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Music / Manic Street Preachers

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Above: The classic four-piece lineup from early 1990s.
Below: The Power Trio formation, post-Edwards's disappearance.

"I wanted to rub the human face in its own vomit and force it to look in the mirror."
JG Ballard, as sampled in "Mausoleum"

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/songwriternote  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 and Slowdive (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 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 and lyricist Richey James Edwards vanished in 1995, possibly over the side of the Severn Bridge, after a long history of depression, alcohol abuse, self-harm and anorexia. 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, a noisy, angst-ridden collection of tracks dealing with heavy subject matter such as prostitution, the Holocaust, political disarray, and eating disorders.

The band achieved mainstream success in 1996 with Everything Must Go, which contained 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 thematic bleakness to the point of nihilism, 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.

Studio albums:

  • 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)
  • Resistance is Futile (2018)
  • The Ultra Vivid Lament (2021)
  • Know Your Enemy (2 CD Re-Cut, 2022)

Your Tropes Alone Are Not Enough:

  • AcCENT upon the Wrong SylLABle: many of Richey Edwards' 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:
      "[...] Too impossible. Some of them are little haikus, four lines. 'Dolphin-Friendly Tuna Wars', that's one."
  • Audience Participation Song: "Stay Beautiful".
  • The Backwards Я: 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.
  • Band Name Drop: Done in "Archives Of Pain" at the end of the second chorus, shouted alongside a list of notorious serial killers. The last name is meant to be Milošević, but is changed to 'Manic Street Preachers'.
  • The Blank: the people in the Music Video for "If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next".
  • Body Horror: 4st 7lb, a vivid description of someone wasting away from anorexia.
  • Bowdlerize: In the single version of "Roses in the Hospital", the line "We don't want your fucking love." was replaced by a Title Drop.
    • Later, they changed the line "Collapsing like the Twin Towers" in "Empty Souls" to "Collapsing like dying flowers", although backing vocals can be heard singing the original line.
  • Britpop: Everything Must Go and This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours.
  • Call-Back: "Your Love Alone Is Not Enough" references "You Stole the Sun from My Heart".
  • Celebrity Elegy: "Kevin Carter" is explicitly inspired by the life of the South African photojournalist of the same name, who killed himself partially due to trauma from the many gruesome events he had witnessed during wars, civil unrest and famines, and his moral self-hatred about making money out of them and not intervening in them to try to help.
  • 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.
  • Declaration of Protection: "Orwellian"
    "I'll walk you through the apocalypse."
  • Democracy Is Bad: "Specators of Suicide" has a memorable chorus which contains the line "Democracy is an empty lie."
  • 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.
  • Downer Ending: Many songs, especially on The Holy Bible, which is basically a Concept Album about the myriad ways in which Humans Are Bastards and that includes you.
    • "4st 7lbs" ends with the narrator surrendering themselves to anorexia nervosa and being strongly implied to die.
    • The Holy Bible itself ends on a downer - after a song about The Holocaust, it then suggests that the sum total of all human achievement and culture is eventually going to be destroyed by sanctimonious Moral Guardians, to the point that nobody will remember Shakespeare. Such is how mistrustful humans have become of each other that we've come to see this as a normal part of living.
  • Dreadful Musician: Richey Edwards, who could barely play the guitar. He only played on two tracks, "La Tristesse Durera (Scream To A Sigh)" and "No Surface All Feeling".
  • 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.
    • Anyone listening to The Holy Bible or Journal For Plague Lovers for the first time after enjoying any of their other albums is generally in for quite a shock.
  • Empty Chair Memorial: The band traditionally leave an empty microphone on-stage during live performances as a tribute to their original rhythm guitarist and lyricist, Richey Edwards, who disappeared (and is presumed to have committed suicide given the available evidence) in 1995.
  • Eyeless Face: James at the end of "If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next" video.
