"The Manic Street Preachers want to release one double album, go on Top Of The Pops and change the world forever before splitting up to enjoy the tidal wave of spit and fury they think will explode in their wake."
-NME, 5 Janurary 1991
"Every A&R man in London has come to see us and they hate us totally. They come up to us and tell us to learn to play our instruments. Don't they realise we don't care? We're bored with all that! We don't want to live out their muso fantasies. they run around like headless chickens to sign the latest bunch of no-thinkers who successfully recreate Dark Side of The Moon. They don't care that every 14-year old who sees us doesn't care that we sound awful. He goes home, sells his record collection and wants to burn down Barclays bank."
"Two boys, 16 years old each, have hitched 50 miles to Waterford to capture the band. 'Manic Street Preachers are the first rock band we've liked, before it was only Public Enemy and NWA who meant anything.' This is why they skipped school to hitch. 'There's one copy of Motown Junk in our village and we all share it.'"
-NME, 11 May 1991
In 1991, some time between the Gulf War
and Smells Like Teen Spirit
, there were really only two alternatives to chart pop. You could get chockered on pills
and lose yourself in dance music, or you could mope along with the shoegazing
bands that ruled NME
and Melody Maker
Or, you could cross your fingers, and hope that Manic Street Preachers were going to do all the things that they promised to do. At a time when Birdland and Pop Will Eat Itself were about as aggressive and politicised as things got, the Manics had created made a huge impact on the scene, with their incoherent ranting letters to the press, their clever and obscure references and quotes, their New York Dolls glamour, their rejection of absolutely anything any worthy muso of the time held up as "good", their 4 Real scars, their blood. And of course their stupid, bizarre promise.
One album. Just one. It would sell 18 million copies, change the world. And then they'd disappear.
Before a single power chord had been recorded, they'd already drawn a huge amount of flak for signing to Columbia. Sell-outs, the critics yelled. As soon as there's money on the table, the punk angst disappears. This ignored the fact that since the first interviews, the band had sworn that they'd never touch an indie label. They'd go for the biggest label they could, because they despised the faux-authenticity of "serious" bands, who used their small labels as an excuse for their songs not making any difference to the listening public. Kylie Minogue, they held, had more cred than any of the lame indie bands around. "Being real" was a lame fuck around, selling out was the only true art.
"We will always hate Slowdive more than we hate Adolf Hitler."
As an indication of where they were heading, Steve Brown
was drafted in to produce. Having worked with the likes of The Cult
and, um, Wham!
, it showed that the band were determined to ditch the Clash
rumblings of their independent singles and go for a more polished stadium rock sound. Hanoi Rocks
and, most of all, Guns 'N' Roses
were the templates.
The record became the stuff of legend as it progressed well over-schedule and over-budget. Rumours abounded of fights, Richey's chronic drinking and the growing displeasure of the record company. Eventually, after 6 months and half a million quid, Generation Terrorists limped out of the studio. Stay Beautiful, the band's manifesto, was released as the first single.
So, was it any good? The initial reaction was quite hostile. Simon Price gave it 10/10 in Melody Maker. His editor threatened to fire him.
If they had been any other band in the world, they would have just released 10 Motown Junks. It would have sold 250,000 copies, gained them a strong cult following and a lot of cred in the press, and laid the groundwork for a stronger second album. If they had been any other band.
"We live in urban hell
We destroy rock'n'roll"
The four boys from Blackwood
though, created a huge, bloated, 18-track, 70 minute monster. It's full of polished, tightly-produced (over produced, IMHO) FM rock
anthems, with trademark, ranting, incoherent lyrics. It sounded dated when it was released. Which everyone expected, but rather than sounding like London in '77, it was LA in '86. It attacked everything they could possibly think of; the monarchy, democracy, banking, deforestation in the third world, religion, rock 'n' roll, urban sprawl
, rape, war, consumerism, drugs, government, conservatism, liberalism, and most of all it took a huge fucking blowtorch to the notion of apathy and screamed that if you don't believe in ANYTHING then you are NOTHING.
All this, while sounding like Motley Crue.
It's brilliant and stupid. Magnificent and hopelessly flawed. It may be the most important record ever made, and I, personally, haven't listened to it from start to finish in about six years. It utterly collapses under the weight of it's own ambition, but goddammit it was the only thing in the whole world to right then to have that ambition, or any ambition at all. Oh, and there was one perfect, unquestionable thing about it.
About 9 minutes in, right after Born To End finishes, a lonely guitar echoes out from somewhere far away. Mournfully, James begins to sing: "Culture sucks down words / Itemise loathing, and feed yourself smiles"
Just had Motown Junk had been their one crystallised moment of rage and fury, Motorcycle Emptiness was the utterly perfect moment of melancholy. I haven't met a single critic of the band who hasn't been silenced by that song, or whose heart hasn't broken just a little when James sings that final "Under neon loneliness / everlasting nothingness"
It possibly could have been the song that saved them, that finally delivered what they'd promised. Sadly, by the time they released it as a single, everybody had decided that they weren't interested unless it smelled like Seattle. Even worse, for some inexplicable reason the song was dropped altogether on the US version of the album (five songs were dropped in all, and b-side Democracy Coma was added).
