This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours - Mojo, October 1998
Sylvie Simmons, MOJO, October 1998
FOLLOW-UP TO 1996's chart-topping Everything Must Go. Named after a line in a speech by miner's son and NHS founder Aneurin Bevan.
It seems a lifetime has passed since the band from a small Welsh mining community – or what would have been if the mines hadn't shut down – made an indie single and released a manifesto declaring their plan to destroy the monarchy, the House of Lords and, after just one album – which would outsell their then-favourite group Guns N'Roses – destroy themselves. Instead, they morphed from political punks (in Clash-style graffitied clobber) via rock martyrdom and Spokesmen For A Lost Generation (Richey Edwards slashing "4 Real" into his forearm) to arena-rock stars, their previous and triple-platinum LP earning them Brit and Ivor Novello awards.
Everything Must Go was a confident, fearless record, informed by the disappearance of guitarist Edwards, who walked out of a London hotel on the eve of their 1995 US tour and was never seen again. The album was a complete turn-around from The Holy Bible, its fragmented, 'fuck-you' predecessor, in a way it was the sound of a band fighting for its life and winning. (This often makes for good stuff. Think of AC/DC's Back In Black).
This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours – once again recorded in France with Mike Hedges – is different again. This time the mood is less uplifting and air-punching. Mid-tempo ballads predominate. Though choruses still soar (‘You Stole The Sun From My Heart’ was made for arena consumption), the grandiose strings have been toned down – and on ‘My Little Empire’ reduced to a desolate cello – the guitar heroics replaced here and there by quirkier instruments such as sitar and omnichord. The serenity of the melodies coupled with epic build-ups, not to mention James Dean Bradfield's increasingly Freddie Mercuryesque voice, bring Queen to mind on several occasions. Lyrically, though, it couldn't be more different. As well as Nicky Wire's most personal and provocative lyrics ("I wish I had been born a girl and not this mess of a man"), there are songs about the Hillsborough disaster, the flooding of a Welsh village, the Spanish Civil War and Richey. The Manics are still a fine, if somewhat smoothed-down, rock band.
Nicky Wire talks to Sylvie Simmons about the new record.
This is the your first album with absolutely no contribution from Richey. What impact did that have?
"Richey's lyrics were so intellectualised and internalised – I didn't understand some of them, let alone other people. My writing style is much simpler, much more literal. We used to sit in my bedroom and I'd come up with a title and a chorus and Richey would come in and write a verse. It was hard coming up with all the lyrics on my own. When I'm writing I still check in my head and think, Would Richey like this? I don't think you feel a presence, you miss a presence. Live there's still a huge gap. You're always looking for him. That's why I like playing bigger places, because you can lose yourself."
There are several 'issue' songs, but others sound very personal.
"It's half and half. ‘My Little Empire’ and ‘Born A Girl’ are probably the most personal songs I've ever written. ‘Nobody Loved You’, which is about Richey, was the last song we did; we didn't want to trade on his celebrity. ‘My Little Empire’ is one of my favourites, though James wasn't keen on it. I wanted a cello, I wanted James to be real John Frusciante, his favourite guitarist from the Chili Peppers. I actually shared lead vocals with him. I write mostly when it's raining or dark, usually after 10 at night. I get a lot of inspiration from watching TV."
Whatever happened to your manifesto?
"It's all business now, isn't it? We're a business. The Manic Street Preachers is a brand name now, just like Pepsi. We didn't fulfil any of it, except we said we wanted to be the most important rock band of the decade and I think we achieved that. For one thing, unlike most bands we're not afraid to be called a rock band, we have no problems playing arenas, and I'd still buy a Guns N'Roses album. If you can still eke out little grains of truth and bits of honesty, then you're doing all right."