Tag Archives: James Dean Bradfield

Ode to Manic Street Preachers: 21 Years of Living and Nothing Means Anything To Me

22 Feb

Today is a very important day for me, almost like a second birthday to me. On this day, 22nd February, five years ago I discovered my favourite band: Manic Street Preachers. It was a life changing moment for me. I remember it well, and I don’t remember the moment I discovered every single band; on that grey late winter morning I first listened to their song Little Baby Nothing. I found it catchy but nothing more. The video featured only the singer, and the mystery of the band was yet to unravel. I ended up listening to it many times that morning and that same afternoon I was already listening to their first album obsessively over and over again, and then the second and the third….

Manic Street Preachers are a Welsh band formed in 1986, and originally consisted of four guys, James Dean Bradfield, Richey Edwards, Nicky Wire and Sean Moore who were mates since they were kids. The band is still active, although without Richey Edwards who disappeared in February 1995. The band truly sprang from their lovely friendships and a shared feeling of angst, frustration of living in a small town and love for rock ‘n’ roll and literature. I love the fact that they had and have such nice, warm and lasting friendships, and I dreamed of having that myself. They released their first single “Suicide Alley” in 1988, and both the song and the cover photo were an unmistakable homage to one band they loved and looked up to: The Clash. In January 1991 they released a significant single that musically and lyrically served as a prelude for things which were to come: “Motown Junk” which shows both the band’s disdain for old music (the title is a reference to Motown classics) and their love for the American hip-hop group Public Enemy whose sampling serves as the intro for “Motown Junk”. The lyrics show the typical teenage boredom and saturation with culture and everything else:

Never ever wanted to be with you,
The only thing you gave me was the boredom I suffocated in,
Adrift in cheap dreams don’t stop the rain,
Numbed out in piss towns,
Just want to dig their graves

Motown, Motown junk
I laughed when Lennon got shot,
Twenty one years of living and nothing means anything to me.

The same year they started releasing singles such as “Love’s Sweet Exile”, “You Love Us” and “Stay Beautiful” to name a few, that were to become songs on their infamous debut album “Generation Terrorists” released in February the following year.

Bored, alienated, angry, smart and glamorous, a self-proclaimed “mess of eyeliner and spraypaint”, in the early 1990s the Manics were a band that everyone loved to hate, and they, by no surprise, hated everyone in return. They despised their surroundings and deemed everything worthless and even slagged off the bands whose records they owned, such as The Stone Roses. Even the negativity of the song “Motown Junk” is just a performance because Richey later admitted to liking the Supremes and Otis Redding, saying that “everyone has a softer side”. Manics’ original plan was to make a double album which would sell 16 million copies and reach Number 1 worldwide. After they achieved their grand plan, they’d split up, declaring “The most important thing we can do is get massive and then throw it all away.” The album failed miserably in America where grunge bands like Pearl Jam and Nirvana were all the rage. Their debut album was an eclectic collage of everything they loved and everything that inspired them. A true musical diary of miserable teenage years; sadness and boredom coated in glamour.

Nicky with their first album, photo by Tom Sheehan, found here.

It brought everything I needed and wanted into my life; the combination of angry guitars and intellectual lyrics, provocative videos and interviews, stylish “glam-twins” as Richey and Nicky were called, wearing black eyeliner and tight white jeans. And the album had a slight over the top-DIY feel to it; as the British magazine The Quietus said later on: “It had to sound passé, it had to be overdone; if you’re trying to bulldoze the shiny edifice of western pop culture, you can’t do it tastefully or with subtlety, can you?” That’s exactly what instantly appealed to me about the Manics; their mix of trashiness with an intellectual knowledgeable basis. They could be giving slightly arrogant provocative statements in press or be deliberately shocking in videos, blending genders and adding a hint of eroticism, but in reality they were well-read and thoughtful individuals, and this combination together gives a whole different appeal than the bigmouth Liam Gallagher in his interviews where every other sentence is “d’ya know what I mean?” The theme of the lyrics switches back and forth from the criticism of capitalism and materialism to more introspective topics which were to prevail in albums to come.

A still from the video “Love’s Sweet Exile”

I was a shy, bookish and slightly clueless individual, and discovering Manics was like getting a direction in life, or more like a guidance on how to be a teenager from someone who knows it all too well. At first I was so captivated by the music alone that I stopped doing everything else, suddenly nothing mattered and I lived through their music, voraciously watched their interviews, read articles about them, searched their photographs, and even ceased writing posts for a while. I spent the next few months in a trance, living in the melodies and lyrics. As time passed, this mad blind passion did not subside but rather branched into more interests; I began to take some of my classes in grammar school seriously, I rediscovered my love for writing essays, I relished in studying sociology and politics because it all led me to the Manics again.

With all the cultural references included in their songs, listening to Manic Street Preachers takes you on an exciting trip; poems by Rimbaud and Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road”; both awoke in me a wanderlust that I tried to tame with endless long walks on the meadows, woods and by the river. Walking around my boring humdrum small town and enjoying the rare delights of nature in it seemed to be the only thing that eased my restlessness and a sudden overflowing enthusiasm for life.

“I wanna sing about a culture that says nothing. I wanna say the fact that basically all your life you’re treated like a nobody.” (Richey)

I craved excitement, and every new day brought the possibility of it. Rimbaud made me daydream of freedom and an idyll of the countryside with its barley fields and murmuring brooks, and Kerouac on the other hand, with his sad and romantic tales of trips around America and wild adventures with his eccentric friends, left me with a glamorous vision of the world which still hasn’t left me. The melodies of Manics’ songs followed me on every step. At home I would sit on my windowsill and write poetry, getting lost in the beauty of pink sunsets and spring rains, the smell of the lilac tree in my garden would make me delirious. I listened to the Manics every single day, and they took me on a glorious ‘book adventure’; I wanted to read everything that inspired Richey, and I did. I wanted to read everything Richey read and enjoyed, and thanks to him I have discovered some wonderful books which have become my personal favourites: “No Longer Human” by Osamu Dazai, “Thirst for love” by Yukio Mishima, “Naomi” by Junichiro Tanizaki, Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita”, plays by Tennessee Williams, “1984” by George Orwell, “The Rules of Attraction” by Breat Eason Ellis etc.

