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Tunes Test Tuesday: Manic Street Preachers

This one’s been in the works for a while, and I apologize for not getting it done in a more timely manner last week.  I’m pretty sure I’ve said this about most of the TTT posts already, but when I chose the Manic Street Preachers, I had absolutely no idea how deep the well would run. To some degree, I still don’t.

The original recommendation for the Manic Street Preachers came from one of my oldest friends, who has been serious about music since back when I was buying whatever Tiffany was selling because, well, did you see Tiffany*?  She had red hair and curves and, well, I was, like, 14.

Hey, don’t judge pubescent me. The shame burns enough as it is every time I happen across that old cassette in my special shoe box.  What?  Of course I still have it…oh, hey, you know what…never mind.

Ahem.  Anyway, as I was saying, the original album suggested for my Preachers research was The Holy Bible.  From what I’ve read, it’s supposed to be dark and bleak and garnered quite a bit of critical acclaim.

Unfortunately, it was never released in the US.  That’s not to say I couldn’t probably get a hold of it somehow, but, as I’ve said, I believe in actually paying for the music I listen to.  My other alternative, going on a hunt for an import copy of the CD is, sadly, not something I have time for these days**.

I did manage to listen to three of the 13 tracks from that album, She Is Suffering, Revol, and Faster.  That was enough to confirm what I’d read.  But, of course, that wasn’t enough for me by a long shot.

The one after it, Everything Must Go (1996), was the band’s most commercially successful release and is a very different animal than The Holy Bible.  That should come as no real surprise, though, because the previous album was heavily influenced by rhythm guitarist and lyricist Richey Edwards (James).  Unfortunately, he was plagued by mental illness, which ultimately led to his disappearance in 1995.  His car was found, abandoned, near the Severn Bridge in Bristol, which was known for suicide.

The surviving members of the Preachers pressed on without Edwards, and Everything Must Go was their first release as a trio.

In my very lay opinion, his presence is missed.  The band’s work since, especially the aforementioned Everything Must Go and it’s follow-up, This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours (1999), are certainly competent, but tend to have a more pop-like feel and somewhat lighter focus.  Send Away The Tigers (2007) and Know Your Enemy (2009) seem to shift back towards rock and are generally edgier, but not to the same degree as the Preacher’s early work.  It isn’t until 2009’s Journal for Plague Lovers that some of that original darkness returns, which makes sense given that each track features lyrics left by Edwards.

As you can see, it seems I bit off a lot to chew in a week or even two.  I’ve listened to nearly every Manic Street Preachers album produced between 1995 and 2009 (I confess I haven’t gotten to National Treasures or Lipstick Traces, yet), and the only thing I know for certain at this point is that I need (or want) to listen to most of it more.  That’s especially true for the later releases.  Everything Must Go and This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours, though, seem like the kind of albums I’d only queue up in the right mood.

Lyrically and topically, the Preachers have been on quite a journey over the past twenty years.  While that’s mostly evident, I’ve only picked up on it in a contextual sense; I couldn’t go into much detail about what each song is really about.  In other words, there’s undoubtedly an awful lot I’ve missed as I’ve been trying to drink from the Manic Street Preachers’ fire hose these past couple of weeks.  Especially considering that their lyrics aren’t always easy to follow or disassemble.  They are Welsh, after all, and have a unique style of squeezing words into a piece of music that can be challenging to say the least.

In the end, I think it’s safe to say that the Manic Street Preachers aren’t the rock and rollers intent on bringing back the revolution that they were when they started out.  But then, it’s equally safe to say that hardly anyone else really is, either.  Bands must evolve over time, or quite simply, just don’t last over that time.

And in this case, I’d say that the evolution was pretty successful, rough patches and all.

Pud’n


*Hey, look at that, Tiffany put out new albums in 2003 and 2011. Score!
**Of course, I happened to think of it today, and it appears to be available on iTunes.

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4 comments on “Tunes Test Tuesday: Manic Street Preachers

  1. Whoo-hoo! My favorite band since we got a promo e.p. of them in at Record Alley back in ’91. They have gone through a lot of evolutionary stages and, you’re absolutely right, lyrically especially once Richey James Edwards disappeared. Nicky Wire (bassist) co-wrote with Richey when they were both in the band and took over when he disappeared. Nicky’s lyrics are more personal and up-front as opposed to the abstract and somewhat narcissistic bent of Richey’s, but nonetheless intelligent and brutally deep (at times.)

    National Treasures is the recently-released singles collection – all 38 of their single releases in one package, chronological, so that’s a great place to pick up and follow that evolution. With reissues and some stuff not being released in the US, some of the above dates are off, but not a big deal. There is a “US Mix” of The Holy Bible that was shelved when Richey disappeared, too (reissued with the 10th Anniversary edition of the CD.) Lipstick Traces is a collection of B-sides and cover tunes – worthwhile for various reasons but my favorite is their cover of “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head.”

    Each album is really a world unto itself.

    Along with the lyrics, sometimes James Dean Bradfield’s enunciation presents problems, but once you read along and dig into the rhythm of it, most start to make sense – hearing a crowd sing along to Faster in a live setting is unsettling and amazing.

    Glad you took ’em for a spin and liked what you heard!

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    • For sure I’m going to need to look up some lyrics when I get a chance. There’s definitely plenty of meat in there from a writing perspective, something I always appreciate, it’ll just take time to get there. I’m expecting an educational experience!

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  2. Oh, and I was always a Debbie Gibson man, myself.

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    • Heh! In retrospect, Debbie (none of this Deborah nonsense, btw) was certainly the more musically talented of the two, but that might not have been my focus back in the day. Truth be told, though, I was fan of both at the time. 🙂

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