25 October 2013

Manic Street Preachers - Everything Must Go

I just had to do a little more research on the Manics' early discography before listening to Everything Must Go for the first time in about fifteen years. Their previous offering before this was of course The Holy Bible and it's widely acknowledged to be one of the bleakest records released. Lyrically, just like the first two albums, the content is of sharp observational wit yet the music belies the themes and shouldn't really go hand in hand with the writings of Richie Edwards and Nicky Wire. I won't go into too much detail here but there were quite a few tracks that I found rather unnerving and yet I found it all so strangely addictive and compelling largely because of the real life ironies they tell us as well as the remarkable lack of tackiness in The Holy Bible.

Most of you reading this I'm sure were brought up in the Britpop era where Oasis and Blur ruled the airwaves, with the likes of Kula Shaker, Supergrass and Suede propping the up the basis of Cool Britannia, and MSP slotted in nicely with their anthemic A Design For Life as well as their title track. Trouble is, I can't help but wonder if the Manics chose to follow the same format with heavily backed string arrangements. Has Everything Must Go been diluted in the same way that Phil Spector "ruined" Let It Be? Or perhaps then the Welsh quartet were tiring of their anti establishment leftish views and were threatening to go mainstream and ditch their glam punk roots? This of course all occurred at a cornerstone in the band's career where lyricist and occasional guitarist Edwards had inexplicably vanished. Those closest to him maintain that this was completely out of character although his self harming and constant bouts of depression tying together what I suspect indicate what he was capable of. Richey Edwards at his brilliant best at his and destructive worst.

"Libraries gave us power" is one of the most resonating opening lines I've heard, it takes its inspiration from a slogan from a library close to their home. A Design For Life explores the social and economical gulf between the classes at a time where there was so much indifference then, and still holds true seventeen years on. It feels ageless and I like it still to this day, but my personal favourite is Kevin Carter which tells the story of a prizewinning photographer who took one of the most evocative and chilling snapshots of a dying African child with a vulture close by. Just briefly straying a little away from this album, I dare any discerning and sound minded person to see the photo and not be moved by it. It also showcases drummer Sean Moore's rare but accomplished trumpet work.

As with their previous works, EMG runs on variations of themes, as mentioned above and also of various other biopics. The absence of Richey Edwards on the front cover may be an acceptance by the other three that possibly he would never reappear but any evidence that he's has been erased from the Manics' mindset is quickly dispelled by Small Black Flowers That Grow In The Sky, yet another challenge for James Dean Bradfield and Moore to wrap the music round his lyrical contributions. It's a rather cookily acoustic/harp arrangement and rather enchanting at times I'm almost ashamed to say. In the mid section of the album, there's more evidence of Manics mellowing with the Simple Minds-ish Girl Who Wanted To Be God while Removables keeps up with the order although the closing riffs have a Nirvana feel about them. Probably not their best effort but Nicky Wire's lyricism keeps things interesting.

Seems at this point we're dabbling with the Peter Gabriel side of things at the business end of the album with Interiors (Song For Willem Kooning), a tribute to a Dutch abstract impressionist although there's a rather slight threat of going mainstream with Further Away, Australia and No Surface All Feeling with the former track having guitars akin to that of Johnny Marr's and the latter bringing some memorable Britpop-esque six string structure if we ever thought MSP were going to tuck proceedings into bed quietly. For me it's all so strangely compelling and catchy.

OK, granted that with the disappearance of Richey Edwards the Manics have left behind some lyrical punch and have concentrated more on the music as a trio, but Wire's done a reasonably sterling effort with the wording. However on this occasion, it's the JBD/Sean Moore musical output that dominate Everything Must Go and certainly it's much more user friendly than Generation Terrorists and The Holy Bible. So much so I personally prefer this to the other two albums as well as probably Gold Against The Soul. A change in direction was most likely what the Welsh fellas were looking for in the mid 1990s and compared to the other rock acts doing the rounds at the time, this was always going to be one of the meatier albums going. Even seventeen years later, its importance can never be underestimated.

10 out of ten. This is proof there is a God.

Listen to Everything Must Go here on Deezer
Buy the album here on Amazon
Follow the Manics' activities here on their official website

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