Manic Street Preachers (affectionately known as “the Manics” by their fans) are a rock band who formed in South Wales in the late 1980s. Their original lineup consisted of James Dean Bradfield (guitar/vocals), Nicky Wire (bass/occasional vocals/lyrics), Sean Moore (drums) and Richey Edwards (rhythm guitar/lyrics).
As childhood friends growing up in the mining town of Blackwood, the Manics were avid consumers of literature, history, politics and glamour. Their first album Generation Terrorists (1992) was heralded by controversial manifestos and spray painted slogan shirts, along with the now trademark leopard print, glitter and eyeliner. Perhaps the most shocking early moment of the band was when Richey Edwards cut the words 4REAL into his forearm with a razorblade. Despite declaring they would sell 16 million albums and then split up, the band went on to produce more mature, commercially friendly second album Gold Against The Soul in 1993. Critics were starting to believe the band had sold out,and would become 'just another rock band' and the band themselves were disappointed with what had happened.
By 1994, fractures were beginning to show within the band. Richey Edwards’ personal problems of self-harm, depression and alcoholism intensified until he was checked into rehab that year. However 1994 also saw the release of what many view as their best album, The Holy Bible. Recently voted the darkest album of all time, The Holy Bible dealt with issues such as the Holocaust, capital punishment and anorexia, backed with sinister and intimidating music to match.
On February 1st 1995, Richey Edwards left his hotel in London and was never seen again. His car was later found near the Severn Bridge, but there were no clues or conclusive evidence over what he had done. The three remaining members of the band retreated inwards to deal with the loss, but returned stronger than ever in 1996 with Everything Must Go. The first single from the album was A Design For Life, a working class anthem that reached number 2 in the charts – a height the band had always aimed for but never reached. A mixture of lyrics from Wire and Edwards, Everything Must Go saw a new, more polished and commercial sound for the band, which was of course tinted with emotion from Richey’s disappearance.
By the release of This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours in 1998, the Manics were the biggest band in Britain. The first album with lyrics written by Wire only, This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours was subdued and experimental, but nonetheless gave them their biggest hits yet, and their first number 1 single, If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next. The album was also their biggest yet, selling millions of copies not just in the UK, but overseas too. The decade ended in a huge show on New Years Eve 1999 in the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, which was broadcast worldwide, and another number 1 The Masses Against The Classes, which has the impressive honour of being the first new number one of the 21st Century.
2001 saw the long awaited release of Know Your Enemy, their 6th album. Although the hype surrounding the album was huge, especially concerning a live concert in Cuba in front of Fidel Castro, it soon revealed itself to be difficult and messy; with some saying they were trying too hard to recapture their punk beginnings. Soon the band entered a working hiatus, and released greatest hits compilation Forever Delayed in 2002 and b-sides compilation Lipstick Traces in 2003. They returned in 2004 with Lifeblood, another experimental album, this time drawing on electronic influences with a more relaxed sound than ever before. This, however, was to be their commercial low – the album only reached number 14 in the charts.
The Manics again took some time off, with Bradfield and Wire both releasing respectable solo albums (The Great Western and I Killed The Zeitgeist, both 2006) before reconvening in 2007 to release the triumphant Send Away The Tigers. The sound of a band revitalized, the album was full of catchy radio-friendly rock anthems, best demonstrated in number 2 single Your Love Alone Is Not Enough, a duet with Nina Persson from The Cardigans. This marked the start of a latter day revival for the Manics’ popularity both commercially and critically. In 2009, they released Journal For Plague Lovers which was comprised completely of lyrics left behind by Richey before his disappearance. Softer and more humourous than The Holy Bible, the album was no less affecting and was viewed as a huge success for their sensitive handling of Richey’s words.
Closely following was 2010’s Postcards From A Young Man. Nostalgic and rejoicing, the album was billed as one last shot at mass communication by the band. It certainly seemed to achieve this, with a sell out tour, huge radio hits and a number 3 chart position.
At the end of 2011, the band released singles collection National Treasures, aimed at rectifying the faults of their previous greatest hits album by including every one of their 38 singles, plus a cover of This Is The Day by The The. To support this, on 17th December 2011, the band performed a monumental one-off concert at the O2 Arena in London to 20000 fans, performing all their singles in a huge two-part Christmas party themed show. This was met with rave reviews, and the band said it would mark the end of a phase for them.
The O2 show certainly did feel like the end of an era - afterwards, the band promised to go on hiatus for at least 2 years. Bar a European tour inbetween, they managed to keep their promise until September 2013, when they returned with a headline performance at the unique Festival Number 6 in Portmeirion, Wales, followed by the release of their 11th album, Rewind The Film. The album was their most gentle, acoustic work to date, full of muted and often sad lyrics about the troubles of middle-age. However, it was another huge hit, reaching number 3 in the charts.
The band had hinted that during their break, they had been working on two albums at the same time, which both had very different sounds. The second album of this pair arrived in July 2014, following their biggest UK tour since 2010. Futurology was full of forward motion, hugely inspired by art and history, with many European influences from the band's time recording in Berlin. Songs like Europa Geht Durch Mich, a duet with German actress Nina Hoss, was a total departure from anything the band had ever done before, and they were rewarded with some of the best reviews of their career, and a number two chart position.
In late 2014, there came a real surprise. For many months there had been whispers of what the band was planning to do to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of The Holy Bible. Fans prayers were answered when the band announced a short UK tour in December, where they would play the album in full. Finishing in three nights at London's Roundhouse, these shows were hugely popular, selling out within minutes and gaining tonnes of praise from both fans and critics for tackling their most difficult album in this way. The band took the same Holy Bible show on tour to America in early 2015, and returned to the UK in summer 2015 where they played several shows, ending in the huge televised show in the historic and beautiful surroundings of Cardiff Castle on 6th June 2015.
At the end of 2015, the Manics announced another highly anticipated show - this time they would be performing the entirety of Everything Must Go in the Liberty Stadium in Swansea. This, for now, is their only plan for the next year, as the band say they wish to take some time off to work on new material. However, based on past experience, it won't be long until they're back again.
Essential listening (in order)
You Love Us
From Despair To Where
A Design For Life
If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next
The Masses Against The Classes
Your Love Alone Is Not Enough
It’s Not War (Just The End of Love)
Show Me The Wonder
Rewind The Film
Europa Geht Durch Mich
Walk Me To The Bridge