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Teenage Rampage - Sounds, 26th January 1991

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Title: Teenage Rampage
Publication: Sounds
Date: Saturday 26th January 1991
Writer: John Robb
Photos: Steve Double

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Are Manic Street Preachers saliva-splattered scam-merchants or rabble-rousing revolutionaries. John Robb takes a deep breath and holds on tight as the fresh faced Welsh windbags vent their spleen on everything from the cluelessness of The Clash to the sorry state of David Gedge.

Sex, style and subversion have always been at the frontline of any white-heat rock that's counted. They were last spotted during punk rock, a form which has been completely drained of these components over the last ten years and gradually reduced to beer-tainted pub-rock workouts and fuzz-faced hippy laziness.

The Manic Street Preachers are arrogant, proud and dangerous. Blunt, articulate, intelligent, they understand the sheer thrill of a band blazing on a colourful combination of rock and revolution

Completely opinionated, the Manic Street Preachers are here to apologise for their existence like some mangy, flea-bitten muso dogs. They want to have a hit with their single, 'Motown Junk', put out a double album of 30 tracks and then top the charts with 'Repeat', a controversial five-line rant that strings up the monarchy. Anything less will be considered failure.

This is the only timescale that their high powered ambition can demand. This band are serious. They are dangerous. But even if they fail they will have a knock-on effect, Manic Street Preachers demand opinion.

The Manic Street Preachers are rock culture freaks with dog-eared volumes of R'N'R history, thumbed Orwells and related lit.

Those studied snarls are backed with a keen and dangerous intelligence and they've assimilated their influences into an early-'60s-cum-late-'70s-cum-early'90s timebomb.

The Preachers claim to be in the direct line of white-heat rock 'n' roll dissent, first articulated by Pete Townshend's Who and The Rolling Stones. That particular baton was dropped in the soggy '70s, then along came the excitement and energy of the Pistols and The Clash during punk's spectacular six-month existence. In the '80s, the men in grey suits seemed to have lost the plot for ever, before Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses created a massive new audience out of the fresh-faced E generation.

The Preachers see themselves as the obvious heirs to that legacy, but they are not a punk-rock band. Their terms of reference also include Guns 'N' Roses and Public Enemy - a heady mix of glam, pop, politics and huge album sales.

"You can only effect change if you are massive," spits guitarist Richey Edwards, huddled in the band's Transit van which is parked behind Heavenly Records' scam-stained nerve centre. "I just can't see any future in being a small scale band in Britain. There's just no point."

"We hate going round in Transit vans. We want more than this," they scream, frustrated yet optimistic about their assault on the public unconsciousness.

Currently saddled with Clash comparisons, the Manic Street Preachers certainly hint at Strummer & Co's patent punk rock melody rush, but that's just one part of the tradition that this band of rock history junkies are pulling off.

"The only band that really means anything to us is Public Enemy. The Clash are as old to us as The Who - seeing Joe play with The Pogues is really obscene, it's just like the Stones comeback tour. Mick Jones and BAD are even worse."

The Preachers hope to get Public Enemy to produce them, but make it clear they want to explore their own culture rather than fake their way through anyone else's. This band definitely hopes to die before it gets old. Yeah, but what're you gonna be doing when old age sneaks its creepy way up on you?

"We certainly won't be doing this!" they cry,adamantly laying down the line. "Anything else will do - we'll probably be complete cabbages!"

Bands have made ludicrous claims before, but the Preachers claim that their one-year battle plan is for real.

"We're not just aiming to fill Brighton Zap Club, like Lush or something, that's useless. We want to be the biggest rock 'n' roll band in the world."

These are the kinds of lofty ambitions that should drive every band that feels it has something to offer. At last someone is speaking some (non)sense. Death to pub rock!

Formed about three years ago in Blackwood, a dead end Welsh backwater where booze seems to be the only means of escape (Gwent currently has the highest alcohol poisoned population in the UK).

