A commercial triumph that contains lingering moments of pensive, deeply personal lyricism...
As the clock struck midnight on September 13th 1998 thousands of Manic Street Preachers fans were queuing, some for up to 13 hours, outside Cardiff’s Virgin Megastores to be among the first to buy 'This is My Truth Tell Me Yours' and have their copy signed by the band, James Dean Bradfield, Nicky Wire and Sean Moore.
That seems to belong to a bygone era now that people can download or stream to their smart phones at the touch of a button. What has stayed the same, however, is the power of the album. Listening to it now the tracks barely sound dated.
Bassist Nicky Wire had found himself the sole lyricist for the first time following the disappearance of bandmate and best friend Richey Edwards, and had retreated to his South Wales home to write. Finding himself inspired by everything from Wales to the Hillsbourgh disaster and politics past and present, he was faced with the daunting task of following up the commercial and critical success of 'Everything Must Go' and he pulled it out of the bag in spectacular fashion.
James Dean Bradfield and Sean Moore then knocked the lyrics into tender, melodic, often intimate songs. Perhaps most importantly this fourth album proved beyond any doubt that the band would and should continue without Richey Edwards.
After some difficult sessions 'This is My Truth Tell Me Yours', the title taken from a speech by Welsh politician and founder of the NHS Aneurin Bevan, was released and headed straight to the top of the charts. Not content with this lead single 'If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next' gave the Manics their first number one single.
The fact that a song about the thousands who went to fight against fascism and Franco in the Spanish Civil War could top the charts after a summer filled with Boyzone, Spice Girls and B*Witched vindicated Manic Street Preachers taking their own path and never compromising.
It’s a fact the band are still rightly proud of with Wire saying at Glastobury 2014: “We’ve just sang a song together about fighting fascists in Spain, a number one record with deep routed politics. It can be done.”
In between politics there was time for more introverted songs like 'My Little Empire' and 'Born A Girl', a line James Dean Bradfield must have thought he would never have to sing to thousands on tour.
As Britpop ate its self in a haze of cocaine in Camden and Champagne at Number 10, newly occupied by Labour’s Tony Blair, it was left to the Manics to give the country a new soundtrack. They had always stood apart from Britpop and it had been obvious they would live through other phases once that era ended.
As an album it stands the test of time better than any of the pop bands that dominated that year. It’s personal while remaining relatable and political while remaining authentic. The new re-issue captures its weary urgency perfectly and some of its messages seem even more important now than they were 20 years ago.
Many fans had been worried this re-issue and celebration of a favourite would not happen as the Manics spent the majority of this year completing and touring their 13th studio album 'Resistance Is Futile'. Looking back is all very well, the Welsh group seem to suggest, but there must always be one eye on the future and what comes next.