"Sterile like a line of piss, motherfucker
Review with avant-garde lips, you're just a motherfucker"
-Condemned To Rock 'n' Roll
In all, a total of 6 singles were released from the album (and re-released after Everything Must Go
brought them genuine fame). It's worth mentioning the b-sides here, as there were actually more of them than there were album tracks. Some of the decisions that were made about what to put on the album seem really bizarre when compared to what was left out. My personal least favourite track is Natwest - Barclays - Midlands - Lloyds
. It's pretty duff by itself, but when you realise it's the stillborn twin of Dead Yankee Drawl
, you wonder what the hell they were thinking. Dead Yankee Drawl
is a vicious, thrashing, snarling anti-American hate fest, with lines like "Killed off literature with sex and violence / Fed a generation the equivalent of silence"
sounds like an advertising jingle. Oh well.
Included on the b-sides were some of their early efforts, like the laughably naff first single Suicide Alley. Motown Junk also pops up, as well as its own monstrous b-side We Her Majesty's Prisoners. Again, their unpolished anger, not to mention the pogo-inducing riffs, make some of the tracks on the album look a little limp. Is Damn Dog really a better song then Her Majesty's?
So, all in all, Generation Terrorists is a brilliant mess. It tries really hard, and it fails spectacularly, and to be honest that failure is still worth a thousand of the oh-so-worthy successes of more organised, professional bands. Bigger than Jesus. You love them.
"We're a mess of eyeliner and spraypaint
DIY destruction and chanel chic
Deny your culture of consumption
This is a culture of destruction"
The Singles :
Love's Sweet Exile / Repeat
You Love Us
Slash N' Burn
Little Baby Nothing
with associated quotes as in the original sleeve notes
- Slash 'n' Burn
"Progress is a comfortable disease" - ee cummings
- Natwest - Barclays - Midlands - Lloyds
"I listen to the money singing. It's like looking down from long French windows at a provincial town. The slums, the canal, the churches ornate and mad in the evening sun. It is intensely sad" - Philip Larkin
- Born To End
"O witches, O misery, O hate, to you has my treasure been entrusted! I contrived to purge my mind of all human hope. On all joy, to strangle it, I pounced with the strength of a wild beast. I called to the plagues to smother me in blood, in sand, misfortune was my God." - Rimbaud
- Motorcycle Emptiness
"I talk to God but the sky is empty - Sylvia Plath
- You Love Us
"Regard all art critics as useless and dangerous" - Manifesto of the Futurists
- Love's Sweet Exile
"Modern Capitalism, organising the reduction of all social life to a spectacle, cannot offer any other spectacle than that of our own alienation" - Kotyani, Vaneigism IS NO.6, 1961
- Little Baby Nothing
"The male chromosome is an incomplete female chromosome. In other words the male is a walking abortion, aborted at the gene stage. To be male is to be deficient, emotionally limited; maleness is a deficiancy disease and males are emotional cripples" - Valerie Solanos
- Repeat (Stars and Stripes)
"Elvis was a hero to most but he never meant shit to me...most of my heroes ain't appeared on no stamp" - Chuck D
"You said that you wanted to put us upon a reservation, to build us houses and make us medicine lodges. I was born where there were no enclosures and everything drew a free breath. I want to die there and not within these walls." - Ten Bears for the Comanche at The Council Of Medicine, Lodge Creek, 1867
"There is eloquence in screaming" - Patrick Jones
- Another Invented Disease
"In a universe suddenly divested of illusion and lights, man feels an alien, a stranger. His exile is without remedy since he is deprived of the memory of a lost home or the hope of a promised land" - Camus
- Stay Beautiful
"I saw some piglets suckling at their dead mother. After a short while they shuddered and went away. They sensed that she could no longer see them and that she wasn't like them any more. What they loved in their mother wasn't her body, but whatever it was that made her body live." - Confucius
- So Dead
"Deprive a man of his life lie and you rob him of his happiness" - Ibsen
- Repeat (UK)
"The party is not concerned with perpetuating itself. Who wields power is not important, providing that the heirarchical structure remains always the same." - George Orwell
- Spectators Of Suicide
"The tragedy of it is that nobody sees the look of desperation on my face. Thousands and thousands of us, and we're passing one another without a look of recognition." - Henry Miller
- Damn Dog
"This one's for Brian Jones and all the other dinosaurs that got kicked out tha' band. 1-2-3-4." - Sleaze Sisters
- Crucifix Kiss
"It was which first painted the devil on the world's wall; it was christianity which first brought sin into the world. Belief in the cure which it offered has now been shaken to its deepest roots; but belief in the sickness which it taught and propogated continues to exist." - Nietzche
- Methadone Pretty
"Junk is the ideal product. The ultimate merchandise. No sales talk necessary. The client will crawl through a sewer and beg to buy. The junk merchant does not sell his product to his customer, he sells his customer to the product. He does not improve and simplify his merchandise. He degrades and simplifies the client." William S. Burroughs
- Condemned to Rock 'n' Roll
"To all that pass that they may see, Rock 'n' Roll was a part of me" - Nik Cohn