The Manic Street Preachers are a Welsh Alternative Rock
band consisting of guitarist/vocalist James Dean Bradfield, bassist Nicky Wire and drummer Sean Moore. A fourth member, guitarist/songwriter Richey James Edwards, disappeared in 1995, and is believed to have committed suicide.
The band was founded in 1986 as a Clash
-influenced Punk Rock
outfit, but quickly moved in a more Post-Punk
direction before releasing their first EP, New Art Riot
, in 1990. Their debut album, Generation Terrorists
, was released in 1992 and sported a more mainstream, Guns N' Roses
-influenced sound. In this period the band tried to attract more attention by going to the press and bashing a ton of their contemporaries, especially Shoegazing
bands like My Bloody Valentine
(who they called "worse than Hitler
") and Madchester bands like the Happy Mondays
and The Charlatans. This backfired on them badly and got them massive Hype Backlash
and criticism that only worsened when Wire infamously declared during a Christmas concert the same year "In this season of goodwill, let’s pray that Michael Stipe goes the same way as Freddie Mercury pretty soon
.", but they managed to stay above the water with their Darker and Edgier Grunge
album Gold Against the Soul
Tragically, the band's rhythm guitarist, lyricist and spokesman Richey James Edwards vanished in 1995, possibly over the side of the Severn Bridge, after a long history of depression and self harm. He was declared presumed deceased
in 2008. His disappearance occurred less than a year after the release of the controversial but critically acclaimed release, The Holy Bible
, considered by many fans to be the band's best work.
The band achieved mainstream success in 1996 with Everything Must Go
, with a grandiose sound in many ways reminiscent of the Britpop
movement popular at the time. The followup album, This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours
, had a similar sound and enjoyed similar success. Their later releases have tended to be more polarising, but all have been successful, to varying degrees.
The Manics' songs are characterised by highly political, often confrontational lyrics and bleak, at times nihilistic themes, as well as diverse cultural references ranging from Vincent van Gogh to Marilyn Manson to Sylvia Plath
. They were notably the first popular Western rock musicians to play in Cuba
. In their native UK, they have had two number one singles, "If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next" and "The Masses Against the Classes".
A book authored by Ben Myers called "Richard"
was released in 2010, offering a semi-fictionalized account of the life of Richey Edwards leading up to his mysterious disappearance. An excellent review by an ardent fan can be found here
, and a followup interview with Ben here
- Generation Terrorists (1992)
- Gold Against the Soul (1993)
- The Holy Bible (1994)
- Everything Must Go (1996)
- This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours (1998)
- Know Your Enemy (2001)
- Lifeblood (2004)
- Send Away the Tigers (2007)
- Journal for Plague Lovers (2009)
- Postcards From A Young Man (2010)
- Rewind The Film (2013)
- Futurology (2014)
This band provides examples of:
- Ac CENT Upon The Wrong Syl LA Ble: many of Richey James' songs. The band has a stricter-than-most formation of Edwards and Wire (now just Wire) at the lyrics dept. and Bradfield and Moore handling the musical aspects. Many times the lyrics were finished first, and despite their best efforts it led to this problem.
- For some of the more difficult Bradfield and Moore just gave up. Said Wire on some of Edwards's lyrics:
- Audience Participation Song: "Stay Beautiful".
- The Backwards R: on the font for The Holy Bible, Send Away the Tigers, Journal for Plague Lovers and Futurology.
- The Band Minus the Face: Richey wasn't the singer, but he wrote the lyrics for more than half of their songs and was prominent in promo materials. When he disappeared, the band soldiered on as a trio and managed to become far more popular than they were before. The band's 2009 album Journal for Plague Lovers contains lyrics that Richey had completed before his death, in honor of Richey being declared Legally Dead.
- The Blank: the people in the Music Video for "If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next".
- Cherry Blossoms: in the video for "Everything Must Go". Also referenced in "Nobody Loved You".
