I’ve been listening to the Manics a lot recently. I tend to listen to Pandora at work, the online radio station where you can tailor-make your own channel. The Manic Street Preachers channel throws up some good stuff, and some great related artists. I find most of the time though, it just shows how fantastic the Manics used to be, and how fantastically average they are now. This album signals the end of them being a relevant force in music, and it was all downhill from here.
I was in my first year at University when this was released in 1996. I wasn’t a Manics fan at the time, so the band sort of passed me by until I discovered the first three albums a year or so later (all off the back of hearing Faster from The Holy Bible – the highlight song from their greatest album). But I remember hearing A Design For Life a lot during my first freshers term, and seeing them perform it on things like TFI Friday.
I eventually got around to hearing the album, and it’s a solid album, nothing bad about it, but a huge step down from The Holy Bible. You can see why all the Britpop kids went for it at the time – all big choruses and a stadium rock, wall of sound production. In fact, as a first album by a new band (which to a lot of people, it would have been), it’s great. Maybe that’s what they should have done – in a Joy Division / New Order kind of way – rather than continuing as their established name, despite the loss of an integral member of the band.
Richey Edwards? Fantastic lyricist, terrible guitarist. Left his car near a known suicide spot on the eve of an American tour to support The Holy Bible (shades of Ian Curtis there). I love The Holy Bible so much – for me it’s been my favourite album released during my lifetime. I love everything about it – everything that’s dark and depressing about it, and the very real fact that maybe something had to happen to the tortured soul of Richey Edwards for it to be made. All true art is suffering, and the lyrics of The Holy Bible paint a picture of somebody having a hard time coping with the realities of life.
The beauty of The Holy Bible is why the big dumb pop sound on Everything Must Go annoys me so much. With The Holy Bible, the Manics were an edgy post-punk rock band (via Guns ‘N Roses and Metallica). With Everything Must Go, they turned towards the anthemic, everyman qualities of Springsteen, with a sound perfect for the hordes of pissed-up mad-fer-it lads, bored with Oasis and too ignorant to understand anything beyond the lyrical complexities of ‘I know a girl called Elsa / She’s into Alka Seltzer’.
Terrible. The beginning of the end. What a waste of a once-great band.
Hit: A Design For Life
Hidden Gem: Small Black Flowers That Grow In The Sky