Manics sparked in me a desire for self-expression, thirst for knowledge and taught me critical thinking. In my school essays I saw a unique opportunity to express my thoughts, and so I wrote them with passion. It’s a bit ironic, because the Manics were so miserable and depressed in their early years, but they gave me a lust for life, a passion, a purpose, and during that short period in time, I really saw life through rose-tinted glasses, and I was unbelievably self-confident and carefree. Their music filled me with passion that inspired me to write this blog, and even gave me a direction; I had found my mission at last. Everything had a strong impact on me; a song, a colour, a sunset, a line in a poem. I felt like I was on an acid trip every day. The awakening of nature in spring coincided with the awakening of my soul: I felt as if I had lifted the misty veil of childhood and entered the teenage years.

I have a very childlike rage, and a very childlike loneliness. (Richey)

Richey became my teacher and I was a diligent pupil, learning not only the books and politics, but also the art of being melancholy and glamorous. My lessons on Orwell and Dazai would be incomplete had I not mastered the art of putting on a black eyeliner around my eyes and donned something appropriate on. It’s clear by now from the pictures that Manics loved looking cool and expressing themselves through clothes too. They changed fashion styles from album to album, and I love their first glam phase the most when they wore white jeans, leopard print coats, shirts with floral prints or hand written slogans such as “Death Sentence Heritage”, “I hate American rock”, “Rock ‘n’ Roll suicide”, “Sensitivity”, “Spectators of suicide” and “Culture of destruction”, bracelets, messy hair, and occasionally red lipstick too.

Richey and Nicky were a perfect pair of faces to have on the wall of my bedroom where I simply sat and read and did things that are generally in life considered to be rather negative, just as Morrissey said in one interview. I like pretty things, and Richey was unbelievably gorgeous in all the pictures I’ve seen. His face, with dark doe eyes and a sad gaze appeared as melancholy as Modigliani’s portraits of Jeanne Hebuterne, and with his killer cheekbones he looked as heroin chic as Kate Moss, whose picture he liked to gaze at. This is what Richey had to say about fashion: “If you’re hopelessly depressed like I was, then dressing up is just the ultimate escape. When I was young I just wanted to be noticed. Nothing could excite me except attention so I’d dress up as much as I could. Outrage and boredom just go hand in hand.”

Manics sounded great, looked great, and had plenty to say in interviews, and it was all too easy to fall in love with them.

I found this somewhere on tumblr years ago, and it couldn’t be more true for me, hell I didn’t even wear eyeliner before them!

As I already said, the first song I heard by the Manics was Little Baby Nothing. It’s a really catchy tune with a colourful video full of slogans and it’s a duet with ex-porn star Traci Lords which is really appropriate because the idea that influenced that song was cheap sex, that is, the sexual exploitation of women: “Your beauty and virginity used like toys (…) little baby nothing/ loveless slavery, lips kissing empty/ dress your life in loathing…” Manics needed a symbol, somebody that could sing the lyrics and represent them simultaneously. In an interview from 1992, Nicky said the song was about “a woman who had power and intelligence and was used by men”. I love the part sang by Traci Lords:

My mind is dead, everybody loves me
Wants a slice of me
Hopelessly passive and compatible
Need to belong, oh the roads are scary
So hold me in your arms
I want to be your only possession

No god reached me, faded films and loving books
Black and white TV
All the world does not exist for me
And if I’m starving, you can feed me lollipops
Your diet will crush me
My life just an old man’s memory

And the line “Moths broken up, quenched at last” is an interesting one and a direct reference to Tennessee Williams’s poem “Lament for Months” which meant a lot to the Manics, especially to Richey Edwards, about the moths who are drawn to light which ultimately kills them, there’s that delicacy in moths. I know I’ve focused on their first album a lot in this ode, but it’s just because it was the first album I have listened to and the aim of this post was to share my memories of discovering Manics. I really love their second and third album as well, as well as many songs from all the following albums, but I am a fan of their early years when Richey was still in the band and his influence was evident, both lyrically and stylistically; he was the most glamorous of them four.

Now let me share some of my favourite lyrics, first from the song “Stay Beautiful”:

Find your faith in your security
All broken up at seventeen
Jam your brain with broken heroes
Love your masks and adore your failure

(…)

Your school your dole and your chequebook dreams
Your clothes your suits and your pension schemes
Now you say you know how we feel
But don’t fall in love cos we hate you still

From the song 4st. 7lbs:

I wanna be so skinny that I rot from view

I want to walk in the snow
And not leave a footprint
I want to walk in the snow
And not soil its purity…..

I choose my choice, I starve to frenzy
Hunger soon passes and sickness soon tires
Legs bend, stockinged I am Twiggy
And I don’t mind the horror that surrounds me

Self-worth scatters, self-esteem’s a bore
I long since moved to a higher plateau
This discipline’s so rare so please applaud…

Yeah 4st. 7, an epilogue of youth
Such beautiful dignity in self-abuse
I’ve finally come to understand life
Through staring blankly at my navel

Nicky Wire in 1994

Wreckage inside all that’s real
Another bought product, no reality
Passive consumers with patrolled desires
Mindless countdown to retirement
(Methadone Pretty)

Richey with Nicky Wire, photographed for Select magazine in London, United Kingdom, 30 April 1993

My favourite from the second album is “From Despair to Where” which is also a single. It’s a song that, according to Richey, refers to the western concept of despair which isn’t realistic because everybody has a good living conditions compared to the third world countries, but most of the people feel disappointed with their lives for they didn’t reach any kind of fulfillment what so ever, they just feel let down; by life, universe, society, by the impossible dreams they had built themselves. As Richey said in an interview: “Everyone feels that melancholia regularly.”

I write this alone on my bed
I’ve poisoned every room in my house
The place is quiet and so alone
Pretend there’s something worth waiting for.
There’s nothing nice in my head
The adult world took it all away
Wake up with the same spit in my mouth
Cannot tell if it’s real or not.