  • Fan Disservice: The cover of The Holy Bible.
  • Glam Rock / Hair Metal: Generation Terrorists.
  • Grief Song: Several, about Richey. "Nobody Loved You" and "Still Snowing In Sapporo" are two of the most notable.
  • Grunge: Gold Against The Soul.
  • 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."
    • This is really just the main theme of The Holy Bible, at least when it's not "I Am A Bastard".
  • Important Haircut: Richey buzzed his long flippy hair short during his mental breakdown around the release of Holy Bible. He shaved it completely bald about 2 weeks before he went missing, telling the magazine he did a shoot for that he'd done it because he couldn't sleep the night before.
  • 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"...
  • Krautrock: A big influence on Futurology.
  • Language Equals Thought: Discussued in "Orwellian", as part of the song's dystopian look at 21st century Britain.
  • Last Note Nightmare: "This Is Yesterday"
  • Lead Bassist: Nicky Wire is a type C, for being the band's sole lyricist post-1995, his flamboyant image and his outspoken attitude in the press.
  • 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.
  • 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: Either Type 1 or Type 2, depending on how you view things. They are de facto Type 2 (a lineup other than the original is the long runner), having had the lineup of Bradfield, Moore, and Wire since 1995, when Richie vanished. Officially, though, they are Type 1 (original lineup is the longrunner), since they continued to treat Edwards like an official member until they declared him Legally Dead in 2008.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Rampant. This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours, Everything Must Go, and especially The Ultra Vivid Lament touch on the same dark themes, with lighter music.
    • "Don't Let The Night Divide Us" from The Ultra Vivid Lament is a bouncy, upbeat piece about the British people's growing discontent, up to and including political violence.
  • Man on Fire: Several, in the video for "The Everlasting". An edited version without the fire had to be released due to the death of Michael Menson, who was burned by three men in a street attack around the time the single was released.
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: Lifeblood, and to a lesser extent Everything Must Go.
  • 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, which in turn was followed by the Synth-Pop heavy Lifeblood. 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".
  • Perishing Alt-Rock Voice: This is Yesterday uses this to heartrending effect, as does Small Black Flowers That Grow in the Sky.
  • Post-Punk: The Holy Bible.
  • Re-Cut:
    • The US release of Generation Terrorists axes "Born to End", "So Dead", "Spectators of Suicide", "Damn Dog", and "Methadone Pretty", adds "Democracy Coma", remixes "Slash 'n' Burn", "Nat West–Barclays–Midlands–Lloyds", "Little Baby Nothing", and "You Love Us", and rearranges much of the running order. The result clocks in at just 58 minutes compared to the UK edition's 73.
    • Did this with Know Your Enemy in 2022, incorporating unreleased tracks to reconstruct it into the two albums they'd initially planned to release in its place, Solidarity and Door to the River, and remixing the whole thing.
  • Sampling: Used extensively, and everyone from Public Enemy to J.G. Ballard.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: "The Secret He Had Missed" from The Ultra Vivid Lament. It tells of real-life Welsh artists Augustus and Gwen John. He was a Bohemian considered one of the premiere artists of his day. She was much a much calmer and more conventional individual whose talent was only properly appreciated in modern times.
  • Silly Rabbit, Romance Is for Kids!: "Life Becoming a Landslide" features the pre-chorus "My idea of love comes from a childhood glimpse of pornography/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"
  • 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 from Send Away the Tigers to Futurology, with Resistance Is Futile finally breaking the chain.
    • Subverted with Generation Terrorists. The song is on the album, but has since been renamed to "Stay Beautiful".
  • Uncommon Time: Verses of "Yes" constantly change between 7/8 and 8/8. Also parts of the following, "Ifwhiteamerica..." are in 3/4 measure.
  • 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.
  • You Bastard!: "Of Walking Abortion" is about how humanity as a species is the physical embodiment of abortion, ending potential lives by killing potential parents before they even have a chance to start, either by complacently allowing war to happen or just by senseless murder and violence. The lyrics state that "everyone is guilty" - including you. The song ends with the repeated line "Who's responsible? / You fucking are."