Warts ‘n’ all singles collection from a contradictory and preposterously brilliant band.
Camilla Pia 2011-10-20
And so the Manic Street Preachers bid farewell to music-making, "for at least two years" so they claim. But then, anyone who knows how soundbite-savvy bassist/pop provocateur Nicky Wire can be, knows not to believe a word that comes out of his mouth. The band’s early mission statement to make one great album and split is now as distant a memory as their wonderfully camp explosion into indie rock; a refreshing alternative to baggy and grunge, all inflammatory slogans, spouting literature and politics in skin-tight jeans, eyeliner and Coke-sculpted hair (they couldn’t afford hairspray). As the Welsh act celebrates 25 years together, they find themselves a decidedly un-Manics proposition. They’re still going for a start, and seething apocalyptic punk rock and sneering diatribes now sit rather awkwardly alongside mainstream acceptance, stadium sing-alongs and sedate attire.
But then these conflicting elements are what make Manic Street Preachers one of the most gloriously infuriating and subsequently utterly compelling bands around. And it’s reflected in their music, their paradox-ridden contrariness captured and collected here chronologically for the first time. So the career-defining vitriol of Faster, You Love Us, Stay Beautiful and Motown Junk and the epic melancholy of Motorcycle Emptiness, Little Baby Nothing, From Despair to Where and La Tristesse Durera (Scream to a Sigh) – all must-hears – arrive before the act’s most successful anthem-penning period as a trio (A Design for Life, Everything Must Go, Australia, If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next), and then lead into the decidedly dodgy-in-places most recent offerings. The Masses Against the Classes, Your Love Alone Is Not Enough, Autumnsong, (It’s Not War) Just the End of Love and Postcards From a Young Man provide sonic relief from a clanger-heavy second disc containing such meandering low points as The Everlasting, Empty Souls and the frankly bizarre So Why So Sad.
But such ups and downs are exactly what makes Manic Street Preachers tick. As the ultimate rock‘n’roll survivors, they have battled through more than most – the majority of their peers having either given up long ago or are currently to be found embarking on cringe-worthy comebacks. National Treasures is imperfect in places but it’s an honest, true and ultimately triumphant musical document of where the Manics have been and what they’ve achieved; where they’ve stumbled and where they’ve soared. In short: an indispensable guide to an iconic band.