Richey and Nicky looking elegantly wasted, by Kevin Cummins for NME cover 1991

Song “She bathed herself in a bath of bleach” is from the album “Journal for Plague Lovers” released on 18 May 2009 (the anniversary of Ian Curtis’ suicide), and all the songs on the album were written by Richey Edwards, the lyrics he left behind before he disappeared.

She’d walk on broken glass for love
She thought burnt skin would please her lover
To keep love alive and lust beside
Kind people should never be treated like
Empty arms and naked heart
The love she sought through faltering thought
Table for two, such a sweet delight
Whispers “I love you my darling” tonight

Song “Hibernation” is a B-side to “From Despair to Where” and it shows Richey’s vision of adulthood; its chase for money, pointlessness and marriage without love, life with no flair and lived like a repetitive routine of boredom:

This stage of our career
Things get tight
A ring helps get a mortgage

To move out of daddy’s home
Get a bigger car
Easy access to the city

I can read the papers in peace
And laugh at the homeless
I know my friends criticize

But we get by OK
So what if there’s no emotion
We can wake up anywhere

There’s never a row
No time for a kiss
When you’ve got schedules to meet
Trivialities seem so cheap

This is above love
This is more than real
This is all there is
This is as good as it gets-
Intense morality parades

 

Listening to the Manics now, after five years, is a nostalgic experience, and to end this ode I chose a song called “This is the day” which deals with a similar theme. It was originally written by the band The The in 1983, not the Manics, but if you watch the video, you’ll see how much it means to them because they’re remembering Richey and their early days. And this line is specially meaningful for me: “And all the money in the world couldn’t bring back those days”. Sometimes I wish my mind was a tabula rasa again and I could have the pleasure of discovering the Manics, Kerouac and Rimbaud for the first time, and to feel that rapture again!!! I am the kind of person who has been in search of lost times since she was five so even if I am very happy now I tend to be especially nostalgic for everything that passes.  So, to me, this video represents not only the history of the band, but also the history of my love for the bend:

You didn’t wake up this morning cause you didn’t go to bed.
You were watching the whites of your eyes turn red.
The calendar on your wall is ticking the days off.
You’ve been reading some old letters,
You smile and you think how much you’ve changed,
And all the money in the world couldn’t bring back those days.

You pull back the curtains, and the sun burns into your eyes,
You watch a plane flying, across a clear blue sky.
This is the day your life will surely change.
This is the day when things fall into place.

You could’ve done anything, if you’d wanted
And all your friends and family think that you’re lucky,
But the side of you they’ll never see
Is when you’re left alone with the memories
That hold your life together, together like glue.

I believe I would have been a different person today had I not discovered Manic Street Preachers. They appealed to me so much because of things that were inherently in me, but they also shaped the way I see life and world, and art to an enormous extend and I am endlessly grateful for that!

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Manic Street Preachers – Little Baby Nothing

10 Feb

I often share poems on my blog, but why not share the lyrics of a rock song? As far as I’m concerned, their artistic value is the same, and often the lyrics of The Smiths, Manics, Syd Barrett etc. hold more meaning to me and I can relate to them more than I can to ‘classic’ poetry. Little Baby Nothing is THE first song by the Manic Street Preachers that I’ve listened to, and what can I say – it was love at first sight (or first hearing). Today marks the 27th anniversary of their debut album Generation Terrorists. This is not my favourite song by the Manics, nor my favourite video, but objectively looking I think the lyrics are amazing and every line is perfect. Some of their lyrics, specially from The Holy Bible, can be a bit confusing, although they sound great accompanied by the music, but ‘Little Baby Nothing’ can be read on its own, like poetry and it would still be as meaningful. In their interview from 1992, Nicky Wire said that ‘men are the most horrible creatures because they use women’ and that the song is about a woman who had power and intelligence and was used by men. Therefore, having Traci Lords to sing some lines was more symbolic than anything, and they felt she could identify with the lyrics. One of their later songs, Yes, also deals with the exploitation of women, but it also says that every time you say ‘yes’ to something you don’t want to do, it’s also a form of prostituting yourself. And of course, the glorious line ‘Culture, Alienation, Boredom, and Despair‘ which perfectly sums everything that their early songs were about.

Here’s what Traci Lords said about Richey and the song: “He reminded me of a young David Bowie: very avant-garde, and there was something quite feminine about him. He was very soft-spoken, and struck me as being vulnerable, almost birdlike. He definitely came across as someone who was living in a glass-house, in some sort of fragile state. I thought he was lovely. He never spoke to me about why he wanted me to sing on ‘Little Baby Nothing’ – it wasn’t until later that I read his reasons for it. It’s funny because I saw Richey as someone who was very vulnerable, and that’s how he saw me“. (NME, 14 February 2015)

I’m glad they chose Traci Lords, not only because she totally fits with the lyrics, but also because I’ve liked her ever since I watched ‘Cry-Baby’ (1990), I thought she was the coolest character in the film! And judging her character and morality based on her ex-porn-star career would be hypocritical and immature. Even the Manics said in the same interview that she was the most intelligent American they’ve ever met in their lives!

Egon Schiele, Woman in Black Stockings, 1913

“No one likes looking at you
Your lack of ego offends male mentality
They need your innocence
To steal vacant love and to destroy
Your beauty and virginity used like toys

My mind is dead, everybody love’s me
Wants a slice of me
Hopelessly passive and compatible
Need to belong, oh the roads are scarey
So hold me in your arms
I wanna be your only possession

Used, used, used by men
Used, used, used by men

All they leave behind is money
Paper made out of broken twisted trees
Your pretty face offends
Because it’s something real that I can’t touch
Eyes, skin, bone, contour, language as a flower

No god reached me, faded films and loving books
Black and white TV
All the world does not exist for me
And if I’m starving, you can feed me lollipops
Your diet will crush me
My life just an old man’s memory

Little baby nothing
Loveless slavery, lips kissing empty
Dress your life in loathing
Breaking your mind with Barbie Doll futility

Little baby nothing
Sexually free, made-up to breakup
Assassinated beauty
Moths broken up, quenched at last
The vermin allowed a thought to pass them by

You are pure, you are snow
We are the useless sluts that they mould
Rock ‘n’ roll is our epiphany
Culture, alienation, boredom and despair

You are pure, you are snow
We are the useless sluts that they mould
Rock ‘n’ roll is our epiphany
Culture, alienation, boredom and despair

Egon Schiele, Blonde Girl in Underwear (Blondes Mädchen im Unterhemd), 1913

Now, who’s to say something can’t be aesthetically pleasing and have a strong social message at the same time?

