The one-time Generation Terrorists performing on prime-time TV could be a riot. But I fear they are putting record sales before their reputation.
The announcement yesterday that Manic Street Preachers are going to be following the likes of Robbie Williams, James Blunt and Pandre by appearing on Strictly Come Dancing's results show was met not with a gulp of disbelief but a sigh of exasperation.
The Manics are a band who demand unerring loyalty from fans. Those old enough to have followed them since their early days have found themselves having to grit their teeth through a series of highs and lows that would test the mettle of any fan. Such a TV appearance wouldn't really matter if the band hadn't propelled themselves to glory by offering a genuine alternative to the staid mainstream culture of the early-90s. You have to ask why they're doing this. And the answer can only be: record sales matter more than reputation.
Strictly Come Dancing is a place where good taste goes to die and careers are reborn. Ideally the Manics would use this as an opportunity for some Situationist mischief-making or a chance to take Ann Widdecombe to task over some of the draconian opinions she has expressed in recent years (her stance against homosexuality, denial of climate change and disgust at the ordination of women) but it's not going to happen.
The Manics' recent acclaimed album, Postcards from a Young Man, was billed as their "last shot at mass communication", yet few have pointed out that they are already deeply embedded in mainstream culture. That happened when they stopped dressing like Tiger Bay tarts and starting wearing cagoules and trainers. Which is fine: bands must evolve, change, mature.
You suspect the Manics will spin their Strictly appearance as a subversive act, but what is subversive about a mainstream band appearing on a mainstream TV show, even if one of them is wearing a dress? This is the era of Grayson Perry, after all.
Such an appearance prompts questions about where the line is drawn between a rock band subverting the norm and killing off any final traces of credibility. Would having a song featured on Glee be considered too much? An appearance on The X Factor? What if Sean Moore ate kangaroo penis on I'm a Celebrity ...?
True acts of televisual subversion or spontaneity by underground bands are rarer than hen's teeth. The Sex Pistols' swearing was subversive because it changed the way we consider language, as was Jerry Lewis tearing it up in 1964, KLF joining forces with Extreme Noise Terror at the Brit awards and At the Drive-In murdering their latest single on Later with Jools Holland. But perhaps, like a riot, such moments can only ever be spontaneous.
So who knows what the Manics may have in store. It could be great - I certainly hope so. Nicky Wire may break his bass guitar twice in the same song, as he did on The Word in 1991. Perhaps singer James Dean Bradfield will dust down the balaclava that he wore on Top of the Pops in 1994, but this time with Bruce Forsyth's toupee on top. Or maybe they'll just play their new single and smile sweetly for the cameras.
I suspect this is the more likely outcome.