Not even two years ago, the Manic Street Preachers would have been ridiculed as a quirky mega outsider for their plucked appearance. But when the expiration date of the Clash and Sex Pistols has expired, at least on the British Isles, the spirits are stirring again. Punk is dead! Or something like that...
Richey James, rhythm guitarist and copywriter for the Manic Street Preachers, knows he looks like Everybody's Darling. With his dandy boyish figure, even the Queen would invite him to the five o'clock tea. And while the two of them could chat about the Queen's unsaved sons, he would pocket the silverware when Elizabeth blew a few tears on her handkerchief.
But this is not England, but Hamburg on one of the first warm spring days. On the terrace in front of the Sony office, james grins at me, slightly hungover, and squints under an oversized, suspicious sunglasses in the bright light. The night before, the Preachers in the Logo, a small club in the student quarter, had made their German debut, in the fine English way. They had grudgingly picked up their instruments, singer Bradfield made a terse "Hello", but then one followed For an hour punk rock with a worn gas pedal, uncompromising as it has not been for a long time. Some late Teds, Mods and a couple of long-haired people thanked them with joyful jumps to the ceiling. Suddenly, zack, the concert was over, the band disappeared without an encore, even though the audience was raging like in a cauldron. That's how legends are written. The next day, James is more cautious about the band's plans.
"In the UK we had a media event when we played live for the first time. But the attitude of the magazines is characterized by the worst middle class thinking. Either they find you sexy or they make you a dirty band. Most journalists lack any sense of what we really want to say. "The Manic Street Preachers, however, speak a straightforward language. The current LP is titled "Generation Terrorists", in their texts one thing comes to the fore: nothing is left to what the youth can orientate themselves. "Culture Sucks", as well as drugs, pop and life itself.
"Every generation has any hope of meeting reality. Mostly, however, the individual is only convinced of himself. And where does it take him after a few years? All utopias are already broken during school. He breaks as well as his dreams. With luck, he will find a job, start a family and grow old. Or he ends up with heroin and makes a quick end of himself. The ideas of a generation have always failed. Especially because the youth behave self-destructively."
In the Manic Street Preachers expresses the discomfort of life in Britain through a variety of hate tricks on the mendacity of the media, the hypocrisy of politicians and the slow blunting in front of the TV.
"Everywhere slogans are served to you," James is already upset at the thought of the English tabloids. "Our songs attack this information blank with the same means. We write long lyrics, which our singer then snipes and reassembles over the melodies. This bundles some of the statements with the music. I myself always have my notebook with me and write down everything I see and what comes to my mind."
Of course, the Preachers do not live alone on pessimistic things that go on for days and days. It is above all the music in which the feeling of life is expressed first hand. "We play around with the most diverse influences. James (Bradfield, the singer) loves Otis Redding and the Supremes while I'm from Black Sabbath. If people classify us as a punk band, well. Of course I like the clash. Likewise, though, I find the "low" LP by David Bowie a great record. By itself, all classifications today are a great indictment of the music world, which always needs something that smells of trend. However, we will not be so stupid and let ourselves be turned into trend tricks. "
This makes the performances of the band, of course, extremely varied and exciting. In the middle of the set, James tunes the guitar track of "It's So Easy", and out of the blue the Manic Street Preachers cover the best song of the first Guns N'Roses record. The own pieces also live by rows of style bridges. Sometimes a guitar riff sounds as if Keith Richard had recorded it, then a solo works in the vicinity of heavy metal, or suddenly in a chorus almost sugar-sweet pop of English bands from the eighties is sung. All boundaries disappear.
"Exactly the same happens at the moment in such defined categories as the Hard Rock. A band like Nirvana suddenly has huge successes, without matching the cliché image of the rocker, as it means Mötley Crüe do. Now it is especially important that the industry does not scent a trend that attracts many bands. What will happen? The people then play hundreds of songs that sound like nirvana. And with the next group, which becomes reasonably famous, they copy their sound. At some point, nothing remains of the whole bunch of musicians except sad people. People who just wanted to be there without realizing how they locked themselves in their own coffin."
Perhaps at least the Manic Street Preachers retain their refreshing autonomy without facing the same fate that the Sex Pistols, Jesus & Mary Chain or even Zodia Mindwarp have gone through before them. Too many cynics have been in the fast-moving music business for a long time. Musically, the four musicians from Wales have at the moment, however, the most accurate counter-arguments: They play harsh, but wonderfully melodic Rock'n'Roll, not greatly pimped, but subtle and vulnerable. In any case smarter and maybe even a little better than the sleaze scene from LA has practiced in recent years. "We love you", the Rolling Stones sang very encouragingly almost 25 years ago. The Manic Street Preachers today say "You love us," and they know why.