by Chris Tobin
Some bands although achieving financial or chart success will never achieve significance, they may emanate a musicality for its own sake, and whilst delusional they accept their own importance. The conflict and absurdity cannot not go unstated when you speak and indeed eulogise about The Manic Street Preachers.
There was an uneasy relationship with music media moguls and fans that held the band as close to their hearts and minds as was possible in the late 1980’s. The Manic Street Preachers would strangle its audience into submission with an intellect and prose sadly missing elsewhere in the music industry at the time, and possibly more lacking and relevant today. The Manic’s represented a dysfunctional fan base living on the fringe and would quickly find itself with a cult following, and like many before them who had trodden that very path a major skirmish with its own identity would ensue.
A British band loved or hated but never ignored. The Manic’s would become one of the 90’s most seminal bands, as they struggled through the avenues of an ill-fitting Brit Pop decade whilst treading their very singular path. They would find themselves in an era in which they were far removed some would accuse The Manic’s of losing its true identity forever as they appeared to court popularity, where its substance over style would become an constant and eminent mix.
Every great band has a tale to tell –
The Manic’s would have a very real life story when on 1st February 1995 its lyricist and heartbeat of the band Richie Edwards would go missing. Richie had struggled with mental issues intertwined with his recognised genius; having previously spent time in The Priory in 1994 this latest episode unknown to the band at the time would act as a catalyst for their later successes. Richie Edwards would never be found and on 23 November 2008 he was declared “Presumed dead” by his heartbroken family.
As disrespectful as it would seem to give a mere paragraph to Richie’s disappearance, however this is not an article on the history of The Manic Street Preachers, more so a look at its defining album – Everything Must Go and in particular A Design For Life.
The earlier attempts at music superstardom would become unrecognisable when the band would release its fourth studio album to both commercial and critical acclaim – Everything Must Go would go on to define the Manic’s for the next ten years, with the album itself becoming a watershed for the band & its followers. Undeniably the album would comfortable sit amongst the very greatest albums ever released on these shores.
Amongst its very many accolades the band received – Everything Must Go would secure a nomination for The Mercury music prize for best album. It would singularly win many Best Album awards of 1996 from NME, Kerrang, Music Week and Q Awards amongst the highlights.
A Design For Life would become the stand out single not only from the album but also as an anthem for the band, harmonising the new symphonic sound mixed with a new less harsh lyrical content. The single would be hijacked by nineties youth as it expressed their very own inner feelings with “Only wanting to get drunk” – Of course many would miss the real true meaning of the single and how indeed it was no more than a paradoxical comment on them, as they hummed along to Oasis songs covered in beers stains somewhat ignorant & unaware.
“Libraries gave us power” – Would reference Francis Bacon’s “Knowledge is power.”
“Then work came and made us free” – Was a direct correlation to a sign outside the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz “Arbeit macht frei” – Work sets you free”.
This would be no ordinary anthem, more a statement on society, a historical documentation in verse accompanied by violins and harps. In James Dean Bradfield they would add a rustic commentary through an honest if brutally harmonic songster – A true rock vocal.
It would resonate with the many, those with souls would have them stroked senseless, whilst the uninitiated would find their minds coloured by A Design For Life – They did not want to talk about love, they only wanted to get drunk & right now they could sing about it accompanied by a whole orchestra and it would warm us all and send shivers down our broken spines.
In an era lacking real greatness, or true originality The Manic’s would stand alone throwing stones at windows, a lost pursuit would not define them. Far from selling out The Manic’s would purchase their legacy with the twelve songs or statements which would adorn “Everything Must Go” & history would allow them a place and a seat at its table forever.
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