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Manic Street Preachers

Manic Street Preachers

If ever a band seemed unlikely to become respected elder statesmen of alt rock, it’s the Manics. When the Welsh quartet surfaced in the late ’80s, they seemed more likely to quickly implode, especially with their promise to split up after one album.

Born from the ashes of Betty Blue, James Dean Bradfield, Nicky Wire, Sean Moore and Richey James formed the Manics in 1988 and released their first single Suicide Alley that summer. Their loud, hard-edged sound, outsider image and political stance owed much to punk and set them apart from most of their late ’80s counterparts.

The ’90s started promisingly for the band, with the New Art Riot EP and singles Motown Junk and You Love Us earning rave reviews. However, the cracks that would later become fissures first showed during an NME interview, when Richey James responded to accusations of inauthenticity by carving “4 Real” into his arm.

The band signed to Sony for their debut album, Generation Terrorists, which arrived in 1992, followed by their first Top Ten hit in the shape of a cover of the M*A*S*H theme Suicide Is Painless. By this point, the band had become more famous for their outlandish and outspoken interviews than their music and their second album Gold Against The Soul failed to land with the same impact as its predecessor.

In the wake of Gold Against The Soul, James had started to unravel at an alarming rate. Plagued by depression, anorexia and alcoholism, he appeared on stage in Thailand with self-inflicted knife wounds on his chest. Following a spell in private hospitals, he returned to the band for their third album, 1994’s critically acclaimed but monumentally bleak The Holy Bible.

The following February, James left his hotel in London and drove home to Cardiff. He was never seen again. His credit cards and passport were left behind at home and his car was found by the Severn Bridge near Bristol, a spot long associated with suicides. The police eventually declared James dead in 2008, although many continue to claim his disappearance was staged.

The Manics elected to continue as a three-piece, using some of James’s final songs as the jumping off point for their fourth album, 1996’s Everything Must Go. Along with the No.2 single A Design For Life, the album was a huge success, turning the band from confrontational outsiders to major mainstream stars.

The Manic Street Preachers cemented their newfound status with This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours, serving up more hit singles with If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next and You Stole The Sun From My Heart. However, in the wake of Know Your Enemy and Lifeblood, the band seemed adrift and took time apart for Nicky Wire and James Dean Bradfield to embark on separate solo projects.

The time apart seemed to reinvigorate the Manics, who returned in 2007 with the more direct, streamlined album Send Away The Tigers. The trio opted to capitalise on this sense of rejuvenation and delved into a treasure trove of unused lyrics from Richey James to form the backbone of their next album, the critically acclaimed Journal For Plague Lovers.

It was an almost joyful Manics (two words which would have seemed horrendously incongruous 15 years earlier) on 2010’s anthemic Postcards From A Young Man, which also boasted cameos from Ian McCulloch (Echo & The Bunnymen) and Duff McKagan (Guns N’ Roses).

The band pulled things back for the gentler, folk-tinged Rewind The Film in 2013, featuring guest turns from Lucy RoseRichard Hawley and Cate Le Bon, before moving in an altogether different direction on 2014’s krautrock and post punk-influenced Futurology. This was followed in 2018 by the band’s 14th album Resistance Is Futile.

In 2020, the band announced shows for NHS workers at Cardiff Motorpoint Arena. They were also confirmed as support on selected dates of The Killers UK tour.

In 2021, Manic Street Preachers announced their 15th album The Ultra Vivid Lament would be released in September 2021, with a single Orwellian preceding it on 14 May. A UK tour was also announced for September, October and December 2021.

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