During the heady ‘Brit Pop’ years of the 1990s, any British guitar band found themselves given the label whether they wanted it or not. The 90s was a boom period for British indie and rock music; the time when Blur battled Oasis for chart supremacy and music in the country seemed to reach a peak. Other large bands of the era such as Pulp seemed to embrace the ‘Brit Pop' tag, whereas other more alternative bands like Radiohead were less keen. The Manic Street Preachers were among the groups who should never have been pigeon-holed in such a manner.
For a start, the story of the famous Welsh rockers starts long before the mid 1990s. The band formed in Blackwood, Wales in 1989 with a straightforward objective; release one huge album, sell millions of copies and then immediately split up. That's not quite how things worked out. The band stayed together, continued making music for the next 30 years, and are still finding ways to stay relevant now they’ve all turned fifty.
The most recent new music from the Manics was released only last year; an album called ‘Resistance is Futile’ which received a strong critical reception and peaked at number 2 in the album charts; no mean feat for a band onto their thirteenth album and considered to be old news. It’s the ‘old news’ that some fans are more interested in, though, and it’s in pursuit of pleasing those fans that the band are heading back out on tour this May.
2018 marked the 20th anniversary of their seminal album ‘This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours’, which contained their first ever number one single in ‘If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next’, a track notable for being the first (and probably only ever) number one single written about the Spanish Civil War. The album, of which a ‘special edition’ was released in December last year, was important to the band in more ways than just the number one single. It was their first release which didn’t contain any input from lyricist and rhythm guitar player Richey Edwards, who went missing on February 1st, 1995.
Edwards, a troubled but brilliant poet with a long history of self abuse, vanished from a hotel in London on the eve of the band's US tour. His car was later recovered close to the Severn Bridge, but the man himself has never been seen since. He was legally declared dead in November 2008. Edwards was both the band's poster boy and muse; his dark lyrical content set the tone for their early work, and the lyrics he left behind featured on the album ‘Everything Must Go,' released in May 1996. There were doubts that the Manics would be the same lyrically or musically without him. ‘This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours' silenced those doubts.
Touring to support a special edition of a famous album is nothing new for the Manics; they've given the same treatment to both ‘Everything Must Go and its predecessor ‘The Holy Bible' as they reached their own 20 year anniversaries in recent years. Between the tours and the re-released albums, it would be easy to accuse the band of cashing in on the support of their fans by picking up ‘money for old rope,' but that isn't consistent with their ethos.
Commercialism doesn't ever seem to have appealed to the Manics. They've never been big on merchandise - their original look was a DIY affair of spray painted slogans on t-shirts, thick eyeliner, and leopard print. It's a look you can still see worn by their fans at gigs to this day. Their early idols Guns n Roses commercialized themselves to within an inch of their lives, lending their name to everything from branded cheese to an official online slot that bears their name at Amigo Slots. The Manics struggled to come up with official t-shirts, let alone interactive slot games which feature their music as a soundtrack (although now we’ve written that down, it sounds like a fantastic idea). If they’re making extra money from these tours, it seems a fair exchange for not bleeding their fans dry via other avenues over the years.
For the fans, the tour represents a chance to hear tracks they won’t have heard live for years, if ever before. Each time the Manics have gone on a ‘20th anniversary’ tour they’ve split their set in two. The second half of the set is a ‘greatest hits’ collection, but the first half is a simple recital of the album, in full, from start to finish. Top tracks from the album like ‘Tsunami’, ‘You Stole The Sun From My Heart’ and ‘The Everlasting’ are a fixture of most Manics gigs, but album tracks like ‘Nobody Loved You’, ‘Black Dog On My Shoulder’ and ‘S.Y.M.M’ have been absent from regular rotation for years.
This will probably be the last time the Manic Street Preachers embark on a tour like this; ‘This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours' is the last of their ‘classic' albums, with its 2001 follow up ‘Know Your Enemy' achieving less commercial and critical acclaim, which makes it less likely to pose an attractive proposition for a tour of this size. With the band getting older and no guarantee of future recordings, it's unclear when fans will have the chance to see the band again after the tour is over. None of the band's members have suggested that they're splitting up, but nor have they committed to any solid future fans. Well into middle age and having secured their legendary status, it may be that they just choose to retire.
With their outspoken political stances, sometimes-striking visual style and commitment to Nihilism and Futurism within their lyrical subject matters, the Manics were and are a band like no other. Those wanting to see the tour can buy tickets now and choose from venues across the country between Sunday 12th May and Friday 31st May, including two-night stays in both London and Manchester before finishing in Leicester.