Monday, May 07, 2007

Lock up your T-shirts and CDs

The way they were: Manic Street Preachers, c.1990

Since 1996, every couple of years or so, for a period of about a year, I have to be careful which T-shirt I grab from my drawer and also have to sacrifice a small part of my CD collection.

Why must I do this?

Because every couple of years since 1996, Manic Street Preachers release another terrible album, and I have to ensure I am not seen wearing or listening to anything that might associate me with them.

I first heard of the Manics in July or August 1990. They had just released their third(?) single, "Motown Junk", and had featured on a TV show (Rapido, was it?). Two of their number wore make-up and tight white jeans and home-made T-shirts with various pseudo-political slogans. Those two looked spooky cool, like twins or camp gay lovers. The other two looked a bit lame, with no make-up and bad haircuts.

I was in a band at the time. I figured we were way better than the Manics. The history books, though, seem to dispute this.

Eventually, a few months later, I succumbed to the charms of the group. I bought their first album as soon as it was released. I bought the singles, the T-shirts. I went to see them several times throughout 1992, once even being on the guest list to interview them for a fanzine, though the interview fell through.

I still have the unused ticket from that gig. I'd bought it before knowing I'd get on the guest list. I figured I could sell it at the venue, but there was no one there to sell it to! The place was almost completely empty.

The band went from strength to strength, via a somewhat unconvincing second album, up to and including the powerhouse masterwork The Holy Bible. I mean, how can anyone not love an album that opens with the words "For sale. Dumb cunts, same dumb questions"?

Then the inevitable happened. Their lyrical genius, chief architect, and self-harming anorexic Richey Edwards disappeared in early 1995. No one has seen or heard from him since, and if he is dead his body has never been found.

If that was inevitable, so too was the downhill slide of the Manics' music. From the top of the world, musically speaking, to another unconvincing album, followed by a fifth, sixth, and now seventh studio album. I stopped buying their records (singles and albums) after that fifth album. For me it was unlistenable, and not in the good way that people said The Holy Bible was unlistenable, or PJ Harvey's Rid of Me, or Nirvana's In Utero.

The Manic Street Preachers had become unlistenable in that they had become old, tired, and boring, writing lyrics about household chores and, in interviews, praising the virtues of Dyson vacuum cleaners.

This morning -- a bit behind the times, I know -- I heard their latest single for the first time. I am so mortally embarrassed. I thought they could sink no lower than they already had, but I was wrong.

I know I should make sure not to listen to any Manics records for a good few months. But I also feel I have to wash my brain now, clear my eardrums. Perhaps the only way to do that is to listen again to the band at their peak.

I feel like someone has taken a hugely important part of my past and razed it to the ground, only to build a fucking McDonald's on top of it. Manic Street Preachers have become a bunch of cunts. And not in a good way.

No more will they write the sort of lyric that must be every parent's nightmare:

4st 7lb
Days since I last pissed
Cheeks sunken and despaired
So gorgeous, sunk to six stone
Lose my only remaining home

See my third rib appear
A week later all my flesh disappears
Stretching taut, cling-film on bone
I'm getting better

Karen says I've reached my target weight
Kate and Emma and Kristin know it's fake
Problem is diet's not a big enough word
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

Stomach collapsed at five
Lift up my skirt my sex is gone
Naked and lovely at 5 stone 2
May I bud and never flower

My vision's getting blurred
But I can see my ribs and I feel fine
My hands are trembling stalks
And I can feel my breasts are sinking

Mother tries to choke me with roast beef
And sits savouring her sole Ryvita
That's the way you're built my father said
But I can change, my cocoon shedding

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

Kate and Kristin and Kit Kat
All things I like looking at
Too weak to fuss, too weak to die
Choice is skeletal in everybody's life

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
Just look at the fat scum who pamper me so

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

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Blogger lightupvirginmary said...

I love love love JDB's voice but they lost it when they lost Richey (who is definitely dead). Nicky Wire is deliberately obnoxious in interviews and just comes off sounding very childish. I saw him on the Culture Show and he looked about 50, an ageing drag queen. I couldn't believe it when he said he was 38.
'Yes' has to be my favourite Holy Bible song. Motorcycle Emptiness can still bring a tear to my eye. But what dross we've suffered since (with the occassional glimmer of great- Masses Against the Classes, for example).

07 May, 2007 13:48  
Blogger Red said...

The latest single sounds like a cross between Enya and The Monkees. Bad, bad, bad...

07 May, 2007 13:49  
Blogger Lee said...

They musta used up all their talent and coolness. At least they had their 15 minutes right?

07 May, 2007 15:02  
Blogger Soupdragon said...

Got the new Arctic Monkeys' album?
It's FAB.


