Self-confessed 'media sluts', the MANIC STREET PREACHERS are destined for glory in '92, according to MARK DAY. Who are these mascara'd maniacs and what makes them so wonderful? All is revealed...
Generation Terrorists' by the Manic Street Preachers is the first great rock 'n' roll album of 1992. Richey James, the Manics' baby-faced rhythm guitarist, is the first British rock 'n' roll pin-up since, oh, God knows when. The Manics have grabbed that least radical of genres - glam rock - and reinvented it as protest music for the '90s. They're from the backwaters of Wales, they're signed to Sony and the chances are, sad to say, that anyone who reads the NME or Melody Maker knows a lot more about them than you do. They're not macho-glam. Macho-glam is Motley Crue with gymnasium-toned physiques or Slash looking like a dickhead in lipstick on 'Live Like A Suicide'. The Manics are glam of the narcissistic, skinny, cheap glitter variety. The kind of glam that unites Marc Bolan with Sid Vicious: forever dead, for-ever young. Not the kind that starts out plastered in Max Factor then decides, mid-stream, to make blues records (take a bow, Poison and Cinderella).
Specifically, Nicky Wire (bass) and Richey James are the new Godfathers of Glam. They appreciate Guns N' Roses, soaking up the mystique without wanting to be GN'R. Instead they come a lot closer to the trashy, throwaway punkiness of Hanoi Rocks. What they lack, and it's no bad thing, is only Hanoi's drug-addled grunge factor.
Inspired - rather than exasperating - bullshitters, the Manics go from declaring themselves the only band that matters to self-depreciating claims of complete ineptitude. often in the same sentence. "When we're onstage as a band, I think we're glamorous," says Nicky. "But in our minds we're just useless and romantic."
Richey, in a moment of divine lunacy, carved the legend '4 REAL' into his arm with a razor blade, during an interview with an NME journalist. "I was just trying to say he didn't understand what life was like for most people," he says. Id never felt so frustrated, trying to get through to him what we're about."
Richey's superstar factor is only enhanced by his frank admission that he doesn't actually play on the album. He and Nicky do the photo sessions, control the graphics and write the lyrics while James Dean Bradfield (vocals and guitars) and Sean Moore (drums) get on with the music.
"I've never felt proud about playing guitar," Richey shrugs. "I just feel James is a better guitarist than me. We're honest people and I don't want to take credit for something I didn't do."
"It's not a big deal," adds Nicky. 'We trust each other; we're just a functional unit."
Having invented themselves once they feel entitled to reinvent themselves. So they're inevitably revising their original threat that they would make one double-album, burn out, split up, and fade away.
"I don't think you could keep James out of the studio now," grins Richey. it's the one thing he's learned to love in his entire life.
The thing is, when we started off there was just nothing in the town we came from. We just saved our money and came down to London to the pay-to-play places, like the Rock Garden. There would be about four people there but we'd drive back to Wales convinced we were brilliant. We were pretty shit but we started getting a lot of press in the NME and the Melody Maker."
Often missing the obvious Hanoi/glam influences, the weeklies latched on to the frantic, chaotic punk energy of the band and declared them Clash clones for the '90s with a mixture of fascination and revul-sion. The Manics are living, breathing proof that the only bad press is no press at all.
Richey says: "We'd be playing 'It's So Easy' by Guns N' Roses and 'Under My Wheels' by Alice Cooper and they'd still be saying, 'They're just a '77 punk band'. They've no idea of the kind of music we'd be listening to."
'We were their little playthings," admits Nicky. "Now they'll want to say we sold them out - but we sold out from the start. We wanted to sign to a major; we never wanted to be on an indie label."
"Those kind of papers just use bands," Richey nods,"and we were prepared to be used." Nicky giggles, 'We said we were media sluts from the start."
Some bands are garage bands. The Manics are a bedroom band. Like many teenagers, the Manics sat in their bedrooms and dreamed about being in bands. Only their dreams were more vivid.
Dreamers and voyeurs (they worship junkie bands like Hanoi and GN'R but insist they have no desire to take drugs), these fragile, reclusive creatures cocooned themselves inside a world of music magazines, books and records, and decided the only way out was to start a band.
"We've never really been to see other bands. We've never really been out; just never got it together," Richey shrugs. 'We would send off for videos and just stay in and watch them." "Everybody where we live probably thought we were really miserable Joy Division/Smiths fans," laughs Nicky, "because we always used to stay in together."
"My sister goes down Bogie's (Cardiff's rock 'n' roll haunt) and as long as she could come back and tell us what went on...," Richey grins. "We've always lived through other people." We invented ourselves; took on these personas. I wanted to be Sid Vicious," says the utterly unthreatening Nicky.
Richey insists that the London-based media has no idea of simply how boring life is in the provinces; how important and central music is to them. Now they have money they say they simply spend even more on videos, on computer games, on records.
"I'm the only one who can drive," says Richey. "But I don't need a car; never wanted one."
"We've had to pay our manager back for all the equipment we smashed on our first tour," Nicky confesses. "All our money just seems to go. I mean, the new album cost £300,000 to make."
Inevitably, Sony will have to sell the Manics to America to recoup their cash. Potentially they could be massive in America and Japan, but for the moment they're determined not to succumb to the "classic rock 'n' roll bullshit."
"It doesn't excite me going abroad," Nicky decides. "The only thing that excites me is playing our songs to different people. The rock 'n' roll lifestyle has always seemed attractive but I'd rather just sit in the hotel and sip a few beers."
What sets the Manics aside from the post-Hanoi fall-out of generic rock 'n' roll bands, playing Sunday night support slots at the Marquee, is a political streak that's ill-defined but crucial to their substance. It doesn't amount to much more than 'Life' - do something before you die', but it should strike a chord that the latest braindead LA export isn't aiming for.
"The sort of lyrics we've always liked were about boredom and frustration," begins Nicky. "The only politics we've ever talked about is massive, obvious targets that everybody thinks about. 'Anarchy In The UK' is the only political song we really respect and it doesn't really say anything."
Richey adds: 'We just want to reflect the decay and rotting there is in Britain. Go to any pub in any provincial town and at eleven o'clock everybody comes out to kick the shit out of each other or spray graffiti on the walls."
"In the media, they think everybody's got a really happy life, but they haven't..." Nicky trails off.
Richey explains: "We got bored with bands like Poison and Motley Crue, where everything's just 'Girls, Girls, Girls'. Stuff like Welcome To The Jungle', we find more interesting. I think Axl's a really under-rated lyricist, especially on tracks like 'Coma' and 'Estranged'. 'Paradise City is more political than anything the bands in the NME will ever write."
Instead of trying to copy Axl's confused hick logic, they turned to more specific British subjects - hence 'Nat West, Barclays, Midlands, Lloyds', from 'Generation Terrorists', a rant about the decidedly unglam banking system.
Nicky explains: "We just wanted to say, 'This is Britain, get a mortgage, they repossess ya...'."
"We never wanted to be seen as a band who just aspired to living in LA and hanging out on Sunset Strip," shudders Richey.
"I know when we go to LA we'll just stay in!" says Nicky.
The Manics are growing up fast - the days of the mosh pit spilling over onto the stage and trying to steal the band's instruments are numbered. They want people to start listening to the songs.
"I think bands have got to progress," says Nicky.
"I can get as much pleasure from watching a video of Aerosmith playing to thousands of people as I can watching a video of the Sex Pistols playing in a club. It's just different eras of bands."
You've all but missed the first era of the Manics. Don't miss the second.