BY JEFF ELBEL | FOR THE SUN-TIMES
The Manic Street Preachers didn’t find the same success in North America that other UK-based bands including Blur, Oasis, the Verve and Radiohead experienced during the 90s. Nonetheless, the band’s global influence and staying power have eclipsed many of its peers. Since forming in Wales in 1986, the group has released 12 albums including 2014’s “Futurology.”
The Manics’ current stateside trip extends the 20th anniversary celebration of landmark 1994 release “The Holy Bible.” The album collected taut and challenging post-punk thrills, coupled with bracing polemics and lyrical evidence of former guitarist Richey Edwards’ inner turmoil.
Although the Manics’ audience is smaller here, the relationship is intense. Singer and guitarist James Dean Bradfield appreciates that devotion, at any size. “Whether it might be 1500 a night or even 1000, it’s hard to ignore,” he says. “When it’s so heartfelt and constant that people ask you to come, then you come.”
Vintage singles including “A Design for Life” and “The Masses Against the Classes” described a socialist’s view of class privilege. It has been speculated that the Manics’ lack of stateside breakthrough was coupled to its uncompromising politics.
“Perhaps then, but I don’t think that would be the case now,” says Bradfield. “I think that things have changed in America. Countries always go through those periods. From 1970 to 1975 in Britain, no one wanted politics in music. It took punk to change that.”
Among the provocative tracks on “The Holy Bible” was “ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayit’sworldwouldfallapart” [sic]. “That song is about a time and a place,” says Bradfield. “It wasn’t even something I was archly angry about. I obviously disagreed, but the Reagan era was a fascinating time in politics and very easy to write about.”
Bradfield views “The Holy Bible” from similar distance. “I don’t really buy into that thing of albums having to be timeless to be classed as a great piece of work,” he says. “There’s not a timeless note on that first Clash record. It could only have been made in 1977. ‘Raw Power’ with the Stooges doesn’t transcend its times. Neither does ‘It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold us Back’ by Public Enemy.”
“‘The Holy Bible’ is engaged in its era. To go back reminds you of the landscape of another time and shows how much things have changed economically, culturally and politically.”
SPOTIFY playlist: http://bit.ly/ManicSPOT
Jeff Elbel is a local free-lance writer. Email: email@example.com