Since their debut in 1992, Manic Street Preachers have consistently been one of the most singular and unique acts that the UK has produced in recent years, carving out a niche for themselves with their own brand of politically themed alternative rock. They’ve released eleven studio albums, toured the world and even survived the tragic and bizarre disappearance of one of their founding members, guitarist Richey Edwards.
Next week they release their new album, Futurology, so to celebrate the release of album no. 12 we’ve put together five career highlights as a guide for the uninitiated…
As statements of intent go, there are few moves more ballsy than releasing a double album as your debut, but that’s exactly what the Manics did with Generation Terrorists. Far from being a grand, overblown statement of self importance though, the band’s reasoning was simple: they were expecting they’d probably be dropped by their record label after the first album, so they decided that they would try and say everything they had to say all in one go while they had the opportunity.
Thankfully, Generation Terrorists was a brilliant debut album and the band didn’t get dropped, largely because they’d made a cracker of a record packed with songs like You Love Us and this little beauty, Motorcycle Emptiness. Setting the template for a career based on songs with huge sing-along melodies contrasted with sharp, biting lyrics, it’s definitely one of the highlights on this double LP.
La Tristesse Durera (Scream To A Sigh)
In the wake of the ‘Madchester’ scene and against a backdrop of the rise of ‘Britpop’, the Manics did the sensible thing and completely ignored both movements, and their follow-up to Generation Terrorists, Gold Against The Soul, sees the band continuing to plough their own unique musical furrow. One the album’s best moments, La Tristesse Durera is something of an oddity on the album and by far the record’s most accessible track, its summery, blue-eyed melody completely at odds with its lyrics about a mistreated war veteran, while the title itself is actually taken from Vincent van Gogh’s last words, which translate in English as ’The Sadness Persists’.
By the time the Manics recorded The Holy Bible, troubled guitarist Richey Edwards was already beginning to show signs of the erratic behaviour that would eventually result in his disappearance, but at the same time time he had also reached the peak of his powers as lyricist, and Faster is one of the best examples of this. There are so many smart, cerebral lines it’s difficult to know where to start, but the lyric that always sends a shiver down the spine is just before the second chorus: “I’ve been too honest with myself / I should have lied like everybody else”. Matched with spiky, angry guitars and James Dean Bradfield’s knack of weaving Edwards’ lyrics into a memorable tune, this is the Manics at their absolute best.
A Design For Life
When Richey did go missing there was a long period where the future of the band’s very existence was in doubt; would they, should they, could they carry on without their mercurial guitarist? Then they released ‘A Design for Life’, and all doubts were banished and forgotten. Here was a band that had dragged itself out of the ashes like a phoenix from the flames and not only had they returned, but they did so with one of their best songs ever and bagged themselves a No.1 single in the process. Definitely the highlight of Everything Must Go, it’s cathartic, it’s powerful and it shows the band still knew how to write a lyric: “Libraries gave us power / Then work came and made us free / But what price now for a shallow piece of dignity?”. The Manics were back.
Your Love Alone Is Not Enough
Taken from their 2007 album Send Away The Tigers, ‘Your Love Alone Is Not Enough’ features The Cardigans’ singer Nina Person on vocal duties and, a full fifteen years on from their debut, The Manic Street Preachers, they proved that their knack with a big, memorable, sing-along chorus was a permanent fixture. Powerful and anthemic, it shows why James Dean Bradfield, Nicky Wire and Sean Moore are still making records and finds them as sharp, powerful and vitriolic as they’ve ever been.