(photo by Pat Pope, full text)
MANIC STREET PREACHERS
SORRY, lifelong fan, but I’m a new convert. I got into them a week ago and here I am.
(They start with “Faster and, after the dub and horrorcore they’ve played, it jarrs and fits perfectly.)
OK, see it ain’t attitude cos anyone can do that, just cock a snook and suck your cheeks. It ain’t glamour. Glamour is boring. Glamour is loud pretty people who hug, hug, hug, giggling at your geek self all night. And it ain’t rock’n’roll; it was your rock’n’roll that made a nigger-hater the King, your teddy boys who Paki-bashed for Mosley, Notting Hill 1958, your rock’#n’roll build on SAMBO DON’T SELL. I ain’t interested and the Manics are way beyond that.
(“Yes” is Stjepan Mestrovic’s “Balkanisation Of The West” turned punk anthem, as if it could be any more punk. No higher compliment exists.)
The four founding points of Manics songs – one: modern life is untenable. Two: no one ever gets used to loneliness. Three: if truth relies on the battle between memory and power then life relies on the defeat of truth by habit and forgetting. And four: that’s all bullshit. The Manics are ferocious humanitarians who hate humanity. They don’t. Then do. Then do/n’t. Give me their honest confusion over a million tiny ignorant polemics.
(“Ifwhiteamerica” clatters and soars: “Not enough black, in the Union Jack”, they chorus – I wanna kiss them.)
The Manics sound to me like the last honest white band. Seething with questions doublimng back on themselves, changing their minds every which way, thinking things through to a complexity that bewilders and paralyses. Songs about democratic thought control, anorexia as redemption, America’s genocidal legacy, modernist collapse, the sparse skewered agony of bus rides.
(The pivoting, piston fast riff of “Revol” sears me in half. I stick the free Manics tattoo on my tongue and make like a Maori.)
But most of all they curse their vanity, that endless vanity that cons you into caring, no matter how much you wanna give it all up. That cruel voice that tells you love, happiness, satisfaction CAN’T NOT HAPPEN. However much James rocks it up, however drop dead cool Nicky is (and my God, he is), there’s a frustration, an enraged head-splitting snap of the guts that churns through every song tonight. It’s anxious, compelling stuff.
(“La Tristesse Durera” is a chunka chunka burning funk, “Roses In The Hospital” even better, blazing, absolutely blazing.)
The Manics awareness of the inherent self-indulgence, the shallow egoism of being a rock star is less important than the fact they’re trying to overcome it. To find . . . what? A reason? F***, no. A drink? Never enough, fine for now. Rest? Eventually.
(James’ solo “Raindrops” and “This Is Yesterday” bring the house down, let us see just what a great guitarist he has become. My starry eyes shiver.)
For them to be better people they need real responsibility. Wives, kids, mortgages, mouths to feed. We just better hope for our sakes it never happens, that they never leave this world they inhabit, where they have too much time to think about life cos they ain’t up to their neck in it, where we can pay them, to be existential voyagers on our timid behalfs. Pop is a cruel theatre of vicarious untruths. Sure. Not the point.
(They end with “You Love Us”. No need. They must know devotion is theirs. What they do with it next is inconceivable. Sure sign of greatness.)
I cannot put this is 66s and 99s. Like I said, a convert