New Project: Manic Street Preachers – A Critical Discography

Ian MacDonald’s Revolution in the Head is probably one of the best books anyone has ever written on a musical subject. In it the late, great writer analyses every track The Beatles ever recorded in the studio, looking at the writing, recording, and many layers of context behind each of their 241 songs. When I got my copy, I followed MacDonald’s journey by reading along as I listened to the 200+ songs I had to hand in the order of their recording. The experience made the Beatles discography seem, if anything, more wonderful even as the book exposed the flaws and compromises – as well as the strengths and moments of true genius – behind the recordings.

Now, I’m no Ian MacDonald. But I am a huge Manic Street Preachers fan, and ever since I first read Revolution in the Head, I’ve felt that they are a band – perhaps the only band since the ’60s – to deserve the same kind of treatment. As with the Beatles, the Manics are a band who have attracted so much attention for their aesthetic, history and overall story that their actual music has been neglected; not just songs, but whole albums have collected dust while countless fly-by-night indie pretenders have column inches lavished upon them.

Without MacDonald’s huge experience and knowledge of musicology, my analysis cannot hope to be as deep and incisive as his. He also had the dubious advantage of being able to scour the recording archives to understand many intricate details of how the Fab Four actually put their songs to tape; that kind of information just isn’t available for the Manic Street Preachers. But with my new blog Manic Street Preachers: A Critical Discography, I’m working to do some degree of justice to the 259 songs they have recorded since 1988.

Right now I’m coming to the end of the tracklisting for Generation Terrorists, the Manics’ mammoth 18-song debut album released in 1992. For an explanation of the cataloguing system I’m using to make sense of the songs (heavily based on MacDonald’s) I’ve written a note on it; I’ll also be writing a special album essay to shed some light on the background behind each of the band’s ten full-length albums. I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

New Feature: Five Dark Parallels Between NIN’s ‘The Downward Spiral’ and the Manics’ ‘The Holy Bible’

It’s been too long since I wrote a feature for PopMatters. Free of the vapid hype of most music sites, the broad-minded, serious site is my sole writing home for the time being. This piece is one that has been in the pipeline for a while, and explores five dark parallels between 1994’s darkest, bleakest albums. Manic Street Preachers’ The Holy Bible has long been a huge favourite of mine; Nine Inch Nails’ similarly gruelling The Downward Spiral feels like its industrial, American, million-selling sister record.

Read the full article at PopMatters

Review: Manic Street Preachers – National Treasures

Artist: Manic Street Preachers
Title: National Treasures
Label: Columbia
Review @ The Line of Best Fit
Score: N/A

For a band that claimed they would never write a love song, Manic Street Preachers have inspired some strong emotions. For a band that also claimed they would record one album and break up, they have been doing so for 25 years, being met variously with adoration, derision, acclaim and scepticism. Having formed in South Wales in 1986 as four idealistic upstarts, the Manics became three elder statesmen of British rock, a cult force with international recognition and an uncommonly devoted fanbase.

Read the rest of the review at The Line of Best Fit

[Video] Manic Street Preachers – “This is the Day”

To promote their forthcoming singles compilation National Treasures (out October 31st), the boys from Blackwood cover The The’s “This is the Day” from their 1983 LP Soul Mining. The video features archive footage of the band dating decades back through their career.

Record Store Day 2011: Lament for the CD

Record Store Day 2011 is here. When the sun comes up here in a few hours, it will be the UK’s turn to take part once more in a day dedicated to the country’s dwindling number of shops that cater to the music fan in all their many shapes and tastes. Fans celebrate music itself every day – on Twitter, blogs, and occasionally in person; RSD helps us do something different. It celebrates the joys of browsing in a well-stocked shop, chatting with knowledgeable staff, picking up records based solely on their covers: it is about the physicality of music and the ways it is brought to us through places, people and objects. More

Manics: ‘Postcards…’ Reviewed @ TLOBF

I’ve been excited about this for ages, because I’ve had the record for weeks and only now can I wax properly lyrical about it. Manic Street Preachers’ Postcards For a Young Man is my favourite record of the year so far. Yes, I’m a huge fan of theirs, but yes, they have done it again. For all the inevitable talk about the record supposedly being Everything Must Go Part II, it turns out, as expected, that this new album is a singular beast all of its own, which needs much more than lazy retreats to past glories to define it.

I’ve tried to avoid those tropes in my review, which I took longer over than probably any review I’ve ever done; the results are here. This is a pretty big thing for me, and it would be amazing if you could help it get a few views, in any way you can. At any rate, have a read and get the record when it’s released on September 20th; it’s a special one, this.

Manics: Softcore Pawn Video

I penned a few words about the new Manics video for TLOBF:

If a video features Anna Friel and Michael Sheen as chess players representing the Soviet Union and Wales respectively, then generally speaking you can bet it’s a Manic Street Preachers effort. This particular one promotes “(It’s Not War) Just the End of Love”, the band’s first single for three years and their first from forthcoming tenth album Postcards From a Young Man, released on September 20th on Columbia.

The video for “(It’s Not War) Just the End of Love” can be watched on YouTube here.

New Manics Album/Book News

Following on from my post a couple of weeks back about NME hitting a rich vein of odd Manic Street Preachers news, I’ve come across some more interesting developments in terms of both the new album Postcards From a Young Man and Ben Myers’ forthcoming novel about Richey Edwards, titled Richard. On the album front, I can report that I’m making my first tentative steps towards writing my review of the album, which I’m looking upon as a pretty mammoth task; I really want to make this a good one. The album is wonderful – I suspect some fans will prefer the previous record, but it’s perhaps the happiest Manics record yet. It has a song on it called “I Think I’ve Found It”, with mandolin for crying out loud! More

NME Goes Manics-Mad (Again)

The UK’s last remaining weekly music rag gets a bad rap, often with very good reason. However, it does have some good writers, and what really lets it off the hook for me is that they’ve had the good sense to be followers of Manic Street Preachers as dedicated as almost any vociferous fan, almost from the beginning. This last few days though, NME have gone completely Manics-crazy on an epic scale, with tons of bizarre stories popping up as the release of tenth album Postcards From a Young Man approaches. Vociferous fan that I am, I’ve rounded them up below. More

New Manics Single Blog @ PopMatters

Manic Street Preachers, my favourite band, are releasing their tenth album in September. I am more than slightly excited, which was heightened when I heard the radio rip of the new single “It’s Not War (Just the End of Love)” a week or so back. Since then, the track has been getting quite a bit of deserved airplay – some Manics fans will be disgusted that the radio play is largely on BBC Radio 2, but I’m thrilled, as Radio 2 remains the biggest in the country and the Manics deserve some big sales with this one. Naturally I’ve written a quick blog about the track for PopMatters, but there’s also interesting NME and The Fly track-by-tracks to read, if you’re that way inclined.

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