Did I also mention that the video is cool? Well, check it out and decide for yourself.

Manic Street Preachers – Little Baby Nothing

8 Feb

I often share poems on my blog, but why not share the lyrics of a rock song? As far as I’m concerned, their artistic value is the same, and often the lyrics of The Smiths, Manics, Syd Barrett etc. hold more meaning to me and I can relate to them more than I can to ‘classic’ poetry. Little Baby Nothing is THE first song by the Manic Street Preachers that I’ve listened to, and what can I say – it was love at first sight (or first hearing ha ha). This Friday, 10th February, will mark the 25th anniversary of their debut album Generation Terrorists. This is not my favourite song by the Manics, nor my favourite video, but objectively looking I think the lyrics are amazing and every line is perfect. Some of their lyrics, specially from The Holy Bible, can be a bit confusing, although they sound great accompanied by the music, but ‘Little Baby Nothing’ can be read on its own, like poetry and it would still be as meaningful. In their interview from 1992, Nicky Wire said that ‘men are the most horrible creatures because they use women’ and that the song is about a woman who had power and intelligence and was used by men. Therefore, having Traci Lords to sing some lines was more symbolic than anything, and they felt she could identify with the lyrics. One of their later songs, Yes, also deals with the exploitation of women, but it also says that every time you say ‘yes’ to something you don’t want to do, it’s also a form of prostituting yourself. And of course, the glorious line ‘Culture, Alienation, Boredom, and Despair‘ which perfectly sums everything that their early songs were about.

Here’s what Traci Lords said about Richey and the song: “He reminded me of a young David Bowie: very avant-garde, and there was something quite feminine about him. He was very soft-spoken, and struck me as being vulnerable, almost birdlike. He definitely came across as someone who was living in a glass-house, in some sort of fragile state. I thought he was lovely. He never spoke to me about why he wanted me to sing on ‘Little Baby Nothing’ – it wasn’t until later that I read his reasons for it. It’s funny because I saw Richey as someone who was very vulnerable, and that’s how he saw me“. (NME, 14 February 2015)

I’m glad they chose Traci Lords, not only because she totally fits with the lyrics, but also because I’ve liked her ever since I watched ‘Cry-Baby’ (1990), I thought she was the coolest character in the film! And judging her character and morality based on her ex-porn-star career would be hypocritical and immature. Even the Manics said in the same interview that she was the most intelligent American they’ve ever met in their lives!

1913-woman-in-black-stockings-egon-schieleEgon Schiele, Woman in Black Stockings, 1913

“No one likes looking at you
Your lack of ego offends male mentality
They need your innocence
To steal vacant love and to destroy
Your beauty and virginity used like toys

My mind is dead, everybody love’s me
Wants a slice of me
Hopelessly passive and compatible
Need to belong, oh the roads are scarey
So hold me in your arms
I wanna be your only possession

Used, used, used by men
Used, used, used by men

All they leave behind is money
Paper made out of broken twisted trees
Your pretty face offends
Because it’s something real that I can’t touch
Eyes, skin, bone, contour, language as a flower

No god reached me, faded films and loving books
Black and white TV
All the world does not exist for me
And if I’m starving, you can feed me lollipops
Your diet will crush me
My life just an old man’s memory

Little baby nothing
Loveless slavery, lips kissing empty
Dress your life in loathing
Breaking your mind with Barbie Doll futility

Little baby nothing
Sexually free, made-up to breakup
Assassinated beauty
Moths broken up, quenched at last
The vermin allowed a thought to pass them by

You are pure, you are snow
We are the useless sluts that they mould
Rock ‘n’ roll is our epiphany
Culture, alienation, boredom and despair

You are pure, you are snow
We are the useless sluts that they mould
Rock ‘n’ roll is our epiphany
Culture, alienation, boredom and despair

Now, who’s to say something can’t be aesthetically pleasing and have a strong social message at the same time?

Did I also mention that the video is cool? Well, check it out and decide for yourself.

Manic Street Preachers – The Holy Bible

29 Aug

Exactly twenty years ago, the Manics released their third album; dark and haunting The Holy Bible which shows Richey’s state of mind at the time and stands, even now two decades later, as a testiment to those times; 1994 when the Manics were recording The Holy Bible in a cramped Cardiff studio avoiding and ignoring the wretchedly dull Britpop that ruled the charts.

The Holy Bible, released in 1994, is perhaps the most critically acclaimed album of their entire career. For me it was to dark and miss understandable when I first started listening to Manics, but I feel that with their first three album you just have to ripe to be able to fully appreciated them. That’s what happened to me; after the initial infatuation and rapture with Generation Terrorists, I started exploring the sound of Gold Against the Soul, only to end up loving The Holy Bible more than I could have ever imagined. Fact about this album is that the singles are not the best songs at the album; so you have She is suffering, Revol, Faster and P.C.P, which are all undoubtedly good songs, but songs such as Yes and Die in the Summertime are maybe even better.

The Holy Bible displayed yet another musical and aesthetic change for the band as they had started listening to their early musical influences such as Joy Division. The music shifted to a darker, post-punk, almost gothic sound. The lyrics, mostly written by Richey Edwards, are brilliant in their honesty, depth and genuine darkness, described by Sean Moore ‘as far as Richey’s character could go.’ Song ‘Yes’ was the one that caught my attention the most. Despite its focus on prostitution, the song’s meaning is much wider (‘Ev’rything’s for sale’). Everybody wants power, and money, that comes along, can buy everything, including a prostitute whose wishes and desires are ignored for she’s just an object of somebody’s lust. She feels like in a purgatory because someone will always say yes and confirm her sad, sad life. ‘And I don’t know what I’m scared of or what I even enjoy/ Dulling, get money, but nothing turns out like you want it to/ I eat and I dress and I wash and I can still say thank you, Puking – shaking – sinking I still stand for old ladies, Can’t shout, can’t scream, I hurt myself to get pain out/…Power produces desire, the weak have none.These sunless afternoons I can’t find myself.’ What value does it put on things if you can buy everything. What pleasure can arrive from something you’ve got only because of your money.