07 May, 2007 15:29  
Blogger Martha Elaine Belden said...

enya and the monkees? whoa... that's awful.

those are some crazy lyrics... to be sure.

07 May, 2007 17:53  
Blogger Spangly Princess said...

not at all related to the post, Asterisk, but I saw this and thought of you as they say...

07 May, 2007 18:32  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

LUVM: Yeah, he's lost it, that Nicky. Shame.

Red: ROFL, as the kidz say! You're right too, I think.

Lee: I think they had at least half an hour, yeah. Oh well, can't complain then!

07 May, 2007 18:53  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Soupy: I just can't get over this observation I made previously...

Martha: Crazy genius is what those lyrics are. Now the band's shite.

Spangly: Great T-shirt, isn't it? Believe me, I have been sorely tempted to buy it but have thus far resisted.

07 May, 2007 18:59  
Blogger Tanya said...

So sad, the decline.

07 May, 2007 22:24  
Blogger cappy said...

the first album after richie left was, i believe, written BY richie. since then they have been shite!
look out for next weeks podcast *(asterisk), and the two that follow that. i am counting down the NME's top fifty indie anthems. with some of the also rans too!

p.s. arctic monkeys second album isn't THAT good either. not bad, but not a patch on the first.

08 May, 2007 01:40  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

T: Yeah...

Cappy: Only five songs (out of 12) on that album had lyrics written or co-written by Richey, in fact. And oddly they weren't all the strongest tracks. I'll keep an eye on your blog for more details.

08 May, 2007 07:23  
Blogger Will said...

Everyone has their peaks and troughs; most bands go middle-aged. The only difference with the Manics is that their early rhetoric was so young, new and brilliant that everyone remembers the targets they set themselves.

08 May, 2007 10:20  
Blogger Milla said...

I was never a fan of MSP (I remember my friends called them Manic Street Sweepers), because for me their music was a bit too light, and I could never really identify with the lyrics. When Ritchie disappeared however, I became interested in what he was writing, and I can tell you that lui e' un genio della canzone. I say he IS because I am not too sure he is dead you know? I think he is living on his own in some remote Scottish glenn.

Wonderful post, *A.

08 May, 2007 10:47  
Blogger Glamourpuss said...

They kinda passed me by and I never felt I'd really missed much. But it's always a sad moment when the scales fall from your eyes and something you valued reveals itself to be a turd.


08 May, 2007 10:52  
Blogger Pendullum said...

So sad,as these guys are going not too silently and with a bad eulogy into the night...

08 May, 2007 12:25  
Blogger My Reflecting Pool said...

The expectation to continue the former brilliance has to be hard. Shame.

08 May, 2007 13:28  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Will: They should have just "shut up shop" once Richey went. End of. Quit while on top.

Milla: Grazie, bella, e bentornata!

G/puss: Never a great moment, is it?!

Pen: Nope, they ain't.

Pool: It's always going to tough, isn't it? One has to either keep trying or admit that perfection is unbeatable.

08 May, 2007 17:24  
Blogger Sheamus the... said...

i just wanted you and Red to know. I just got OZ season one in from Netflix today because of your recommendation. I look forward to watching it.

08 May, 2007 18:07  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Shea: Excellent! I hope you like it, and I look forward to reading your views.

09 May, 2007 09:09  
Blogger Judith said...

They just whored themselves and sold out when richey went

10 May, 2007 09:25  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Judith: I fear you're absolutely right.

11 May, 2007 09:16  
Blogger FOUR DINNERS said...

I still like the Manics but I drink a lot

12 May, 2007 17:24  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

saw the manics last night actually and it amazes me that the scene they have come from, well what they have lived through: grunge, britpop nu-metal era's, that they are one of the few bands that can still pull it off. Nicky prowls around the stage, James gives all his chuck berry duck walks and windmills and still plays like the bastard offspring of Slash and Mick Jones.

New song Rendition did not seem out of place when played in between You Love Us

and no i am not a member of the cult of richey or some sad nicky wire wannabee dressed in leopard print with a 'oh-so-humerous' slogan t shirt on. I just appreciate good music. I'll be the first to say lifeblood was a disappointment, crap at best. But to say the other three albums post-Everything Must Go are complete rubbish is ignorant AND wrong. Yes the manics toned it down after Richey went but that is what happens when you lose someone important to you. he wasnt just a guitarist to them, he was a childhood friend.

And i defy anyone not to be taken aback with emotion, albeit in a strange way given the lyrical matter, when they watch james perform 'YES' acoustically with a sole spotlight shining on Richey's side of the stage.

they are not cunts, they are not sell outs, remember these guys played in Cuba, they left Richey royalties until 7 years after his disappearance, and later on in this tour they are going to places such as Istanbul.

