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The Greatest Lyricists Of All Time - NME, 8th September 2012

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Title: The Greatest Lyricists Of All Time
Publication: NME
Date: Saturday 8th September 2012
Writer: Liam Cash


One good line can catch your heart, stick in your mind, change your life. Some people, though, manage a lot more than just one - our writers pick their favourite masters of words.

Nearly 18 years on from his disappearance, his lyrics remain as powerful as ever. The genius of James Dean Bradfield is that he managed to twist his friend's longest, most complex thoughts into songs; the genius of Richey James Edwards is that they are no less compelling as just words written down on paper.

His earliest, collaborative lyrics with Nicky Wire are brash, naive and brilliant, with attention-grabbing mini-manifestos in every line ("I laughed when Lennon got shot"; "We're a mess of eyeliner and spraypaint/DIY destruction Chanel chic"). The more introspective, personal songs on 'Gold Against The Soul' gave some indication of where he was headed, but the leap to what Richey did on 'The Holy Bible' - an album on which Wire figures his friend contributed "about 80 per cent" of the lyrics - is simply astonishing, and way, way beyond the confines of what anyone has done before or since in music.

'Archives Of Pain' rages against the glorification of serial killers in the modern world the graphic 'Yes' ("He's a boy/You want a girl so tear of off his cock/Tie his hair in bunches, fuck him, call him Rita if you want") is Richey comparing his own life to that of a prostitute, or as he himself put it: "Prostitution of the self. The majority of your time is spent doing something you hate to get something you don't need. Everyone has a price to buy themselves out of freedom. Say yes to everything."'Mausoleum' and The Intense Bumming Of Evil' present complex thoughts - and a morbid fascination with-the idea of the Holocaust. 'Die In The Summertime' and especially '4st 7lb' are open, honest, tender, frightening accounts of depression and anorexia "Self-worth scatters, self-esteem's a bore /I long since moved to a higher plateau/This discipline's so rare so please applaud/Just look at the fat scum who pamper me so..."

The thing about the 'The Holy Bible' as a collective piece of work is it's just so open, so honest; every line slaved over, littered with references for listeners to investigate. It's an oft-repeated argument in favour of the Manics, but there is no other band who encouraged teenagers to find out more about Abraham Zapruder, or Miklos Horthy, or Kevin Carter, or dozens of others. The band left it until 2009 to put out 'Journal For Plague Lovers', an album comprised entirely of lyrics left behind by Richey, offering the hardcore Jackie Collins Existential Question Time', 'Virginia State Epileptic Colony... instantly, you want to decipher their meaning Between eight and 10 complete lyrics did not make the cut, deemed "too impossible" by Nicky Wire in NME. Wine also said that one day they will probably all come out in the form of a book Long after his disappearance, Richey Edwards will still continue to captivate us, solely through his words. As Wire told us: "He wasn't looking for an Ivor Novello, was he, the boy. He was looking fora Pulitzer Prize."