They spend a frustrating mid-'80s pummelling away in a vacuum - a vacuum that they still exist in today.

Their first release was a limited-edition (300) seven-inch of 'Suicide Alley' which was mailed out to various bands for support slots and the press for paragraph action. Neither parties were forthcoming.

Last year, they spat out another single, 'New Art Riot', on Damaged Goods. It's still available and is the first installment in the band's unpinned grenade attack.

"The '80s were really crap. Before we heard Public Enemy we had to go back to find musical inspiration. I mean the fact that they had to resurrect a band like The Velvet Underground is so pathetic...Simple Minds, Echo And The Bunnymen, those were the bands of those times. and The Wedding Present! Who would ever want to look like David Gedge? It was the most horrid time ever," sneers Nick Jones, huddled inside an oversized blue padded anorak. This tall, fleshless bone pile is the pass playing frame personified - built to leap around onstage and hulk out the sort of bass shapes that'77 imprinted on the consciousness. Nick seems to detest every band on the scene, staring desolately at the floor, his chiselled cheekbones built for prime photograph action.

Sitting next to him in the gear-strewn van is guitarist Richey Edwards. His hair is soaped and teased into black spiked disarray and his feverish , intelligent eyes burn as he lays out the band's world dom plan.

Like Nick, Richey wears white spray-painted clothes - wardrobes with attitude. These are the band's self-styled political wing: they want to change and they're still brilliantly naive enough to believe in the catalytic power of r'n'r.

"We want to destroy all the subcultures that have been around for so long - like gothic anarcho, that Wonder Stuff/Stourbridge scene, Carter. It's so terrible, so unclean...," he intones in his quiet Welsh lilt that's offset by a heavy duty cough.

The rest of the band nod in agreement with their 'political wing'. The music is looked after by James Dean Bradfield, the guitar slashing vocalist, whose voice is strong enough to ride roughshod over the rushed backing and melodic thrills. James looks relatively straight, with his clean cut crop, but his gob's also prone to go into overdrive.

Meanwhile, drummer Sean Moore hides beneath his mop. He's the band's quietest member, chipping in occasionally but spending most of the interview collecting 20 pence pieces for the parking metre.

"We are immersed in rock culture and political culture," states Jones. "We don't want to make the mistake of getting too wrapped up in rock music. People make too much of a thing about music - like everyone goes on about Terry Bickers and John Squire being guitar heroes but Richey can play those solos behind his back and jump up and down. It's piss easy, these people are not rock gods."

"People say why don't you try and write a love song, you should reflect people's feelings," says Richey. "But everyone I know has been pissed off at least once and we reflect those feelings."

One biog danger with the Manic Street's game is that once the lid's blown off, the energy will collapse inwards - like the despicable Oi bullshit that all too inevitably followed on from punk rock.

"When you're young." opines Nick, "you don't feel like that at all, you just feel really pissed off. We don't want to talk about old bands, we just want to appeal to those people - the young audience. Like the kids at Flowered Up gigs who said they were really into what we're doing because they had never seen anything like that before. a band jumping up and down and stuff."

"They don't want to know about the past," joins Richey. "They know that there's something happening in their lifetimes that they want to be a part of. To me one of the worst things you can get is getting too wrapped up in a political manifesto like New Model Army. You just don't get young kids interested in it, the singer comes over just like a teacher. We're not into that kind of dogma at all."

And what do you stand for?

"Nothing. We're completely into negativity," snarls Nick.

"We're nihilistic...It's a really positive thing!" finishes Richey. "We want to destroy the hierarchy in this country, the monarchy, the House Of Lords Of Lords, homophobia, racism."

These are lofty ambitions for a showbiz troupe, but fine aims for any man. Of course, old tossers like me know that this is impossible - that we are all powerless freaks sat on the sidelines watching with rising panic as the world gets stuck into World War III, with greed and unchecked egos running rampant.

