasured possessions they became.

While this is no doubt true, the establishment of TJ's club is a more tangible starting-point. Informal, to say the very least, the club specialised in putting on local bands whose modest demands for remuneration did not overtax the accountant. By the early Nineties a crop of promising bands, foremost among which was the Manic Street Preachers, was beginning to strum its way into the fore front of the public consciousness. It wasn't perfect, and by the standards of what had gone before many Would have considered it barely adequate, but in the land of the blind the one eyed man is king.

By whatever force that govern such things the reputation of the Manic Street Preachers grew. In February, 1995, the band's songwriter, Richey Edwards, who had a history of depression, went missing, but even the premature removal of such a talent failed to break the band. With an almost industrial application to their craft, the remaining Manics carved themselves out the sort of reputation which, since the days of the Rolling Stones, has rarely settled on the shoulders of British performers.

By 1999 a lot of old rockers might have been bewildered by the names of some of the Welsh groups - Catatonia, Super Furry Animals, Stereophonics etc. - cast broadly in the Manics mould, but nobody could be in any doubt that Gwent now had a permanent place in the story of 20th-century popular music.