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Wing And A Drunken Prayer - Sydney Sun Herald, 17th January 1999

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ARTICLES:1999



Title: Wing And A Drunken Prayer
Publication: The Sun Herald
Date: Sunday 17th January 1999
Writer: Peter Holmes


Australia is virgin territory for the Manic Street Preachers but there is one hitch - getting here.

On the Manic Street Preachers million-selling fourth album Everything Must Go, the band used Australia as a metaphor for escaping an unpleasant reality back in the UK.

Now the trio - from south Wales and notoriously fearful fliers - are about to embark on their first tour here as part of the international contingent at the Big Day Out.

"I'm unusually excited about coming," said the band's guitarist, singer and writer of chords and melodies (hold the lyrics) James Dean Bradfield. "I've been touring with the band since I was 19 and coming to Australia is like starting again. We are very naive in terms of what the audiences and the places will be like."

As for the 20-odd hours in the sky, Bradfield has devised a plan that may see him at less than his sprightly best upon touchdown, particularly if it is a scorcher.

"I'm not going to cope with the flight whatsoever," the 29-year-old predicted. "To be honest, I'm just going to get pissed out of my head. I'm going to drink like a mad fool on the plane and try to obliterate any thought processes."

A decade after forming, it is obvious no author - irrespective of how lubricated his imagination - would have been able to create the story of the Manic Street Preachers. Initially a quartet, the group of childhood friends had a singer who didn't write lyrics (Bradfield), a bass player who did (Nicky Wire), a drummer who played horns and wrote music (Sean Moore) and a lyricist who once carved the phrase "4 Real" into his arm in the presence of a journalist, only pretended to play guitar and went missing - yet to be located dead or alive - in late January 1995 (Richey Edwards).

Complex, yes.

For not only do they love their sport and beer, they have quoted ideas and thoughts from the likes of Jackson Pollock, Primo Levi and Octave Mirbeau on their album sleeves while styling up in mascara, balaclavas and combat gear. Galvanised into making music by the disastrous miner's strike in the mid-1980s, the Manic Street Preachers are one of the few UK bands since the Red Wedge movement (Billy Bragg, Paul Weller, Jimmy Sommerville) 15 years ago to take an interest in the politics of life and the politics of politics.

"I think a lot of bands hide behind the cliche that all politicians are the same, that New Labour is just the old Tory party," said Bradfield.

"They let those cliches scare them off. I think we manage to write some political songs and I don't think other bands are attempting that. They say politics means nothing to them, they hide behind Noam Chomsky and other garbled, pretentious rhetoric."

Following two albums of punk and slightly dodgy pomp-metal (Generation Terrorists and Gold Against the Soul ) and one described by Q magazine as "the sound of a man picking at scabs" (The Holy Bible), the Manic Street Preachers delivered their masterpiece Everything Must Go in 1996.

Brimming with soaring, lush rock arrangements and unforgettable melodies, it transformed them from an underground band to players in the major league alongside Oasis, Blur and Pulp. It also signalled James Dean Bradfield's entrance as a vocalist of some clout.

"When I was young all my favourite lyricists were always the people who sang the songs," he said. "I felt the validity of what I did didn't quite live up to the way I perceived my heroes, because I don't write the lyrics.

"Also, when I was younger I was a very guitar-orientated person, I wanted to be a guitar hero, jump around like a madman, play solos behind my head. I didn't to have to remember lyrics. It was childish.

"We are a different band in a certain sense. The irrational, subjective edge has gone away from us. Now the things we say in our music, and the way we play and sing them are a lot more constructive in their nature now. In the way I sing I hear someone who actually sings more than shouts his head off."

The Manic Street Preachers play The Metro on Thursday and the Big Day Out at 5pm on Saturday. The band's new album This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours is available now through Epic.