The prettiest boy in rock 'n' roll is hot to get it on.
Guitarist Richie Edwards and his chums in Manic Street preachers spent Easter week in the Welsh backwater town of Blackwood. It's where they're from and where the most-talked-about band in the U.K. goes to lay low.
MSP's first North American tour, which brings the group to the Opera House Wednesday, is days away and Edwards is ready already.
Whether North America is ready for the Manics, or whether it will just smirk and walk on by, doesn't begin to cross his mind. "We started at a time when rock 'n' roll was dead over here," Edwards says. "The U.K. was in the grip of dance, rap and the acid house thing. All that Manchester sound stuff that sounded so contrived. The only real rock 'n' roll was coming out of America. "We were consciously reacting against all that. "Our friends laughed at us (surprise!) because they said there was no audience for us. But we felt we had to do something to bring back rock 'n' roll, so that's how Manic Street Preachers came about."
The Manics will spout missionary zeal at the punch of a START button and are shameless media exploiters. No opportunity to score ink or air time is passed up and, where opportunities don't exist, they can be created to bait a sensation-hungry U.K. music press.
"Once we got set in our minds what we were doing, we didn't play a single gig in Blackwood," Edwards says. "It was straight to London and scrounging money to get on the pay-for-play circuit. Y'know, 50 for 15 minutes.
"Next thing was getting the press out to the shows. This is extremely difficult in England because the music press wields the power to make or destroy taste and they don't like anything they don't discover themselves."
Manic strategy hinged on persistence and brazen fawning; whenever interviewed, they came up with shocking and lurid tales, mostly of the fishy variety.
The sons-of-Marc-Bolan look didn't hurt either. Frontman James Dean Bradfield often wears a salmon-pink pajama top formerly belonging to his Auntie, presumably before "I Am A Slut" was stenciled on it.
Not since Mike Monroe hung up the lip gloss has there been a made-up rock face like Edwards. While MSP cites Guns N' Roses and the '70s glam movement as major influences, there's a lot of the Monroe-fronted Hanoi Rocks in the look, attitude and sound.
Says Edwards: "Hanoi Rocks, definitely. They were part of that garage/glam tradition but, more than that, they were among the bands working with glam and punk."
He simultaneously acknowledges a debt and aversion to punk and even though they do spray slogans such as "Useless Generation" and "Culture Slut" on their clothes, the Preachers are considerably better players than most vintage-era punk bands. "We see ourselves carrying on the fine tradition of British guitar rock - The Who, Stones, T. Rex.
"Punk was an incarnation of that, it was a go at returning rock to those kinds of roots.
"It's just that a lot of bands couldn't play their instruments, and then not being able to play became a good thing." The current London buzz on the Manics paints them as nouveau punks in eyeliner, The Clash in drag, so-so songwriters and adequate players at best.
On the strength of the recorded evidence - the indie EP Stay Beautiful and North American debut album Generation Terrorists in the stores May 15 - the Brit press is only half-right. Too many songs share similar tempos and arrangements, but the boys play better than adequate.
Baby-faced stickman Sean Moore is strong on the basics while showing a swift hand with the fills which wouldn't be out of place in, say, the Jesus Jones backline. Edwards and fellow guitarist/singer Bradfield would rather be Slash than Joe Strummer and work hard at getting there. Nicky Wire's bass style is the most evasive; he hammers in true rockist tradition while slipping in pumping funk runs and Sting-like progressions.
For all its shortcomings - and those being mostly those of musicians with an average age of 23 - MSP is trying to carry the flag for a new movement.
"We've never changed for anybody," Edwards asserts. "Once people realized there was such a band as us, playing honest, straight-up rock 'n' roll, they came to us.
"They're all people our age fed up with dance and techno music. They're the 'blank generation' in that they come to us without any history to judge us by.
"They're looking for rock with integrity, coming from the same place they are, and that's a lot of fun, too. We pride ourselves in giving a good rave."
This may not be the new voice of London calling, but taken as the bark and snap of young rock pups, it ain't 'arf bad.