Song Faster is perhaps their best single and it’s one of the songs from this album I’ve first fell in love with. This song leads me to Manics’ melodies; they’re so thrilling, unusual but captivating. None of their songs sounds like something you’d expect from a song; riff, overture, chorus, the end. No, their songs sound so fresh, dynamic, strong, brutally honest, and, as I know that these lyrics were hard to write music for, I bow to James Dean Bradfield and Sean Moore for making such brilliant, haunting melodies. Anyways, song Faster is the one whose lyrics stayed in my head for a long time. ‘I am an architect, they call me a butcher, I am a pioneer, they call me primitive, I am purity, they call me perverted/ I know I believe in nothing but it is my nothing/ So damn easy to cave in, man kills everything.’ Perhaps the universal feeling of an artist; to be called primitive when in fact you’re a pioneer while the people surrounding you are actually primitive and their apathy and void are barriers for them to understand something far beyond their mind set.

Song ‘Die in the Summertime’ can describe what was going on in Richey’s head at the time, though he said it himself it was about an old man wanting to die with a childhood memoirs in his head. ‘Scratch my leg with a rusty nail, sadly it heals, Colour my hair but the dye grows out, I can’t seem to stay a fixed ideal.’ I can’t possibly express the rapture and enthusiasm when I hear James’ voice singing ‘…stay a fixed ideal’ for he sings the last word is such a striking way. He really succeed in conveying the lyrics to music in a way that it created a unified ensemble. ‘I recognize dim traces of creation, I wanna die, die in the summertime, I wanna die…’

Nicky is responsible for the song ‘Ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayitsworldwouldfallapart’ which is not an attack on America, as some may suggest, but it’s about ‘how the most empty culture in the world can dominate in such a total sense.’ It’s crazy, when you think about it, how we let America be the standard in its so called culture and lifestyle, while Europe is a true ‘cradle of civilization’. I think we shouldn’t uncompromisingly accept everything America has to offer.

Manic Street Preachers – Futurology

22 Jul

Manics’ new album called Futurology was released this month. The songs I have heard by now sound promising, fresh and intriguing; Europa Geht Durch Mich, Walk me to the Bridge and Futurology.

Song ‘Europa Geht Durch Mich’ is, in my opinion, brilliant and it makes me proud of being a European. It can loosely be translated as Europe passes trough me which makes me think of all the beauty and glory of nature, history, art, culture and languages Europe has to offer. In modernistic way (since the title is Futurology) the meaning could be that Europe is united through European Union and in that way it passes through me, that is, every European; we’re connected on this little continent and we share the richness of history, art, music and literature. The song also features vocals of Nina Hoss, a German actress who starred in movie Barbara that was recommended by James Dean Bradfield himself on a concert.

Walk me to the bridge was the first song I’ve heard from their new album, on the 28. April; the day they released the video. I’m looking forward to their new album for I knew, once I’ve listened to this song, that it’s going to be awesome. I can’t wait to hear more of their new songs such as Sex, Power, Love and Money; the title sounds intriguing. But, back to this song.

Though the lyrics such as: ‘We smile at this ugly world/ It never really suited you (…) So long my fatal friend…’ undoubtedly remind me of Richey, Nicky said, well I might as well quote him:

‘People might have the idea that this song contains a lot of Richey references but it really isn’t about that, it’s about the Oresund Bridge that joins Sweden and Denmark. A long time ago when we were crossing that bridge I was flagging and thinking about leaving the band (the “fatal friend”). It’s about the idea of bridges allowing you an out of body experience as you leave and arrive in different places.’

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but the song’s lyrics worth a thousand meanings. Still, this verse ‘The roads never end, the motion starts/ Reality gives no romance’ reminded me of something Nicky once said in an interview: ‘We’re romantic realists, we’re always aware we’re not blinded by too much flowery aesthetics. Our romance is always based on where we come from anyway. A desire to escape boredom.’

However, verse ‘Still blinded by your intellect’ is still haunting me and it doesn’t leave my head for it so reminds me of Richey, as if the Manics are still blinded by his intellect. Since Nicky has explained the true meaning of the song I can only say that I’m still blinded by Manic Street Preachers’ intellect.

Manic Street Preachers – My Tribute to Culture, Alienation, Boredom and Despair

23 May

I could write about Manic Street Preachers forever. Their music and lyrics mean so much to me; they taught me how to think, showed me the world in a different light and they sang about things I could relate to. They are the first band I truly loved, believed in, the first band I really understood.

The members of the band (Richey Edwards, Nicky Wire, James Dean Bradfield and Sean Moore) were all friends since they were little and as they grew up, they shared opinions and had the same view on the world. Inevitably, they started expressing themselves through music. One has to find a way to express oneself; whether it’s art or music. They sang about ‘culture, alienation, boredom and despair’ which is actually a verse from their song Little Baby Nothing.

In 1990. Manics released an EP called ‘New Art Riot’ which featured four songs that finally gained them the attention from the press. With sharp sound, heavily influenced by The Clash, this EP proved to be merely a prelude to success which was later to come. Their next single ‘Motown junk’, released in January 1991, came as a confirmation of their dedication and persistence. Lyrics of the song show the boredom, saturation with culture, and want for something new, fresh, valuable ‘All you ever gave me was the boredom I suffocate in…’ / ‘…21 years of living and nothing means anything to me’.

Manic Street Preachers, a self proclaimed ‘mess of eyeliner and spraypaint’, were a band everybody loved to hate, whereas they hated every band in existence. With slogans such as ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll suicide’, ‘Sensitivity’, ‘Spectators of suicide’ and ‘Culture of destruction’ on their customized shirts, they expressed their yearning to bring Rock ‘n’ Roll back to life. A band that started with hating everyone and everything, despising culture surrounding them and deeming everything worthless have indeed succeeded in bringing rock back to life, but perhaps they are now, sadly, the last true rock ‘n’ roll band. The Libertines were, in my opinion, the last truly honest rock band that makes you really believe what they are saying, but they have burned out, as was suspected for the Manics.

