You know it’s been a long, long time since I last checked in on what the MANIC STREET PREACHERS were up to with any real anticipation. Actually when I think about it, I’ve not really been that hyped about them since they released ‘This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours,’ and that was all the way back in 1999!
But something feels different this time. Perhaps it’s to do with a couple of pieces I’ve read from them that coincided with the release of ‘Rewind the film,’ the first of two upcoming albums on the coming year. The first is a track by track review from Nicky Wire in The Quietus, the second a piece about the fact that they’re still one of the most brilliantly melancholic, miserablistic bands to have ever existed. And The Quietus piece sees them in typically acidic form. But as alongside their bullishness, there’s a sadness as the cocksureness of youth drains away, and the bitterness of middle age creeps up on them, as Nicky says;
“The first line, ‘I don’t want my children to grow up like me, it’s too soul destroying, it’s a mocking disease’, sets the tone for the kind of cruel self examination of the album. It’s about looking in the mirror and realising we’re all 44, and while we’re still deeply enthralled and still in love with the delusion of being in a band and playing to people, and all those brilliant rock cliches which we’ve always specialised in – we probably can’t do it any more. That line, ‘I can’t fight this war anymore, time to surrender, time to move on’, I don’t want to be like that but I think… it’s better if we are. It’s The Holy Bible for middle aged men – the horror of realising you’re in charge, you’re the grown up. I think our generation hangs on to being young more than any there’s ever been, but it’s fucking hard.”
And I too am feeling that a bit. the realisation that I too am but a few years away from full-on middle age, that perhaps things haven’t been as good as they should have been, and that for all my anger and rage at everything I see around me, It´s but the impotent roaring at the dying of the sun. The spirit may be willing, but the flesh is creaking and starting to hang and go flabby.
Perhaps that’s why the title track seems to have affected me a bit. The song is just laden with poignancy and longing for what was in the past. Lots of intimate acoustic guitars with Richard Hawley crooning “I want to be small, lying in my mother’s arms.” You just want another crack at doing it all over again, to try to learn from your mistakes. And the strings with the Spanish guitar lines is reminiscent of classic Scott Walker/Walker Brothers grandeur pop. So when James Dean Bradfield kicks in with those power vocals that are at the opposite end of the spectrum to Hawleys, the emotions just get ratcheted up a notch.
The accompanying video rams the point home. Showing a Welsh mining village, the sort that the Manics themselves came from, the coal, industry, and jobs having long gone. All that there is left is old age and memories for the past. The camera lingers on the people and their lives almost in a ghoulish way as it conjures up a nostalgia for the what was the good old days.
But it’s a false nostalgia. It’s disingenuous austerity chic. There were no real glory days. It was a hard unrelenting grind for many and all they got for it was being thrown on the scrapheap when they were of no use. As Nicky says about another track.
“It’s not about Thatcher, it’s definitely about Thatcherism, about the establishment across the last 30 years, and it doesn’t matter what government is around, we always love to portray ourselves as this holier than thou country, and yet we have scandal after scandal uncovered, right to the root of power, government, Murdoch, the police, Hillsborough, this stupification of the class I grew up in, which I think all stems from Thatcherism really. The idea that if you break down any power that we had we’re going to be fucked forever…
I find that elitist, ‘We know what’s better’ is so all pervading, from the monarchy to fucking Cameron to Mumford and Sons. We’re just told… what did one of Mumford and Sons say the other day? ‘Either ignore it or celebrate it.’ What a fucking futile attitude. Don’t say anything bad, just ignore it or celebrate it. So what about fascism then? We don’t like it, we’ll just ignore it. It does feel like the last five years has been such a redress of monarchy and establishment and public school through all points of our culture. I feel a bit helpless about it.”
And that’s the thing. Where I grew up there was never any real nobility in what I saw around me, or being part of the romantic “great downtrodden working class.” In many ways I hated where I came from and part of me was dying inside because of this. But I had a brain and because I was able to into uni, I at least had some hope I could come out with some better chance of getting “on the ladder”, not out of a desire for real “social climbing,” but simply so as to escape, into some better life elsewhere. But now? Well there’s no way you can do that these days, especially in places such as the UK. The peeps in charge have seen to that with the likes of tuition fees, as well as a raft of nasty, vindictive little measures. If you are poor, then you deserve to be shat on they say. that’s your lot in life. Get used to it.
Fuck nostalgia. Fuck ignorance. Fuck futility. Fuck being all accomodating. Fuck keeping calm and carrying on. Fuck being “reasonable” and being “fair”.
As John Lydon said, “anger is an energy.” Fuck this, I’m off back to school.
You can still change your life.