What Happened To Demanding The Impossible? - Select, January 2000
In recent times, both comedy and Christianity have been cast as The New Rock 'n' Roll. As the year 2000 dawns, however, it remains uncertain whether rock ‘n’ roll itself will emerge into the new millennium as joke-fest or religion, Kula Shaker or Nirvana.
"Hmm," ponders Nicky Wire. "I don't have much time for arguments about rock being exhausted. Rock as a form is always going to be around. Rock 'n' roll is still the most essential part of a lot of people's lives. But I argue with James all the time about whether we'll ever again see the equivalent of Kurt Cobain. I think there's no chance, cos the music industry has enacted this plan to fill all the space with manufactured bands. They're cheap to handle, they won't cause trouble. Rock bands, of course, are difficult."
If the future remains wide open, Wire contends that there's much room for improvement on the present. Arguably, there are two prevailing trends in rock at the moment. In Britain there's the lo-fi eclecticism of The Beta Band, Gomez, Blur's '13' and now those avatars of aheadness, Embrace. In America there's the cartoon-outrage that runs
through anything from Nine Inch Nails to Limp Bizkit. Neither are particularly welcome chez Wire.
"No," says Nicky. "Virtually every band in Britain has become really self-indulgent. We've got to that terrible point where every new band is more interested in playing their instruments well rather than making some grandiose, interesting statements. Lyric writing at the moment is in dire straits. Gomez are the worst. They just remind me of that television programme from the '80s, Rock School, where all these wankers would show you how to play a fretless bass.
"I don't like much American stuff either. I think 'industrial rock' is probably the worst genre even The exception is Marilyn Manson. I like him because he's so bright and he annoys people. I can't stand that Nine Inch Nails mentality - 'Oh, I'll buy Charles Manson's house. That'll really scare people'. It's a dead end, musically, and far from it being this anti-social, outsider thing, you can spot fans of that music a mile off. They all look the same, they all do the same. I prefer Alice Cooper, to be honest."
Wire's argument is clear: that since the Manics themselves appeared, no-one else has materialised to offer an equally cogent mix of impassioned idealism and defiance.
"It does feel strange," says Nicky. "We don't feel that old in age - we're 30 - but I would have thought that in the last ten years, since we released 'You Love Us’, that someone else would have come on and picked up the mantle. I do admire Primal Scream for at least saying something. They just seem genuinely angry. I don't see that quality in any groups coming forward.
"There's the intellectual element in Damon that I admire and there's still the impact of Oasis, but that's not the same as just blasting in there feeling like you want to change the world."
It's a pertinent point. One theory is that today's society is simply too comfortable, too inclusive to produce the impulse for disenfranchised outsider rock 'n' roll.
"I think there's a lot in that," says Nicky. "It's one of the reasons why it's difficult to imagine a band like The Clash or the Manics appearing today. when you do get outsider culture today it's marginalised and works on a sort of single-issue basis - like with eco warriors. What happened to grand gestures, à la the situationists? What happened to demanding the impossible?"
The gauntlet has been thrown down. Who will smell the glove?