No one seems to have an opinion on anything - the '90s are turning into the '80s, all apathy, no rocking of the boat. Maybe the Manic Street Preachers have twigged something, maybe they are pissing in the wind, maybe they are using outmoded reference points, but maybe - just maybe - they are right.

"You've got to reach out on a massive level," burns Richey. "Once we've done that we'll fade away. We want to make ourselves obsolete as fast as possible. It's no good just inspiring groups. People always go on about the Stones inspiring the Paris riots in '68 but they carried on...They're so obscene."

What can you achieve Nick?

"We can put a song out like 'Repeat'. It's like, five lines repeated over and over and if you're in a position of power it will go straight to number one, I think it would cause a lot of people problems just because of the nature of the lyrics."

The aforementioned 'Repeat'. the live blowtorch that ends the Preachers' set, spits through lines like 'Death camp place, Royal Khmer Rouge" before leaving no one in any doubt with its "F**k queen and country" snarl up. Can't really see it on Top Of The Pops, though.

But that's the least of the problem. Recognising the terrifying cultural poverty that's inherent in the UK. they shake their dishevelled mops.

"Cheap hedonism," says Nick. "It's always been exploited all the time, every government must be happy with feeding people alcohol and drugs...It's like, I hate society so I'm going to be bombed out of my skull."

"It's really frustrating - people can't articulate their anger, they just attack each other. If they ran down the high street and smashed up Tescos or the job centre that would be perfect. I'm not snobbish about these people, these are my friends, the people that I hang around with when I'm back home."

The Manic Street Preachers have higher hopes for their generation: "The revolutionary class is every kid that's pissed off. You're just not going to get old people involved, they're not going to be into it at all, they've got too much to lose, they've got kids. When you've got a baby to feed, you can't be expected to do too much. Young people, though, have got no fear. They don't care what happens to them, like at football matches, when you've got no fear you can do anything."

Live, the Manic Street Preachers are a spectacle - not for them the current 'normal bloke' shuffle. The Manic Street Preachers want to put the sex back into politics.

"When we play everyone knows what we are pissed off. You know that, you can feel it," says Nick. "But we don't want to reflect that by looking really grey. We put on stacks of eye liner, spike out hair, spray our clothes..."

Do you think there's a glamour to what you are doing?

"We hope so. That's what we want to do, mix the two. We want to be the perfect mix between politics and beauty...The Bridewell Taxis, the Paris Angels - it's just so obscene that fat people are allowed in bands," spits and incredulous Nick. "It's like I saw The Charlatans on the TV and their audiences had moustaches!"

He shakes his head in complete disbelief.

The Manic Street Preachers have set themselves up and by aiming high they are perfect for attack. Their attitude will not win them many friends - they relate a recent incident when a band off the pop/punk scene asked them outside to sort out some slagging the Preachers had been ladling out in the press.

They seem genuinely disgusted by everything, but reckon that there is a potential audience for their seething anger. They offer no solutions, but simply mirror the turmoil that always seethes just under the surface of our laughable, mouldy old country.

Yeah, it's been said before. It's been sang about, spat out, buttoned under a sharp suit or correlated through F**k off camera poses. It's collapsed into seething hatred and boring negativity of Oi or stoned laziness of the late '60s hippies getting it together.

The Manic Streets probably won't change anything, but their attitude is brilliant. No group has sounded this pissed off, this young, this burning on high octane for a good stretch of time.

It's important that people don't see us as dogmatic band," says Richey. "We're just like them. We can't write a thesis on reviving the world's economy like bands like The Redskins have. We are just a product of these times."

Rock fans may sneer at the Manic Street Preachers as 'hype', a bunch of mouthy f**kers attempting to rock the boat, but time will tell.

"The only culture we've ever had is rock 'n' roll - white English rock bands. That's where we come from, we've seen all that in the past. There's nowhere left to go...We're going to be the last rock 'n' roll."

Or at least until the next lippy upstarts get their chance!