Thursday, 7 May 2015

Manic Street Preachers - Generation Terrorists (1992)

I hated the Manic Street Preachers for a while without actually having knowingly heard any of their music; although I knew for sure that it would be rubbish. They turned up in the music paper every fucking week explaining how all other groups - a category which by default included a few groups I probably liked - were crap, and how they were going to be the biggest band of all time. This latter claim was at least ahead of the curve of all those other lolloping sideburn-having cunts promising to be the greatest rock band ever which, by the time we reached fucking Razorlight, had begun to sound a bit fucking comical. I think it was also that the Manic Street Preachers were Welsh, and militantly so, and yet sang in English - the language of the oppressor - quite unlike my beloved Datblygu, Plant Bach Ofnus, Traddodiad Ofnus and at least a couple of others.

Week after week I would read that the Manic Street Preachers had said this was crap or that was rubbish and I would grow to loathe them more and more, up to the point at which my loathing flipped over into a sort of masochistic fascination - as often happens with me and artists I have initially disliked - and I bought a couple of 12" singles because there they were on a stall in Greenwich market and there was nothing else I felt like buying. I was a little shocked when I heard what they actually sounded like, because I thought they had been joking when they named Guns 'n' Roses as an influence. They hadn't, and I was surprised at how the music really was nothing new, sounding if anything like an exercise in nostalgia, a return to the dynamic of a man in silver trousers stood on a box screaming baaaabbbbbbbbbyyyyyy yeeeeaaaaahhhhhhh!

It was like post-punk had never happened.

I played the records a few more times, and realised that I liked them, because after all, I hadn't stopped listening to the Sex Pistols or the New York Dolls despite Trevor Horn having invented the 12" club mix, so why the fuck not? The more I listened, the more I began to understand it. The ruthlessly traditional form the music had taken might almost be considered a protest in itself considering at least some of that which they had set themselves against, a reaction against progress rendered redundant by having become an end in itself; and the lyrics were fucking great, obtuse and angry, and most important of all, the whole schtick had no trace of career move so far as I could see. They meant it; and they really did love Guns 'n' Roses; and I would never have to listen to the sodding Wedding Present ever again if I didn't want to.

Unfortunately but perhaps inevitably, such ambition was doomed to fail, although this is probably acknowledged in the best of their songs, most of which seemed to be about doomed ambition by one definition or another. In practical terms this amounted to their failing to split up after releasing a brilliant debut album as promised, not least because although the brilliant debut album did absolutely everything it should to spectacular effect, it did it for far too long, presumably having been timed so as to fill one of those new fangled compact discs. The vinyl translated to a double album, sacrificing a whole chunk of immediacy, and letting in a few tracks which, whilst fine in themselves, should probably have been b-sides. In fact, thinking about it, neither Tennessee nor that bloody awful novelty remix of Repeat, nor a few of the others, were anywhere near as good as R.P. McMurphy or We Her Majesty's Prisoners or Soul Contamination. What with Methadone Pretty, You Love Us, Slash 'n' Burn, Stay Beautiful and others, this could have been a killer single album of such devastating force as to prevent the formation of Oasis, the Bluebells, the Boo Radleys, Catatonia, Space, Toploader, Travis, Dodgy, the Stereophonics, and a host of other bands who doubtless were already going but probably should have jacked it in anyway. Sadly Generation Terrorists was issued as a killer single album trapped inside the body of a slightly porky double, and then they failed to split up, and poor old Richey Edwards went missing, and they began their slow descent towards becoming one of those Jo Whiley bands providing soundtrack music for car insurance commercials and admitting that they'd always liked Happy Mondays.

Still, listening to this, that doomed magic is still there in most of the grooves, so it is what it is. You're probably better off with a stack of the early 12" singles in some ways, but as a quarter century vintage variation on we mean it, man, this still packs a decent punch.

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