Number one is the only number that matters. - Richey James Edwards
One of the greatest things about following Manic Street Preachers is their sheer unpredictability. The punk/rock hybrid that was their debut, Generation Terrorists, was followed by the smooth, heavily polished Gold Against The Soul. The Holy Bible saw the group return to its cutting former selves, whilst Everything Must Go was very much the sound of a group coming to terms with itself. Despite losing their chief lyricist, and most importantly their friend, the group had released an LP which quickly became their biggest seller, nearly gaining them their first number one single in the process.
For their fifth studio album, what direction would the group take? Retreating to a studio in France, the group decided to build on what they had begun with Everything Must Go, producing an album that may not be as brash as their previous efforts, but shows genuine progression by the group. Effortlessly combining Nicky Wire's lyrics with strong drumming, powerful guitars, and at times full orchestras, the album at times veers towards the grandiose, but never truly strays from the group's messages. This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours, taking its name from a speech by Aneurin Bevan, is no longer the sound of a group finding its feet - it's a group getting ready to run a marathon.
- The Everlasting - A gorgeous, poetic track, looking both forwards and backwards. Before now, the group had been focused on Richey, but now had to shine for themselves. The Everlasting both looks fondly back with nostalgia at the past, but also wishes to be rid of it (accompanied by some of the finest music you'll hear). Released as a single on 30th November, 1998, it reached number 11. "In the beginning, when we were winning, when our smiles were genuine / But now unforgiving, the everlasting"
- If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next - Number one. At last! A beautiful, yet haunting song about the Spanish Civil War, taken from the point of a reluctant volunteer, this song is powerful, moving, and helped propell the group into the spotlight as the darlings of the British music scene. Released as a single on 24th August 1998, it reached number 1. "Gravity keeps my head down, or is it maybe shame / At being so young, and being so vain."
- You Stole The Sun From My Heart - An uplifting, casual Britrock song about Nicky's loathing of touring - something he hates, but knows he has to do anyway. Released as a single on 8th March 1999, reaching number 5. "Drinking - water to stay thin / Or is it to purify / I love you all the same."
- Ready For Drowning - A slower, less anthemic track, lead by a soft organ into a song very much reminiscent of Everything Must Go. The song's meaning is ambiguous, being about Richey, Wales, and the Welsh village of Tryweryn, flooded to provide a reservoir. Not released as a single. "So where are we going? / We are not ready for drowning."
- Tsunami - Opening with a gorgeous string of notes from a sitar, this song talks about the so-called "Silent Twins" of HMP Broadmore. The song connects the two sisters, who until one died would only speak to each other in their own invented language, and Nicky and Richey. With Richey's disappearance, Nicky has to find his own voice. Released as a single on the 5th July, 1999, reaching 11. "Disco-dancing with the rapists / Your only crime is silence."
- My Little Empire - A quieter, less guitar-led song (albiet with a brilliant piece of guitarwork providing the backing), talking about addictions. Nicky is famously 'addicted to housework'. Not released as a single. "I'm happy being sad."
- I'm Not Working - Another song with possible dual meanings. Following from My Little Empire, the song could be seen as a reluctance to give in to addiction, or alternately it could be about Nicky's fear of flying ("Just this fucking space"). Not released as a single. "I know what's coming. I'm not working."
- You're Tender And You're Tired - Leading out with a strong piece of piano, this song is both fierce and moving, talking frankly about how Richey must have felt. Not released as a single. "You're so fragile tonight / Been up hurting all night / It's not trivial like they think / Yes you're desperate and hurt"
- Born A Girl - Nicky has always hated the sense of masculinity that pervades society, wanting some kind of escape. (See Life Becoming A Landslide on Gold Against The Soul) This song is a gentle, but urgent insistence of what he'd love. Not released as a single. "And I wish I had been born a girl and not this mess of a man."
- Be Natural - A song about changes. "Been natural once in my life" could well be looking back to how the group used to be, Generation Terrorists-era as a four piece. "It's too late to say goodbye." Not released as a single. "Been natural - is there anyone else"
- Black Dog On My Shoulder - A black dog is a well-known metaphor for depression - Winston Churchill, name-checked in this song, was a sufferer of manic depression. Naturally, this is a song about keeping away those feelings. Not released as a single. "There's a black dog on my shoulder again / Licking my neck and saying he's my friend."
- Nobody Loved You - The title makes clear that this is another song about Richey. Not released as a single. "Now you're gone - but at least you belong"
- S.Y.M.M. - Meaning "South Yorkshire Mass Murderer", this is a song about the Hillsborough disaster. This song caused controversy over its lyrics due to the subject matter, and is a chilling reflection on what happened. Not released as a single. "The reason for this song / Well it may be a pointless one / But thank you Jimmy McGovern / For reminding me of what lives on"
The Manics have changed a lot since their first album, and it shows. This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours is mature, quiet and introspective, rarely letting out the fury that surrounded their previous releases. The band are still the angry Welshmen who exploded in 1991, but they've found a new avenue for their message, one that the British public seem to have warmed to. By no means is this album a masterpiece - it never truly reaches the power, or the focus of The Holy Bible - but it is often quite unfairly criticised for not having a Stay Beautiful, or a You Love Us, an Ifwhiteamerica... or a Roses In The Hospital, a La Tristessa Durera or a 4st. 7lb.. This is an album that shows the Manics at a stage where they had finally come through the biggest transition of their career, and were finally ready to make it without Richey.
Previous: Everything Must Go
Next: Know Your Enemy