MANIC STREET PREACHERS
An album of tracks about financial crisis with banks taking advantage of the public; tracks criticising the monarchy and questioning their relevance; tracks dealing with the delicate subject of childhood abuse. This album could sum up everything about 2012, but this album is 20 years old…
‘Generation Terrorists’, the debut album from Welsh rockers Manic Street Preachers seems with hindsight to be oddly prophetic with themes even more relevant now than they were on the album’s release in 1992. This was the record that the Manics had claimed it was their destiny to make. Lyricist and guitarist Richey Edwards (who disappeared without trace in 1995), had claimed that Generation Terrorists would be a masterpiece, sell a million copies and then the band would break up forever. Luckily the predictions in his lyrical themes were more accurate than those of their career.
On listening to it now, some songs have matured into classics while some have not aged quite so favorably. Some sound dated, hackneyed and cliched, but some stand out as clear and relevant as the first time we heard them. With 18 tracks, it’s fair to say that perhaps some of them should have been cut from the final track list. It’s unlikely even the most dedicated Manics fan would miss ‘Another Invented Disease’, ‘Spectators of Suicide’ or ‘Damn Dog’. The lyrics barely scan, let alone make sense or have any sort of emotional consistency.
Luckily though, the majority of the songs have stood the test of time. Opening track ‘Slash and Burn’ retains its urgency and passion, while ‘Natwest Barclays Midlands Lloyds’ has taken on new meaning in a post-credit crunch economy, we finally get what they’re banging on about. Given the ever more horrifying stories emerging about the sexual preferences of certain celebrities this year, ‘Little Baby Nothing’, their duet with porn star Traci Lords, can also be seen in new context. The song deals with Lords’ history as an underage actress in adult movies and the psychological effects of being used for sex at a young age. A delicate subject for a rock band, but dealt with sensitively by the band and demonstrated astonishing maturity for a band who were themselves, at the time, very young.
The albums undoubted highlights remain the two most well known singles though. ‘You Love Us’ was the first single to be released from the album, a breathtakingly ballsy and presumptive demand for attention. The influence of The Clash and the New York Dolls run through the track like a stick of rock. One of their most enduring songs that still forms a regular part of their live show to this day, it’s a middle finger to all those criticising or abusing the band, the perfect reply to those doubting the bands authenticity or disapproving of their glam aesthetic.
Even stronger though is Motorcycle Emptiness, the song that originally made us fall in love with the band. The darkest and bleakest of teen anthems, it deals with the usual adolescent issues of ‘alienation, boredom and despair’, but expresses it in such an eloquent and mature way that anyone can relate to it, regardless of age or background. NME described it as ‘a widescreen emotional x-ray of how it feels to grow up in a system that loathes and despises you and demands that you feel the same way about yourself.’ Not only that, but it is has a killer guitar solo too…
All this is only part of the Manics mythology. Younger readers may be unaware of the depression, alcoholism and disappearance of Edwards, the calls of inauthenticity answered by carving ‘4 REAL’ into his forearm and the darkness of their true masterpiece album, The Holy Bible. This month sees the release of a special 20th anniversary edition of the album, making this the perfect time to start your journey into the dark heart of the Manic Street Preachers and for the rest of us, the perfect time to celebrate the career of one of the great British bands. After all, You Love Them! You Love Them! You Love Them! You Love!
The 20th anniversary edition of “Generation Terrorists’ is out now.