Manics’ original plan was to make a double album which would sell 16 million copies and reach Number 1 worldwide. After they would achieve their grand plan, they’d split up, declaring ‘The most important thing we can do is get massive and then throw it all away.’ Instead, they carved a two decade career and are about to release their twelfth album.

The first song I heard from the Manics was Little Baby Nothing, and, after hearing it for the first time I listened to it another ten times the same morning. The idea that influenced that song was cheap sex, that is, the sexual exploitation of a woman, and it’s no wonder that it features vocals of Traci Lords. Manics needed a symbol, somebody that could symbolize the lyrics; a woman who had power and intelligence and was used by men. ‘Your beauty and virginity used like toys/ Used, used, used by men /Little baby nothing, Loveless slavery, lips kissing empty, Dress your life in loathing/ Sexually free, made-up to breakup, Assassinated beauty…’

‘Moths broken up, quenched at last’ is an interesting line, knowing the poem ‘Lament for Months’ by Tennessee Williams which meant a lot to the Manics, especially to Richey Edwards, about the moths who are drawn to light which ultimately kills them, there’s that delicacy in moths.

Song ‘Love’s sweet exile’ has undoubtedly the best video, others videos I love are ‘From Despair to Where’ and ‘You love us’, but the lyrics truly display their alienation and despair, being misunderstood, surrounded by meaningless, suffocating trivial things that, despite their material value, all lead you to feeling void. ‘City reflections pour out misery’ is a brilliant verse; misery, woe and loneliness under the city lights, feeling an endless sorrow among the concrete buildings and flashy neon lights.

Motorcycle Emptiness, with its similar message, attacks materialism; hollowness of the consumer lifestyle offered by capitalism. Young people are expected to conform the capitalistic ideal: work, eat, buy, consume then die. Today’s world is sensationalistic, ineligible and empty; it’s all about money: how to get it and how to spend it. The late twentieth century gave birth to a culture of consumerism which is very hard to kick against once it’s rooted itself. The result: art, music and culture sluts; I can empathize with finding no value, because there is no value in modern world.

Song ‘So dead’ is a real gem, though it’s not a single, for its lyrics are haunting ‘You’re so easy to dehumanize’/It’s not that I can’t find worth in anything, It’s just that I can’t find worth in enough, It’s not that I can’t find worth in anything.’ I find this song a peak of Richey’s quest for value, it’s not that there’s no value, there’s just not enough of it. People are so damn easy to dehumanize; once they became rich or famous they seem to forget the problems of the less fortunate ones. People start endless wars, pretending it’s for the sake of people. The privileged few enjoy while the working class is starving.

‘Another invented disease’, whose title is a deliberate word play on Aids, is referring to a conspiracy theory insinuating that the virus was created by American biological warfare scientist. Another song ‘Slash ‘n’ burn’ deals with the exploitation of the third world.

Quite a political first album.

NPG x87840; Manic Street Preachers (Richey James Edwards; Nicky Wire (Nick Jones)) by Kevin Cummins

Their second album ‘Gold Against the Soul’ had, as they said it themselves, the typical second album syndrome. The depth of its lyrics may have been overshadowed by the following album The Holy Bible, however I still think this album is decent, despite its more commercial sound. My particular favourite is From Despair to Where, a song that, according to Richey, refers to the western concept of despair which isn’t realistic because everybody has a good living conditions compared to the third world countries, but most of the people feel disappointed with their lives for they didn’t reach any kind of fulfillment of what so ever, they just feel let down. ‘Pretend there’s something worth waiting for/ There’s nothing nice in my head, The adult world took it all away…/Down pale corridors of routine…’

The nature of the lyrics also changes, showing introspective melancholy rather than political spark. I find singles the best songs on the album, such as ‘La Tristesse Durera’ whose title is taken from the last words of Van Gogh, and can be loosely translated as ‘the sadness persists’. However, the song is about a war veteran, suffocating in his own sadness, living in a new liberal society where he’s pitied and treated like a fashion accessorize, but still he’s forced to sell his medal; legacy of his fame from the battle for his country, only to pay the bills; survive in cruel reality that has no understanding.

Song ‘Roses in the hospital’ is, in musical aspect, inspired by the song ‘Sound and vision’ from album Low by David Bowie. This is such a thrilling thing to me for I love Bowie as well, and album ‘Low’ denotes the beginning of the ‘Berlin era’ (’77 to ’79), which I am particularly fond of. Imagine my excitement when I discovered that Nicky loves Bowie’s work from ’77 to ’81. Nevertheless, song Roses in the hospital has some, to me, memorable verses such as ‘Want to feel something of value…/ Nothing really makes me happy…’ and there’s a reference at the end on the song ‘Rudie can’t fail’ by The Clash who had a big impact on the Manics.

The Holy Bible, released in 1994, is perhaps the most critically acclaimed album of their entire career. For me it was to dark and miss understandable when I first started listening to Manics, but I feel that with their first three album you just have to ripe to be able to fully appreciated them. That’s what happened to me; after the initial infatuation and rapture with Generation Terrorists, I started exploring the sound of Gold Against the Soul, only to end up loving The Holy Bible more than I could have ever imagined. Fact about this album is that the singles are not the best songs at the album; so you have She is suffering, Revol, Faster and P.C.P, which are all undoubtedly good songs, but songs such as Yes and Die in the Summertime are maybe even better.

The Holy Bible displayed yet another musical and aesthetic change for the band as they had started listening to their early musical influences such as Joy Division. The music shifted to a darker, post-punk, almost gothic sound. The lyrics, mostly written by Richey Edwards, are brilliant in their honesty, depth and genuine darkness, described by Sean Moore ‘as far as Richey’s character could go.’ Song ‘Yes’ was the one that caught my attention the most. Despite its focus on prostitution, the song’s meaning is much wider (‘Ev’rything’s for sale’). Everybody wants power, and money, that comes along, can buy everything, including a prostitute whose wishes and desires are ignored for she’s just an object of somebody’s lust. She feels like in a purgatory because someone will always say yes and confirm her sad, sad life. ‘And I don’t know what I’m scared of or what I even enjoy/ Dulling, get money, but nothing turns out like you want it to/ I eat and I dress and I wash and I can still say thank you, Puking – shaking – sinking I still stand for old ladies, Can’t shout, can’t scream, I hurt myself to get pain out/…Power produces desire, the weak have none.These sunless afternoons I can’t find myself.’ What value does it put on things if you can buy everything. What pleasure can arrive from something you’ve got only because of your money.

