Silence Of The Glams? Not bleedin' likely. MANIC STREET PREACHERS have fulfilled their Clash wannabe phase by signing to Columbia — now it's Guns N' Roses' career plan they're photocopying. ANDREW 'Wrong 'Em Boyo' COLLINS infiltrates The Man's leafy country studio for an audience with The Band That Hate The World...
Read my lips. YOU- LOVE - THEM. You love them. You knowthat The Manic Street Preachers are the only model pop group in 1991. They may not be the Anti-Christ, they may not even be Anarchists, but they wannabe, oh yes! And if you don't want, you don't get.
The first six letters in The Manic Street Preachers spell 'THE MAN'. Discuss. They're on fire; they're on heat; they're on a highway to hell, and, erm, they're on Sony Records.
And its at this point that we delightedly reveal that being signed to a major hasn't changed the Manics one bit. Except it has. it has changed them so much. everyone who hates their guts is going to have to re-think an entirely new set of reasons to hate their guts.
The scene: Ripley. Bang in the middle of Surrey's Rockbroker Belt where Collins. Clapton, Harrison, all have a des res, and the village green has a preservation society. A long line of schoolboys in regulation mustard rugby shirts trot past on a bromide-replacement cross-country run. Hup hup hup. An old lady in quilted bodywarmer and headscarf walks the regulation fat black Labrador. On the green. there stands an unruly bonfire the size of a two-storey house, soon to be razed under strict guidance from the Trumpton fire brigade, no doubt.
And Ripley's local residents will be chuffed to find not one but four stuffed insurrectionists atop their funeral pyre this chilly Monday afternoon, all badly-painted faces and cast-off blouses. It's Richey. James, Nicky and Sean, the Manic Street Preachers, ready to burn out rather than fade away, and posing—since posing's what they do best— as November My Guys.
The Manics are here, breathing a little life into RIPley, because they're recording their debut (double gatefold) album in a quaint, secluded, ivy-veined cottage studio wherein Procol Harum and The Sabs once wrestled the muse. When it finally goes up (23 weeks in the making, they predict) expect fireworks. On his way down from the bonfire, Richey slashes his finger on some glass in an old window frame and lets it bleed. Big deal. We've all seen his blood before. He cuts himself for the cameras every week now, doesn't he? Doesn't he?
A year ago. you'd never heard of them. Today you're sick of hearing about them. 1991 might have been the year of Carter, Blur, Oceanic, Bryan Adams and Right Said Fred, but what got namechecked the most in other people's interviews? None of the above.
If nothing else, the Manic Street Preachers have carved a name for themselves. And whatever you think of their music (vacuous retro shite). whatever you think of their appearance (saddo New York Dolls groupie chic), whatever you think of their manifesto (stencilled shirts speak louder than words), at least you think. Rather than dismiss them as part of any lumpen, press-fuelled genre, or judge them next to like-minded contemporaries, you have to damn them as the Manic Street Preachers End of story.
YOU — NEED— THEM.
Never mind the facile Clash lineage. this driven, despicable, devil-may-care, dyed-in-the-wool. deathcult four-piece are unique. I mean actually yoo-neek. Too young (21) to remember Johnny Rotten ruffling Noel Edmonds on Juke Box Jury (the Last Days), the Manics nonetheless resuscitate so many forgotten ground rules from that golden era now so finally cauterised by Channel 4. Spunk. Rebellion. A glorious. glamorous confusion. Understanding the media. Oh, signing to a major label.
The obvious difference between them and the Sex Pistols. is that they haven't been assembled. That the Manics' unlikely androgynous front. backup and asides have 'caught is no sinister Svengalian coup. That doesn't happen. we're too clever, you're too clever. Consider: Steven Wells (who wrote their debut On piece last year) never managed to sell anyone Revolting Cocks or Lard; Philip Hall (their PR) also represents The Southernaires and Flood (no front covers there): and Columbia Records have yet to successfully 'get' Fishbone or The Real People into the Top 40. QED, the Manics are not hype. If you still cannot bring yourself to look them in the eye. don't whisper 'Manufactured' behind their back.
"People say we're hyped, but everything we've done is by overselves!" wails flame-haired bassist Nicky.
"And nobody levels that accusation at a band like the Ned's. whose manager's brother is in The Wonder Stuff, who knows everybody in the biz— that's easy to be a band like that!" stamps Richey. "Plus. the very fact that we come from Wales everybody's first opinion is that we're pricks. Alarm copyists. wankers. country bumpkins ..."
No, the Manics do not come from a very useful place, rock 'n' roll-wise. Blackwood. situated off the A472 between Ystrad Mynach and Newbridge, South Wales. is not quite the forgotten, boarded-up wasteland the band would have us all believe. I know,l drove through it for research at the weekend. and counted the building societies. Nestling on the edge of the Sirhowy Valley, the view, if not the outlook. is lovely, and the air is tantalisingly clean. But this ain't rock roll — this is a hillside!
"People have this Dylan Thomas idea of Wales. that it's all a big, happy, smiling place with people going to work in the morning (completely untrue. no one has this idea). but it is like a museum, everything is closed, it's like a long walk down a graveyard."
Now that's how outsiders view Wales, which is why the Manic& fervent disassocation must irk so many expatriate Welsh living in England ...
You don't get hiraeth then? (Peculiarly Welsh sense of homesickness.)
