The Manic Street Preachers
are a band from Wales
. Mixing radical political beliefs (usually socialist
but with occasional elements of fascism
particularly in their early work - think the political ambiguity of Fight Club
) with lyrics about depression and pop-metal music, they became one of the most popular British bands of the 90s.
Formed by cousins James Dean Bradfield (lead guitar, vocals) and Sean Moore (drums, trumpet) with friends Richard James Edwards (aka Richey James, Richey Edwards) (rhythm guitar) and Nick 'Nicky Wire' Jones (bass, backing vocals), Bradfield and Moore were the only ones who could play their instruments (Edwards never learned), so Edwards and Wire wrote the lyrics and jumped about on stage, and were responsible for the band's glam-punk image (makeup, tiaras, and spray-painted clothes), while Bradfield and Moore wrote the music and played it.
After a couple of independently released singles (now extremely rare), the band released their first album, Generation Terrorists in 1992. An ambitious double album, influenced by Guns 'N' Roses and Public Enemy, standout tracks were Little Baby Nothing (featuring porn star Traci Lords) and the transcendent pop single Motorcyle Emptiness. The album was overlong though, and certainly didn't live up to the band's promise that they would 'release the best album ever, sell twenty million copies, then split up'.
Follow up Gold Against The Soul was released in 1993, and while it spawned four hit singles, it was generally not considered up to the quality of its predecessor, going for an overcommercial American rock sound (always a flaw in the band's sound).
Their third album, The Holy Bible was another matter altogether. Generally considered the closest thing the band has released to a masterpiece, this album was lyrically almost entirely the work of Edwards, who by this time was very publicly suffering from severe mental problems (problems which unfortunately a large proportion of the band's fanbase sought to emulate, to the extent of cutting themselves in imitation of him). The lyrics deal with Edwards' suicidal depression and anorexia, and while the band's trademark political stances do appear (noteably on IFWHITEAMERICATOLDTHETRUTHFORONEDAYITSWORLDWOULDFALLAPART, far more typical of this album are songs like 4st 7lbs ("I want to walk in the snow and not leave a footprint") and Die In The Summertime ("I want to die in the summertime"). This is one of the bleakest, most downbeat albums ever recorded, and in retrospect it is clear to see that Edwards was on the brink of a very sharp decline.
On February 1, 1995, the eve of what was expected to be the Manics' breakthrough US tour, Edwards disappeared from his hotel room. His car was found near the Severn bridge in Wales, a notorious suicide blackspot. Despite the numerous supposed 'sightings' of him over the years, the fact remains that he almost certainly killed himself.
Once it became apparent that he wasn't going to turn up straight away, the band decided to continue as a three-piece. The first fruits of that version of the band came in 1995 with the single A Design For Life. A classic bombastic pop single in the mold of Motorcycle Emptiness this was also possibly the best political song of the 90s, with the exception of Pulp's simillar Common People. The single reached number 2, by far their biggest hit to that date, and was followed by the album Everything Must Go.
Named after a play by Wire's brother, this album was the band's true commercial breakthrough, and probably represents them at their best. A few of Edwards' lyrics survive, but the bulk of the lyrics are by Wire, and are wedded to a newfound pop sensibility that shows Bradfield's longstanding admiration of Brian Wilson and Phil Spector, while still being guitar-rock based. This is the one Manics album that both critics and the public became enthusiastic about.
The same cannot be said, unfortunately for their next two albums. This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours sounds scarily like Bryan Adams for the most part. Fans tried to defend the insufferably dull number 1 single If You Tolerate This Then your Children Will Be Next as a return to their former radicalism, by pointing out that it was about the Spanish Civil War. So was Fernando by ABBA, and that was dire too.
2001's Know Your Enemy is no better, though it too was a commercial success, and even the band's most hardcore obsessive fans now admit they've run out of steam and become a sad, bloated parody of themselves.
Note - I'm only a casual fan of this band. I've seen them live twice and think they've done some pretty good singles, but that's it. I'm certainly not a member of the cult of Richey, who are people I have had far too many dealings with and who I either despise or pity depending on the person. As a result, this doesn't have as much info as it could - I've noded this because there's very little information on them here. If a true obsessive fan wants to provide more detail and makes this w/u obsolete, no-one will be happier than myself.