Song Faster is perhaps their best single and it’s one of the songs from this album I’ve first fell in love with. This song leads me to Manics’ melodies; they’re so thrilling, unusual but captivating. None of their songs sounds like something you’d expect from a song; riff, overture, chorus, the end. No, their songs sound so fresh, dynamic, strong, brutally honest, and, as I know that these lyrics were hard to write music for, I bow to James Dean Bradfield and Sean Moore for making such brilliant, haunting melodies. Anyways, song Faster is the one whose lyrics stayed in my head for a long time. ‘I am an architect, they call me a butcher, I am a pioneer, they call me primitive, I am purity, they call me perverted/ I know I believe in nothing but it is my nothing/ So damn easy to cave in, man kills everything.’ Perhaps the universal feeling of an artist; to be called primitive when in fact you’re a pioneer while the people surrounding you are actually primitive and their apathy and void are barriers for them to understand something far beyond their mind set.

Song ‘Die in the Summertime’ can describe what was going on in Richey’s head at the time, though he said it himself it was about an old man wanting to die with a childhood memoirs in his head. ‘Scratch my leg with a rusty nail, sadly it heals, Colour my hair but the dye grows out, I can’t seem to stay a fixed ideal.’ I can’t possibly express the rapture and enthusiasm when I hear James’ voice singing ‘…stay a fixed ideal’ for he sings the last word is such a striking way. He really succeed in conveying the lyrics to music in a way that it created a unified ensemble. ‘I recognize dim traces of creation, I wanna die, die in the summertime, I wanna die…’

Nicky is responsible for the song ‘Ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayitsworldwouldfallapart’ which is not an attack on America, as some may suggest, but it’s about ‘how the most empty culture in the world can dominate in such a total sense.’ It’s crazy, when you think about it, how we let America be the standard in its so called culture and lifestyle, while Europe is a true ‘cradle of civilization’. I think we shouldn’t uncompromisingly accept everything America has to offer.

 

Another thing that I love about the Manics is that their songs display their interest in literature. In one interview Richey said that his two most influential books are A season in hell by Rimbaud and 1984. by George Orwell. He also showed interest in works of Albert Camus, Philip Larkin, William Blake, Primo Levi, Dostoyevsky, Mirbeau, Tennessee Williams and T.S. Eliot, to name a few.

I’ll quote Nicky saying ‘By the time I was 16 I’d read and studied the complete works of Philip Larkin, Shakespeare, all the Beat generation, every film.’ He also said that he’d been crazy about T.S. Eliot’s Waste Land which he had discovered at the age of sixteen. Though I love literature myself, Manic Street Preachers have indeed inspired me to read some of the book that they were infatuated with. I’m reading Kerouac’s On the road right now.

I think that music, art and literature must be amalgamated, and I’m delighted to see that happening. Manics’ connection to literature sorts them in the weird intellectual-punk breed of alternative rock ‘n’ roll. It’s something most exciting to me, to find out what influenced my favourite bands. Syd Barrett, for example, one of my favourite musicians, was influenced by the book On the Road and Naked Lunch and he also loved Rimbaud, but he was influenced by art too. Not to mention that a have a sentimental attachment to album The madcap laughs and I was wondering for a long time, what do the Manics think of it. Do they love Syd Barrett’s solo work or are they not fond of it so much as I am.

Still, I think that Syd and Richey have similarities. Their lyrics are quite different for sure, Syd’s are more introspective rather than concerning problems around him like Richey’s lyrics do (and I’m not saying that Richey’s lyrics weren’t introspective because they were: ‘4st 7lb’) In my opinion they are the two best song-writers in the rock music.

Moving to Manics’ post-Richey work. Their first album without Richey was Everything must go; the title being taken from a play by Nicky’s brother Patrick Jones. Even more interesting, the working title was Sounds in the Grass; named after a series of paintings by Jackson Pollock. I’m just so delighted to see connections between music and art and literature! My favourite song on the album is ‘No surface all feeling’.

Their next album, This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours, was even more commercially successful and has many good songs. Though I love the song If you tolerate this your children will be next and You stole the sun from my heart, I prefer the song Socialist Serenade for its lyrics shows Nicky’s intellect and interest in politics. ‘What’s the point in an education/ When you have to pay for the privilege/ This side of the truth where no sun shines/ They don’t count the cripples and the blind/ I was thinking everybody had a chance (…) I can’t see the past anywhere/Anywhere.’  The song ends with words ‘Change your name to new/ Forget the fucking Labour.’ I just love how they can deliver their albums so intellectually and yet so good sonically.

Their following album was ‘Know your enemy’ but I’m more fond of Lifeblood; their seventh studio album which features some great songs such as 1985, Empty souls and Glasnost, not to mention The Love of Richard Nixon. Emily is a song about a leader in the British women’s suffrage movement – Emmeline Pankhurst. The theme of the song reminded me of the song Suffragette city by David Bowie.

Send Away the Tigers, their eighth album, was seen as a return to the hard-edged, more guitar-driven sound. The band members have described it as a mixture of Generation Terrorists and Everything Must Go. My favourite song on the album is Your Love Alone Is Not Enough, not just because it’s a single, but because I love the strength and intensity of it, and the vocals of Nina Persson. The album sleeve features a quotation from Wyndham Lewis ‘When a man is young, he is usually a revolutionary of some kind. So here I am, speaking of my revolution’; in my opinion this quote would be more fitted for Generation Terrorists.

Their ninth album ‘Journal for Plague Lovers’ is interesting because all the lyrics are written by Richey Edwards and before I listened to it, I was curious to see how did they write music for his lyrics. I love how it finally turned out, my favourite songs being ‘All is vanity’ (It’s not “What’s wrong?”/It’s “What’s right?”/ Makes you feel like I’m talking a foreign language sometimes.) and ‘Journal for plague lovers’ (Pretend prayer/ Pretend care/ Makes everything seem so fair.)

