the BBC website celebrates the 20th anniversary of the release of the Manic Street Preacher’s debut album: Generation Terrorists. A band, and an album, I discovered in my highly impressionable ‘OHMYGODTHISBANDISMYWHOLELIFE’ mid-teens.
The album itself is over-long, full of shortcomings, and there’s a cluster of songs I’d really rather never hear again. In fact the style of musicnoise - heartfelt pastiche of Guns n’ Roses - is not something that’s ever rang my particular bells. What got me was the sleevenotes, the interviews and the references. Seems weird now that I could have such love for a band based substantially on what books they recommended. I was aware it was weird at the time though, so that makes it ok.
However, the array of literary quotations on the inner sleeve, from the likes of Larkin, Orwell, Camus, Rimbaud and Plath, plus the stolen dialogue from A Streetcar Named Desire and the poetry recital from Patrick Jones (Nicky Wire’s elder brother and a huge influence on the band’s formative years), amounted to an invaluable cultural treasure map, pointing their fans towards the wider world beyond rock ‘n’ roll in much the same way that, a decade earlier, The Smiths had done with their referencing of James Dean, Oscar Wilde and kitchen sink cinema.
By the time I finished school, I was well versed in 4 out of the 5 writers he cites (Sauchiehall Street Waterstones appeared to have no Rimbaud, on my habitual Saturday visits, and I was too scared to ask in case of resultant mispronunciation mockery). In various sleeve notes and interviews, a huge number of writers, artists and bands were referenced by the Manics, all of which I searched for, alot of which I loved.
One thing worth mentioning - that Simon doesn’t, really - is the politics. Reading interviews with the band was my first introduction to alot of political figures and ideas. Even individual words - I can’t remember knowing what ‘capitalism’ was, pre-MSP. Also, now I think about it, alot of my obvious shortcomings are ones I share with the band: smug, brusque, narcissistic, annoying habit of over-intellectualising, over-analysing things like exactly what I’m doing now.
Anyway, what I’m getting at is that potentially everything on this blog, and everything I’m interested in, can maybe be traced back to this record and this band. At least, I feel it’s safe to say that I’d be a very different person if I’d never happened upon the album. Which is a very odd claim cos, as the article rightly says, it’s not very good.