Review Summary: Under Neon Loneliness, CHAPTER 4: “It’s So Fucking Funny, It’s Obscene…”PART TWO
: Gold Destroys the Soul
The Holy Bible
marked a point for the Manic Street Preachers in their career where they were finally succeeding both critically and commercially. While they still slipped down the charts fast to the outer reaches of the Top 40, the band were building a substantial following that was backed by the band moving away from hyper-polished glam metal to post-punk menace. As The Holy Bible
was beginning to show promise in the US market of being marketed to the college radio scene, Richey Edwards went on to give damning press of bands who refused to “rub the human race’s face in its own vomit…” and promised a floow-up motivated and influences by “…Pantera, Nine Inch Nails and Primal Scream’s Screamadelica
Sadly, as is all too well known, on February 1995, the eve of the Manic’s first US tour for the promotional track “Judge Yr’Self”, Richey Edwards left his Cardiff apartment and was never seen from again. While hints at the time suggested he may have fled to India or other remote parts of the UK, as of 2008 Welsh Police classified him as deceased (he is now a member of the infamous “27” Club, of which he shares membership with idol Kurt Cobain). At the time, there was little in the way of light on the horizon. With magazines all too cynical about preconceived notions of what their 4th LP was to sound like, the blessing of the Edwards family was not enough for the band to continue on. Realistically, the face of the Manic’s was Richey, and continuing on without him would be a difficult proposition. Eschewing expectations, the band set to work on purging their systems of everything that came before and cleaning the slate for what would come next. Nobody expected this.
Finally released in 1996 to critical acclaim, Everything Must Go
was a sprightful and elegiac album that turned everything The Holy Bible
stood for on its head. No longer charged by Richey Edwards was the vicious rhetoric, now fueled by depression and longing afforded by Nicky Wire penning the vast majority of words- the murky, flat and dead mixing job made to make the menace of Bradfield more prominent is instead exchanged for a bright and uplifting mix that emphasizes big choruses that with clean vocal hooks and foot firmly on the distortion pedal. If you were under the impression the Manic’s were misanthropic, you were wrong; they just hated you.
It’s difficult to pin point any moments of transitional weakness amongst the 12 tracks here and rightfully so. With signature anthem “A Design for Life”, the band willfully performed an ode to the Working Class by spoofing complacency that comes with getting full-time work and supporting your family- none the less opened with the now iconic stanza “Libraries gave us power/then work came and made us free”. Dominated by a string and orchestral section, the likes of “A Design for Life” are powered to become full sounding anthems, with the same being said of the off-kilter rhythm of the title track and the despair-ridden “Kevin Carter” (with lyrical excerpts from Richey Edwards), a harsh critical assessment of a man who sunk into a loophole of ethics that eventually forced him towards suicide.
Even when Wire becomes comically non-succinct with his writing, the troupe of Moore/Bradfield are always there to support with a melodically inclined backing. Tracks such as “Elvis Impersonator: Blackpool Pier”(again with lyrical work by Edwards) and “The Girl Who Wanted to Be God” may boast some rather frilly lyrics but backed by Bradfield’s immense sounds are turned into power pop epics. The best example of their newly simplistic writing style remains the anthemic by nature style of “Australia”, which juxtaposed to wistful melodies and a bouncing guitar riff leaves the songs nature often undiscovered- naturally, the Australian Tourism Board used the track without realizing it was a cry for help from Nicky Wire wishing he could get as far away from his troubles as humanly possible, by taking copious amounts of pills and flying to Australia.
Arguably, the centerpiece remains the acoustic “Small Black Flowers That Grow in the Sky”, a frightfully simple song that sees only contribution from Bradfield/Edwards. As much a final word from Edwards as it is, the song turns typical sixth-form poetry into poignant beauty, as Edwards goes all Morrissey arguing for animal’s rights and the abolishment of Zoos. The stripped away nature with flourishes of strings lends itself nicely to a Bruce Springsteen Nebraska
emotive take- if there were ever a better way to present the lyrics, the band never came across it.
As the final album for some time to feature Edwards lyrics and the last one to appeal to the bands core fanbase, 1998 saw the Manic’s take further leaps into the mainstream. Alienating many fans and cutting all ties with their glam punk origins, the band were finally accepted into the intelligentsia of British Music- but at what cost? Whether it be seen as the final album by the first phase of the Manic’s or the beginning of their second one derided by the hardcore, Everything Must Go
was without a question the bands last moment of fleeting glory before years of identity crisis and musical confusion.
NEXT: “Sweet Cherry Blossom Tree, At Least You Are Free...”