On the album Postcards from a Young Man, of which the Manics’ have said they’re going for a big radio hit on it, my favourite song is the one that shares the album title – Postcards for a Young Man. ‘I don’t believe in absolutes anymore/ I’m quite prepared to admit I was wrong/ This life it sucks your principles away/ You have to fight against it every single day/ These are the postcards from a young man/ They may never be written or posted again (…) It is like so many other things/ As distant as your former sins/ So sad and lonely and so derelict/ As the optimism that we once shared.‘Nicky just couldn’t be better at writing lyrics and James and Sean at writing music. I mean, their albums are like an escape to another world, much more interesting world.

I have not yet listened to their album Rewind the Film, but instead I’m more than just excited about the forthcoming Futurology. The songs I have heard by now sound promising, fresh and intriguing; Europa Geht Durch Mich, Walk me to the Bridge and Futurology.

Song ‘Europa Geht Durch Mich’ is, in my opinion, brilliant and it makes me proud of being a European. It can loosely be translated as Europe passes trough me which makes me think of all the beauty and glory of nature, history, art, culture and languages Europe has to offer. In modernistic way (since the title is Futurology) the meaning could be that Europe is united through European Union and in that way it passes through me, that is, every European; we’re connected on this little continent and we share the richness of history, art, music and literature. The song also features vocals of Nina Hoss, a German actress who starred in movie Barbara that was recommended by James Dean Bradfield himself on a concert.

Walk me to the bridge was the first song I’ve heard from their new album, on the 28. April; the day they released the video. I’m looking forward to their new album for I knew, once I’ve listened to this song, that it’s going to be awesome. I can’t wait to hear more of their new songs such as Sex, Power, Love and Money; the title sounds intriguing. But, back to this song.

Though the lyrics such as: ‘We smile at this ugly world/ It never really suited you (…) So long my fatal friend…’ undoubtedly remind me of Richey, Nicky said, well I might as well quote him:

‘People might have the idea that this song contains a lot of Richey references but it really isn’t about that, it’s about the Oresund Bridge that joins Sweden and Denmark. A long time ago when we were crossing that bridge I was flagging and thinking about leaving the band (the “fatal friend”). It’s about the idea of bridges allowing you an out of body experience as you leave and arrive in different places.’

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but the song’s lyrics worth a thousand meanings. Still, this verse ‘The roads never end, the motion starts/ Reality gives no romance’ reminded me of something Nicky once said in an interview: ‘We’re romantic realists, we’re always aware we’re not blinded by too much flowery aesthetics. Our romance is always based on where we come from anyway. A desire to escape boredom.’

However, verse ‘Still blinded by your intellect’ is still haunting me and it doesn’t leave my head for it so reminds me of Richey, as if the Manics are still blinded by his intellect. Since Nicky has explained the true meaning of the song I can only say that I’m still blinded by Manic Street Preachers’ intellect.

Manic Street Preachers Fashion

9 Apr

Manic Street Preachers are one of my favourite bands. I just recently understood them and their lyrics mean so much to me. Culture, alienation, boredom and despair – that’s how you could describe theme of their poems. Not only was Richey a modern Rimbaud, he also, along other members of the band, expressed himself through fashion. This is my tribute to them.

Though Richey and Nicky or ‘Glamorous twins’, as they were called, were more flamboyant than James and Sean, all four of them dressed up unlike everybody else at the time. Richey’s and Nicky’s iconic look included tight white jeans, t-shirt with provocative quotes, sunglasses, messy hairdo and black eyeliner. As I said, Richey and Nicky were more glamorous so they often wore leopard printed blouses, black lace and Nicky even wore dresses. Richey expressed himself trough words as well as clothing and he claimed that the British music scene was death. According to Richey, the country was in need of a rock band wearing tight white trousers. The country was in need of – Manic Street Preachers.

”We’re a mess of eyeliner and spray paint…” (Stay Beautiful, Generation Terrorists) as Richey says himself, could easily be used to describe the bands fashion style. Their iconic look in the early years (1990.-1992.) includes sweaters and T-shirts with spray painted slogans and lyrics of their songs. For example, Richey’s shirt says ”death sentence heritage”; a verse from the song Repeat from their first album. Key word is DIY, they didn’t hesitate to decorate their clothes and express their rebellion, alienation and boredom through clothing. In my opinion, fashion is just another way of expressing ourselves.

Manic Street Preachers dressed up quite glamorously which I like; music and fashion go together hand by hand. Grunge music is amazing (Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Alice in Chains) but I must confess I’m not fond of grunge as a fashion style. But I’m totally open for glam style worn by the Manics!

Faux fur leopard printed coats, tight white trousers, black sunglasses and lots of bracelets are essential to this style. While Richey preferred wearing interesting t-shirts on concerts, James Dean preferred being topless and having a guitar as an only accessorize (which I don’t mind at all).

Talking about interesting T-shirts, take a look at the Marylin Monroe one in Warhol style above! He is also seen wearing all different kinds of feminine blouses but also some more gothic/glam styled as seen below. Kerchief is a great option to complete the look; tight around neck is the best way to wear it.

Iconic Richey/Nicky look includes an amazing messy black hair. Who wouldn’t dream of Richey’s hair; big, fluffy, messy, black….. As the years went by, he fell into melancholia and deep sadness, and his fashion style started to express his inner state; he started wearing darker colours, less flamboyant outfits, less eyeliner and he cut his hair shorter.

Talking about eyeliner?! Black eyeliner is essential to glam look; it gives the eyes dramatic and mysterious look. Richey once said about makeup ”Cover your skin as much as you can. I don’t think people wear makeup to shield themselves from the world, they wear makeup to shield themselves from their own reflection in the mirror because they can’t stand it. Even if you do wear makeup you still look pretty bad…”

On the photo below you can see Richey wearing outfit quite different from his previous style. He’s wearing a beret, black jeans and a leather jacket. His hair is shorter and differently styled. Music video for the song From despair to where (album: Gold against the soul) features all the band members dressed more sophisticated than in the previous music videos.