The Manic Street Preachers were a delightful kick up the arse when they first came on the scene. Now they are back to the (near) top of the charts and the U.K should be thankful for it

God Save The Manics

(and the whole, i need to not listen to the manics for a few months or be associated with them is a little childish, something which i think you accused Nicky Wire of doing? anyway if you care what people think about your choices in the arts take a good long hard look at the popular music floating about today and think whether you want to be associated with the people who think it is cutting edge. Save for the Arctic Monkeys.)

Judith - 'They just whored themselves and sold out when richey went'. You are everything i fear to become. Mindlessly ignorant, idiotic and full of yourself. i sincerely hope you believe what you say. Because one day you might just convince yourself there isn't a bus coming, and will walk in front of it.

28 May, 2007 15:44  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Anon: Thanks for your in-depth comment, and for taking the time to write.

I'm glad you enjoyed the gig. I last saw them on the This Is My Truth tour, and with the exception of the tracks from that album, they put on a good show with good energy. So I don't doubt that they can still cut it live.

But I stand by my opinion that TIMT is a largely terrible album; also, the songs I have heard from Lifeblood were terrible; and the new single from the Tigers album is absolutely appalling -- beneath contempt, in fact.

It is an opinion. And it is a valid opinion from a guy who spent five years loving the Manics' music. That they have fallen from grace with me is a fact, and nothing you might say will change that.

I might also say that t he notion of a lone spotlight on Richey's side of the stage while James plays "Yes" seems a little crass. Although I accept that it could be heartfelt. This at least must be better than those wilderness years when they refused to play any Holy Bible tracks.

I also think they are cunts. I will justify this by explaining that they have essentially pissed all over their own musical heritage by releasing the sort of dross that is their current single. Any band that plays that sort of music must surely be peopled by cunts. It is the worst type of derivative bullshit pop that any band could possibly perpetrate, much less a band that once stood for something and inspired people. It's sad.

I don't care about them playing Cuba or Istanbul or wherever else. That is ultimately not as important as the quality of the music they make. And that is sorely lacking.

My comment about not wishing to be associated with them is because they have become bullshit pop. And I don't like bullshit pop. So I will not wear a shirt that currently means bullshit pop but that once meant "fuck you and your bullshit pop". It's not directly anything to do with caring what people think of the music I like. It's that people will not differentiate between the Manics I like and the Manics as they are now.

But the Arctic Monkeys, cutting edge? Puh-lease don't make me laugh. The only thing cutting edge about them is the way they got their breakthrough. The music is really very limited and dull. And that voice... oh my.

28 May, 2007 16:06  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ill ignore the arctic monkeys comments becuase thats a purely a matter of opinion and i have noticed that their has been a mass divide between people in certain age groups over the quality of the AM's. Being 18 myself i have basically grown up (lets face it, ages 16-18 shape you up the most) listening to them and etc..... bla bla bla.

But one song does not make the manics bullshit pop. YLAINE is certainly the most commercial thing on SATT, maybe even anything they have released. But listen to the album, if you havent already, rendition has a purpose behind it - a real generation terrorists feel to it. would a sell out cunting pop band have a song called 'Imperial Bodybags'? would they be writing about politics and accusing certain organisations of being corrupt? think about that, there is still some bite at least left in them.

Richey was the one who wanted to be understood, wanted his words to be put out and accepted by the fans, media etc. They dont have him anymore, and any band who loses someone as talented and talismanic as Richey will suffer in the songwriting department and peoples overall impression

like i have said Manics version 2.0 is nowhere near as defining or as good as the original manics. But what would be more desperate would be the manics now, aged 38ish, without richey, trying to relive the generation terrorists days now.

Now i can understand people just saying, well actually i dont like this new stuff, but for some weird reason it really riles me up when someone throws about a seemingly oblivious comment. now you know what you are talking about and i respect that, its good to have a discussion on something your passionate about, but i just think calling them cunts and sell outs is a bit far and is just missing the point. Also, i dont see how they have pissed on their own musical heritage?

but all i can say is, if you have not heard all of Send Away The Tigers, then do. it is not at all like YLAINE all the way through. There are some sterling moments on that album and there feels like a genuine purpose to it, unlike the lacklustre 3 albums that preceded it.

28 May, 2007 17:09  
Anonymous Kseniya said...

Dude, you fucking said it. I had to quote you in my own LJ blog thing because it was just the truest thing I've heard in a while:

"I feel like someone has taken a hugely important part of my past and razed it to the ground, only to build a fucking McDonald's on top of it."

27 October, 2008 06:17  

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