Those National Treasures of Wales keep on reinventing themselves as the 21st century rolls on. The band that once brought the world Everything Must Go, The Masses Against The Classes and an album called The Holy Bible may have mellowed with age. The literary references are less about trying to get goths to read Camus these days and more just stating the bloomin’ unavoidable cold hard facts.
“We live in Orwellian Times It feels impossible to pick a side”
These statements of fact are literally writ large on the screen as you listen to this aerodynamically smoothed version of the MSP sound if you watch the rather nifty YouTube clip that accompanies this song. This is the model that delivered This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours and If You Tolerate This Then You Children Will Be Next while people nodded along and said they’d lost their teeth. To want the fire and the fury is to miss the point. The words alone should have you hanging out the windows like you’re watching the live to air breakdown scene in Network “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore”
“The future fights the past, the books begin to burn, words wage war, meanings being missed, I’ll walk you through the apocalypse”
The Manic Street Preachers have elevated the art form when it comes to rock and roll. Their contribution is increasingly undervalued as they try out new things, regurgitate old things and slip lower down the bill form their headline status around the millennium to where they are now. Stealthily popping up everywhere and sinking below the surface again before anyone can really get a bead on what they’re doing next. What they did by mixing New York Dolls, The Clash, an undergrad degree in literary politics and some Iggy Pop was magnificent at the dawn of the 1990’s. Now they’re older, wiser, weathered and enshrined in the mystique of their missing lyricist they appear to many as a Stranglers like curiosity of a band who never quite fitted in to the scene they rode in on and who often surprise people just by continuing to turn up.
“A deepening sense of fear and crime, on the playing fields, in exclusive clubs and the people machines still making fools of us”
I make a habit of not buying every single album by a band with a deep discography. It leaves some mystery out there for the odd fallow year. I rode over Resistance Is Futile like it didn’t happen. Nothing wrong with it I’m sure. I was just looking in the other direction. Orwellian has me though. In the palm of it’s hand. Like Found That Soul had me when I was ignoring Know Your Enemy or like Send Away The Tigers reeled me right back in (I’m making it sound like I’m a stooge in a mafia movie trying to get away from doing Nicky Wire’s dirty work). The point I’m making is they’re consistently working hard at making a deep and rewarding songbook for their fans while trends, the media and even SteveForTheDeaf come and go year in year out only to find them still mining diamonds in the Welsh hills years later.
When they’re righteous they’re right.
Their hit rate is measurable at album number 13 not by chart positions or how close they are to the top of a festival bill but by the righteousness of the topic they set in their sights for each release. In the 21st Century alone we’ve has songs about isolation, Richard Nixon, Dylan and Caitlin Thomas, the Hillsborough disaster, Paul Robeson, ending wars, the miners strike, lost causes and The Welsh Football Team released as singles. The Box Set of singles they’ll one (record store) day release will dislocate shoulders on their way out of their local vinyl pushers that day, I tell thee.
The new album is called The Ultra Vivid Lament and it’s out in September. Even though they never really go away, I’m chuffed they’re back.