Seminal Welsh outfit Manic Street Preachers have a new album out Rewind The Film, and to mark the occasion, our team at ATTIWLTMOWOS will be reviewing their discography. These days, Wales' most famous lefties seem to have toned down a bit since the highly charged debut Generation Terrorists, but their creative niche is still firmly etched in their songwriting.
All a stark contrast to their early days when they burst onto the music scene with gusto and real intent. And of course, there was Richey Edwards in tow with a boundless stream of lyrical punch and wit that we're still relating to, eighteen years after his disappearance. Back in 1991, they introduced themselves to the world with the sort of swagger and self-confidence that Oasis would emulate soon afterwards, albeit with less substance. "Generation Terrorists will be the greatest rock album ever and sell around 16 million copies," they professed. Bold claim, and of course, a bit of a shortcoming if that commentary was ever to be taken seriously.
Their observations and lyrical themes are blatant and sometimes a little difficult to fathom, but on the whole, I think they're accurate with their views. The lyrics are put together by Edwards (officially rhythm guitarist, although he took no part in the recording of GT) and bassist Nicky Wire, while stickman Sean Moore and guitarist/singer James Dean Bradfield concentrate on the music. Themes covered by the Manics are chiefly political and also deal with the excesses of consumerism, capitalism and of relationship struggles which I'll try to explain in a bit more depth a little later. Slash n' Burn tells of how the developed world exploits poorer countries, while Motorcycle Emptiness is a mini classic in its own right, telling of how the youth should conform to the social code. How ironic then that T-Mobile should use it for a recent ad campaign. There's more irony in the Sex Pistols-esque Natwest-Barclays-Midlands-Lloyds, it's left me thinking, very little has changed twenty years later.
Little Baby Nothing I rate a tad controversial. Kylie Minogue was the original choice for the duet, but in the end, JBD shares vocals with ex-adult actress Traci Lords, noted for doing many porn films as a minor. While more known for "flaunting her assets" rather than her choral talents, she feels comfortably akin to the woes her character has suffered sexually at the hands of men. Some rather rare musical shifts in the minimalist and garage sounding Repeat (Stars And Stripes) with Bradfield shouting in monotone "Fuck Queen and country". It sounds like Sting and The Police going all republica but it's one of my favourite tracks before Tennessee leaves the whole funk concept behind and restores the hard rocking pace in GT. Another Invented Disease (or abbreviated to AIDS) is a suggestion that US bio-scientists invented it in the first place. While not the biggest fan of The Manics, I could possibly agree with this, though not without looking over my shoulder.
Stay Beautiful as well as So Dead, loaded with chunky beats and simpleton chords seem ordinary enough, but there's plenty of angst directed at the youth generation and the bringing on of the riot act. There's a reprise of Repeat - UK version, but I'm not too sure if there's any need for a different representation of the Stars And Stripes song. Spectators Of Suicide pursues a slower beat, but yet the theme remains as you can guess Edwards flavoured dour, while Damn Dog is a punk cover of a Jacob Brackman (US music journalist) mini lyrical snippet. Crucifix Kiss features at the beginning a piece of a poem called Torying by Wire's brother Patrick Jones which I can only guess explores alienation and the distancing of the mind from reality.
It's a much longer review from me than usual, and hardly surprising as Generation Terrorists lists seventeen songs at its minimum. Chris Jermyn believes that this is a good album but also thinks it has seven tracks too many. I won't deny that The Manics have plenty of content in the offering and certainly it is lengthy, they have a lot to shout about, maybe a little too much and it just makes for heavy reading. This is not a rock album you can ever take lightly, nothing straightforward in it, nor can you get away with listening to it just once, or even twice. Maybe four or five times to get the idea of the cut of the MSP's jib and see what message they're sending out.
9 out of ten. Almost perfect....almost.
All the Manics' activities including their new album release are here on their official website
Listen to Generation Terrorists here on Deezer
You can buy the album here on Amazon