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The Manics Tell Us About Their New Single With Sunflower Bean’s Julia Cumming - NME, 16th July 2021

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The Manics Tell Us About Their New Single With Sunflower Bean’s Julia Cumming
Publication: NME
Date: Friday 16th July 2021
Writer: Andrew Trendell

Nicky Wire explains the "melancholic but uplifting" new track 'The Secret He Had Missed', from the "glacial but high modernist" new LP 'The Ultra Vivid Lament

Following on from recent single ‘Orwellian‘, ‘The Secret He Had Missed’ is the latest taster from the Welsh rock veterans upcoming 14th album ‘The Ultra Vivid Lament’. One of two duets on the album – the other being ‘Blank Diary Entry’ featuring Mark Lanegan – the song is described as a “cousin” to the elegiac ‘The Girl Who Wanted To Be God’ from their classic fourth album ‘Everything Must Go’.

The song also comes with a cinematic ideo starring fellow Welsh star Aimee-Ffion Edwards of Peaky Blinders, Skins and The Detectorists fame, directed by longtime collaborator Kieran Evans.

“It’s probably the most Abba-influenced track on the album, the piano track especially,” Wire told NME. “It all came out really naturally. It’s what we would call pop in our world – that glacial kind of controlled energy that comes out in something melancholic, but uplifting.”

Lyrically, the song was inspired by “the inner dynamics between family relationships” – particularly that of the celebrated Welsh painters Augustus John and Gwen John, who grew to fame at the turn of the 20th Century.

“It’s about by how opposite their lives were,” said Wire. “Augustus John was bohemian, reckless, amazingly talented but some might say wasted his talent. Then Gwen John was much more about the interior world, living an almost nun-like existence in France with very little possessions. It just goes to show how different it can turn out between a brother and sister.”

Having previously spoken of his love for Sunflower Bean for the Manics’ 2018 NME Big Read for their last album ‘Resistance Is Futile‘, Wire explained the new collaboration came from “a real fanboy thing”.

“‘Twenty Two In Blue’ is just one of my favourite records of all time,” Wire told NME. “We were looking for something with no histrionics. We get really tired of singers just going up and down scales and showing off in the modern era. The genius of Abba is how the vocals are always so controlled, they’re never over the top.”

He continued: “Julia can do that easily anyway. She’s always really controlled and within herself. Once she got the Abba thing and the Billy Joel pianos she really enjoyed it and just breathed through it. She’s an unbelievably underrated talent.”

As for the sound of the rest of the record, Wire said that ‘The Ultra Vivid Lament’ would find a home with fans of the band’s more esoteric and experimental but “controlled” work.

“I think it’s got traces of ‘Lifeblood’ [2004] and ‘Futurology’ [2014], but I think it is a step into a new dimension, he explained. “It’s got the high modernism of ‘Futurology’ and the underplayed, glacial power of ‘Lifeblood’. It’s very much framed within Abba’s ‘Waterloo’ and Echo & The Bunnymen’s ‘Bring On The Dancing Horses’.

“I’m not going to pretend that we’re reinventing the wheel in terms of modernity, but it’s definitely framed within that era of time.”

The band will also be hitting the road in the months ahead, where Wire promised that the band would be playing “something different” to the usual set at their headline shows, offering “more deep cuts” alongside new material. “We can play every song off the album because we’ve rehearsed it so much,” he added. “I’m not saying that we’re going to play every song, but we’ve got the muscle memory.”

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