This Christmas time, Manic Street Preachers plan to celebrate their very own 'silver jubilee' (yep, they formed in 1986 and have been releasing singles for 21 years) with a special London show where they'll perform their singles discography in full (although not necessarily in order). Benjamin picks his four favourite single releases from the band - and one recent track which certainly stands up to the rest of their discography.
1. 'Motown Junk' (January 21 1991, no. 94 in the UK singles charts)
This early Manic Street Preachers single, predating even their debut 1992 longplayer Generation Terrorists, is the song which outlined their manifesto. 'Motown Junk' burns with controversy (James Dean Bradfield's sneering claim that he "laughed when Lennon got shot") and the desire to escape small town monotony (the climatic howl of "We live in urban hell! We destroy rock'n'roll!"). Most ominously of all, it sounds urgent, loud, and ugly.
2. 'Roses in the Hospital' (September 20 1993, no. 15 UK singles charts)
From their very beginnings, the Manics were never in denial of their influences, which ranged from radical hip-hop group Public Enemy to Pulitzer Prize-winning war photographer Kevin Carter and avant garde French wordsmith Octave Mirbeau. The melody of 'Roses in the Hospital' (from their widely underrated 1993 album Gold Against the Soul) is shamelessly plagiarised from another of their pop cult idols, and so will be instantly recognisable to any listener who is familiar with David Bowie's 'Sound and Vision'.
3. 'Faster' (double A-side with 'P.C.P' - June 6 1994, no. 16 UK singles charts)
Richey Edwards' lyrical partnership with Nicky Wire reached its epitome on The Holy Bible in 1994 prior to the unsolved disappearance of the former early the following year. Soon afterwards the quartet became a trio and have since spent almost two decades striving - with inconsistent levels of success - to climb back up to those breathtaking heights of originality. Yet undoubtedly 'Faster' did more to provoke adolescent literary curiosity (with its narcissistic claims of being "# stronger than... Miller and Mailer#" and spitting out Plath and Pinter #") than a lifetime of GCSE English syllabuses.
4. 'Ocean Spray' (June 4 2001, no. 15 UK singles charts)
Know Your Enemy in 2001 was the album which saw Bradfield, the Manics singer and guitarist, step into the songwriting spotlight. On 'Ocean Spray', he took credit not only for the music but for the words too - words which sensitively articulate his mother's faith in the healing powers of cranberry juice during the cancer-stricken final days of her life. Bradfield is not the only member of his band, or indeed family, for whom this particular song marks the revelation of a little known talent because his cousin, drummer Sean Moore, performs a melancholic yet sublime trumpet solo in its closing bars.
5. 'She Bathed Herself in a Bath of Bleach' (from the album Journal for Plague Lovers, 2009)
In 2009, the Manics revisited their origins as a four piece band with the release of Journal for Plague Lovers. The critically-acclaimed record was built from lyrics penned by Edwards immediately prior to his disappearance upon the foundations of his three remaining bandmates' musical compositions. None of its thirteen tracks was released as a single, but many fans would surely agree that 'She Bathed Herself in a Bath of Bleach' is one of several therein which is worthy of inclusion amongst the brightest highlights of the band's discography.
words: Benjamin Thomas
Manic Street Preachers play at The O2 on Saturday December 18, 2011. Tickets go on general sale at 9am on Friday September 2 and are priced at £32.50/£22.50 plus fees/postage. The band also release a singles collection, National Treasures, on October 31.