When eventually we look back on the mid-nineties, it will be hard not to remember the huge surge in the profile of British bands. Over the last few years, the profile growth of the indie scene in the UK has greatly expanded the marketability of British music as much as it has given more "minor" British bands a chance to gain fans across the world. Anyone living in Australia must have noticed the almost nauseating push by record companies to establish a market for British music in this country. So why is it that the Manic Street Preachers who have been termed "the most important band in Britain" have failed to gain recognition in our country?
Even a cursory glance at the odd NME would immediately indicate just how high-profile the Manics have become in Britain. Their triumphantly beautiful 1996 album "Everything Must Go" was voted amongst the top ten albums of the year in NME, Melody Maker, Select, Vox, Q and Sky magazines, and the Manics were given the awards for Best Album and Best Band at this year's Brit Awards. Songs like "A Design For Life", about the durability and beauty of the working class, demonstrate how the band has managed to finally meet their incredible lyrics with beautiful (and chart-friendly) music.
As a huge fan this makes me incredibly happy. but I regret the fact that such a vital, intelligent and talented band have not had more success here. Being biased (naturally!), it is hard to find fault with what I consider to be the Manics' brilliance, but I understand that a band with such a history of strong politics and an uncommercial sound may not appeal to say, your usual Oasis or Pearl Jam fan.
So why is it that I feel that the Manic Street Preachers deserve more attention in Australia? Well, I can safely say that the Manics have always been a challenging, energetic and interesting group of people both in their lyrics and music, as well as in personality. Looking briefly at their fascinating history shows us why.
The Manics emerged from the valleys of South Wales in 1989 as a confrontational four-piece. Having escaped from "piss-town" they succeeded in creating a huge stir with their defiantly androgynous DIY punk image, in-your-face politics and contradictory opinions. Amongst the monotony of madchester's drugged-out E contingent they were accused by the press of being merely a weak throwback to the punk era. The Manics dismissed this criticism saying "the past has created what we're living in now, and we're not happy, so it must have failed". They insisted that "when we jump on stage it's not a rock 'n' roll cliche but the geometry of contempt". 1992's debut album "Generation Terrorists" which elicited a very rare 10 from the NME, was full of energy and anger. The band's political sloganeering is evident everywhere on the album; for example: "We blur into images of state coercion / Classified machines die misunderstood" ("Love's Sweet Exile"). The beautiful riffs of "Motorcycle Emptiness" also proved that the Manics could just as easily produce a classic song that resounded with melancholic cultural despair.
My argument is that the Manics were always a highly articulate, intelligent and passionate band; traits which are directly mirrored on each album and make them worthy of success. Their second album 1993's "Gold Against The Soul" and third, 1994's "The Holy Bible", only succeeded in strengthening their moderately sized and henceforth highly devoted fan-base. "The Holy Bible", an extremely honest, brutal, raw and beautiful masterpiece of an album once again reflects their talent which deserves world-wide recognition. On the album, Richey James (rhythm guitar) and Nicky Wire (bass) wrote about everything from the holocaust to the corruption of PC to anorexia. Always the frontman of the band, Richey's struggle with depression, self-mutilation, alcoholism and anorexia reached a catharsis - "I've been too honest with myself, I should have lied like everybody else" ("Faster"). On February 1st 1995, Richey disappeared, leaving his childhood friends Nicky, James Dean Bradfield (singer and lead guitarist) and Sean Moore (drums) "completely and utterly in nothingness".
Richey's fascinating story, as well as the quality of the first three albums has always meant that the Manics deserve more coverage here, but in continuing without Richey, Nicky, James and Sean have given us "Everything Must Go"; its success makes increased coverage mandatory. The fact is however, that the Manics have received little (verging on no) airplay on Triple J nor have they received any worthy press coverage here. This makes it incredibly hard for the band to reach its potential audience in Australia. The Manics have both the lyrical and excellence to make success here completely feasible; unless they receive more coverage this success looks unlikely.
For deprived fans like myself, there is still a hope - an Australian tour. Rumours have been thrown about a couple of times but hopefully it will soon become fact. The presence of the Manics in this country may be exactly what is necessary to arouse the interest of alternative radio as well as the music press. In doing so, new fans may be created and people in Australia will discover the brilliance of the Manic Street Preachers.