- Country Matters: Used in the opening line to "Yes", which happens to be the first song on The Holy Bible.
- Cover Version: several, including "Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head", "Working Class Hero", "Umbrella", "This Is The Day" and "Suicide is Painless".
- Curse Cut Short: "Stay Beautiful" - "Why don't you just f-" *guitar squeal*
- Darker and Edgier: The Holy Bible
- Dead Artists Are Better: Richey James, arguably.
- Domestic Abuse: "She Bathed Herself in a Bath of Bleach".
- The cover◊ for Journal for Plague Lovers (the album "Bleach" came from) was banned in several supermarkets because they interpreted it to be this. The band was upset, not because it would curb sales, since Journal is largely a niche album intended for fans, but because to them it was just brushworks.
- Early Installment Weirdness: An impressed fan of, say, This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours trying to check out Generation Terrorists would find the experience not quite what they expected.
- Fan Disservice: The cover of The Holy Bible.
- Four-Temperament Ensemble: James Dean Bradfield is choleric, Nicky Wire is sanguine, Richey Edwards is melancholic, and Sean Moore is phlegmatic.
- Ho Yay: Invoked. Nicky and Richey deliberately played this up in the early years.
- Humans Are Bastards: "Of Walking Abortion", from The Holy Bible. "Everyone is guilty"...
- Faster, from the same album, features the couplet: "It's so damn easy to cave in/Man kills everything."
- Isn't It Ironic?: The BNP's unauthorised appropriation of "If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next", written about the Spanish Civil War. Particularly ironic given that the song contains the line "If I can shoot rabbits, then I can shoot fascists"...
- Last Note Nightmare: "This Is Yesterday"
- Legally Dead: Richey James Edwards. Many already thought he was dead for years before the 2008 declaration, but the band members always held out hope he was still alive somewhere and kept a bank account open with his share of their royalties in it.
- Lighter and Softer: The more palatable Everything Must Go. This resulted in an explosion in their mainstream popularity, yet they still managed to remain critical darlings.
- Hit the lightest peak with Lifeblood, which is their most softly polished work to date.
- Rewind The Film is all acoustic, and as you can imagine, lighter and softer than their other work.
- Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition: The anniversary editions of The Holy Bible and Everything Must Go.
- Also the book edition of Journal For Plague Lovers - the album, a CD of demos and alternate takes, and a book containing photos of the original lyrics and signed by all three remaining band members.
- The special edition of Greatest Hits collection Forever Delayed (2002) had a bonus CD of remixes.
- The limited edition of single collection National Treasures (2011) has a DVD with music videos for all 38 of the Manics' singles up till then, and a book containing photos of the band, mostly Richey-era.
- The limited edition box set reissue of Generation Terrorists which notably included an extra disc of previously unreleased demos. It was in such high demand that it sold out, and people were paying large amounts of money for it on ebay. The band have thought about getting another pressing done.
- Literary Allusion Title
- "La Tristesse Durera" (from "Gold Against The Soul") - the title of Vincent van Gogh's autobiography
- "Archives of Pain" (from "The Holy Bible") - a chapter of a book by philosopher Michel Foucault
- "Small Black Flowers that Grow in the Sky" and "The Girl Who Wanted to Be God" (from "Everything Must Go") are both references to Sylvia Plath
- "Know Your Enemy" (album) - from Sun Tzu's The Art of War Chapter III, 'Act Of Strategem'
- "All Is Vanity" (from "Journal For Plague Lovers") - the title is from Ecclesiastes 1:2
- Long Runner Line Up: Category 1.5/"Type 1 + 2". It's always been Bradfield, Moore, Wire, and Edwards until the latter disappeared—after that, the remaining three became the constant. It can be said that they're somewhat pushing for type 1, because while Edwards's status was still "missing" and yet to be legally dead, the band still divides their profit evenly and kept Edwards's share in case he returned, as though he's still a member of the group.