"I do sometimes," whispers Nicky. "People here have no concept of being totally bored!" stresses Richey, "they just don't understand what it's like to have nothing to do at all!"
We could go on about Wales all day, suffice to say the Manics' geographical heritage has been no magic springboard into the London-centric-music-biz-spotlight. Burton re-learnt his accent, Ruth Madoc has to parody hers. Kinnock must put up with a column by A N Wilson in London's Evening Standard recently headlined 'Why We Hate The Welsh'.
Into the valley? Not us, guv.
In their quest to kick global ass, the Manic Street Preachers have gone Heavy Metal. ("The Hanoi Rocks legacy is so massive where we come from.") Their new single 'Repeat/Love's Sweet Exile' - pumped up buy producer Steve Brown, responsible for The Cult's 'She Sells Sanctuary' and Wham's 'Fantastic' - will lay waste all those retro-punk theses for good.
Singer James and drummer Sean (who comprise the Manics' musical engine room) play me two new tracks from the untitled LP. I am impressed by them in a sort of primal, unquestioning LET'S ROCK kind of way, but, I have to ask, what's the difference between this and the corporate feather-brained Macho Metal of, say, AC/DC?
James, champion fidget, wheels past on his studio swivel chair, informing me as he goes that it's not just the MUSIC they play that counts, but the WORDS they write, the PICTURES they stick on the sleeves, hell the CLOTHES they wear, the MAKE-UP they use, the whole multi-media gestalt. They want their debut to be an EVENT. A bit like that well-known recent EVENT 'Use You Illusion' by the Anti-Chapterhouse, as we call them, GUNS 'N' FUCKING ROSES!
Yes, Axl and co are currently the Manic Street Preachers' heroes, role models even. This, in a year when every single other tipped band owes their life to a)The Wonder Stuff; b)Neil Young; or c) My Bloody Valentine. Refreshing in its very perversity, this unanimous debt means that the interview I conduct with Richey and Nicky is illuminated only by the flickering recording lights of 'Use Your Illusion' on a ghetto blaster. Poetic.
Richey and Nicky comprise the Manics' musical TV lounge, I guess. While the, ahem, other two lay down tracks in the studio, these two painted wasters write lyrics, empty Smirnoff bottles for use as vases and scour the music press with a morbid fascination.
They also decorate the walls in true Joe Orton cut-up style. Thus, Sid Vicious, Axl Rose, Brigitte Bardot, some Cherokee Indians, Flavor Flav and Edward Munch characters stare each other out above our heads as we talk. Anything the Manics can do, icons do better. All bands should record their double albums like this. Fortunately, only this one does.
We talk about the mechanics of hate, ergo the mechanics of the Manics.
N:"We're always gonna be petty, horrible people. Sometimes I think we're the worst people in the world! We get the press every week, and just when we think we're becoming stable and loving persons, we'll see a Carter advert, and underneath it goes 'Don't be ripped off by bootleggers'. All they're saying is spend all your money on our merchandise because we make the fucking money!"
The Manics hate Carter. They also hate Kingmaker, the Ned's, Morrissey, Chapterhouse, Moose, the NME, The Lurkers, indie bands, life, people, Steve Lamacq's last review of Mega City Four...they manage to block-hate EVERYTHING and yet hate in minute detail.
Richey: "We hate so many people, if we met them, they'd probably turn out to be OK - so we never wanna give ourselves the option! We distance ourselves from everybody so we can always completely hate them. We never wanna go down the Underworld!"
"You know how Catholics always hate every other religion, or Baptists hate Methodists more than they hate the Devil? Well, we will always hate Slowdive more than we hate Adolf Hitler.
"There's more chaos in their lives (he indicates the bit of his wall dedicated to Old Hollywood Actresses) than any fucking shit band in the press every week. Vivien Leigh's life is more MAD more completely DESTROYED than, like, Loz from Kingmaker.
Ideally you should hear the way Richey says the name 'Loz', it virtually runs out of the side of his crooked sneer and dribbles onto the carpet, so total is his contempt for this innocuous single syllable.
And it's so bracing, this meticulously maintained hatred - sure, you can easily argue the Manics' often pathetically idealised criticisms, but, as James correctly asserts, your heroes are never perfect - "I stopped expecting them to be years ago" - which explains their wholesale acceptance of Axl Rose, who would no doubt call the four of them 'faggots'.
Nicky: "The Neds (spit) are never gonna get any bigger, they've got no songs."
Ah but at least the Ned's can fill Kilburn National. You can't.
N: "No but in a year's time we'll be able to fill Wembley Arena for three nights."
And that was a typical exchange between Reasonable Hack and Clearly Insane Misanthrope Bassplayer. What's the point in pissing on a bonfire of the vanities that big?
So like Carter, and yet so desperate never to bump into them upstairs at the Town & Country Club - the Manic Street Preachers have cut up the tabloids' filthy tricks and turned them to their own advantage, making rock 'n' roll fun again, politicising the joys of playing with your guitar, drawing up fanzine mentality, kicking over the statuesque, chiselled incredibility of the glossy MTV sweetmeat. And wearing funny trousers on the road to Mainstream Fame.
The notorious '4 REAL' scar on Richey's arm now looks as if it's been written in melted wax crayon; it's there 4 LIFE. But do not mistakenly judge the Manic Street Preachers' courage and conviction by this foolish act of mutilation - there are so many others, after all.