- Long Title: "Ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayit'sworldwouldfallapart".
- Also, "If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next" holds the Guinness World Record for being the longest (and bracketless) title for a number one single.
- Man on Fire: Several, in the video for "The Everlasting".
- Minimalistic Cover Art: Lifeblood, and to a lesser extent Everything Must Go.
- Mondegreen: From "Removables": "A bronze moth dies easily" becomes "I bronze my thighs easily".
- From "Little Baby Nothing": It's possible to mishear "your beauty and virginity used like toys" as "your booty and virginity used like toys"...
- New Sound Album: Everything Must Go saw the group shift from a raw glam-punk sound to a grandiose sound inspired by Britpop.
- One could argue their entire early career was just one after another of these. Generation Terrorists is Glam Rock, Gold Against the Soul is Grunge, The Holy Bible is Post-Punk, Everything Must Go and This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours is Britpop. There was also the more experimental lo-fi album Know Your Enemy. In recent years the Manics seem to have settled more comfortably into the realms of Alternative Rock, but their early work is certainly turbulent listening - at times you're not even sure it's the same band you're listening to!
- Nixon Mask: Seen in the Music Video for "The Love of Richard Nixon".
- Non-Appearing Title: "Ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayit'sworldwouldfallapart"note , "We Her Majesty's Prisoners", "Sorrow 16", "Facing Page: Top Left", "Jackie Collins Existential Question Time", "The Intense Humming of Evil", "Elvis Impersonator: Blackpool Pier", "Stay Beautiful", "Crucifix Kiss", "Nostalgic Pushhead", "Symphony of Tourette", "Archives of Pain", "Faster", "Peeled Apples", "Virginia State Epileptic Colony", "The Convalescent", "His Last Painting", "Golden Platitudes".
- Nothing but Skin and Bones: 4st 7lb.
- Perishing Alt Rock Voice: This is Yesterday uses this to heartrending effect, as does Small Black Flowers That Grow in the Sky.
- Sampling: Used extensively, and everyone from Public Enemy to J.G. Ballard.
- Serious Business / Self Harm: when music journalist/BBC Radio 1 host Steve Lamacq questioned their authenticity, Richey famously carved "4 REAL" into his own forearm with a razorblade. Richey had a history of self-harm both before and after the incident.
- Shout-Out: Numerous examples, such as Pink Floyd in "Your Love Alone Is Not Enough" and Marilyn Manson in "There by the Grace of God".
- Silly Rabbit, Romance Is for Kids!: "Life Becoming A Landslide" features the pre-chorus "My idea of love comes from a childhood glimpse of pornogrpahy/though there is no true love, just a finely-tuned jealousy". This also seems to have been the view that Richey, who wrote the lyric, held.
- Something Blues: "Wattsvile Blues"
- Spiritual Successor: Journal for Plague Lovers was inevitably seen as this to The Holy Bible, what with the Richey Edwards lyrics and the occasional sampling.
- Step Up to the Microphone: Nicky Wire sings lead vocals in "Wattsvile Blues", "William's Last Word", and "The Future Has Been Here 4Ever".
- Take That: Frequently used in their songs, with politicians and consumer culture as frequent targets. They've also delivered three to the British monarchy in the form of "Repeat", "We Her Majesty's Prisoners" and "Democracy Coma".
- Title Only Chorus: "You Love Us", "A Design for Life", "Kevin Carter", "If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next", "You Stole the Sun from My Heart", and "To Repel Ghosts".
- Title Track: On Gold Against the Soul, Everything Must Go, and every studio album so far since Send Away the Tigers onwards.
- Subverted with Generation Terrorists. The song is on the album, but has since been renamed to Stay Beautiful.
- Weight Woe: "4st 7lb" is sung from the perspective of an anorexic girl, and Richey Edwards suffered from anorexia himself.
- Wholesome Crossdresser: Nicky Wire's been known to crossdress at some of their performances.