[8] Manic Street Preachers, ‘Walk Me To The Bridge’

manics 2014

“DA-DA-DA-DAAA” – it’s a riff you have to sing along to. Juniors 1 and 2 sing along to the riff.

Well, this is timely, seeing as everyone’s talking about the Manic Street Preachers right now. Between you and me, I’m not sure I’ve ever listened to The Holy Bible all the way through, or at least not more than once. I was never invested in the cult of the Manics although I did buy ‘Stay Beautiful’, ‘Love’s Sweet Exile’ and ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ (and Gold Against The Soul just for the first two singles), and later ‘A Design For Life’ and ‘If You Tolerate This…’. They just didn’t speak to my politics, which were, in essence, can I dance to it? And is Staropramen on tap?

Which makes it all the more surprising to see them here, so long after even their biggest fans would admit was their peak. Except for those fans who think that terrible single with Nina Persson was any good, of course. But this is such a great, punchy single. I always did like ‘Yellow Pearl’. And the false chorus appeals to the pop anarchist in me, as does the mild is-it-isn’t-it about Richey Edwards intrigue. Nicky Wire says it isn’t and you have to trust a man in shades, don’t you?

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[5] Manic Street Preachers, ‘So Why So Sad (Sean Penn Mix – Avalanches)

Is this really the done thing? Heroes of the year, The Avalanches took the Manics’ dreary and slightly odd Showaddywaddyesque plodder and kicked out the stinking chorus, droning Nicky Wire echoed vocal lines, misplaced moog and general sense of melodic dead-end – and replaced all the tired parts with Beach Boys glitter, sun-kissed Hawaiian keyboard strokes and chugging percussion, creating a dizzily gorgeous seaside twilight happy mix. Then they named it after Sean Penn. Pure crazed genius. It’s just a pity for the Preachers that these Aussie samplesmiths couldn’t be around every day. Pity for us too – think of the records we would have been spared.

Junior stood before me, wielding a plastic sword. That might have been how The Avalanches did it, come to think.

[2] Cornershop, ‘Brimful Of Asha’

Not the crazee Norman Cook remix and its forced jollity and helium vocals. This is the real deal, one of the cutest 45s in years. No other record has so successfully married a tribute to Asha Bhosle and a paean to the 7” single. God knows many have tried.

Junior takes the opportunity, as Marc Bolan – an obvious Cornershop influence – once sang, to “ride a green, blue and red snail like the people of the Beltane”. It’s a rocking horse, in the form of a snail. You know the sort of thing. Before saddling up, she was boogieing along and wondering if this really could be the same band that got caught up in all that Riot Grrl nonsense. Damn the NME. They know how to brand a band.

I was surprised to clock that this is five minutes long. It’s so concise and trim, with just enough embellishment in the strings and handclaps, that you think it’s the classic three-minute pop song. Tjinder Singh also ticks another of my favourite boxes by trying the ‘Young Americans’ trick of fitting too many words in each line. He succeeds where many a Manic Street Preacher has failed.

God. It should be No.1. It’s just that the next song ate rock music, spat it out and ruined its own makers.

[19] Manic Street Preachers, ‘Stay Beautiful’

Manic Street Preachers

So, they arrived looking like Joe Strummer fronting Japan, lost their spiritual core and eventually waddled off dressed as fat Welshman at Next. A bizarre trajectory that became very uninteresting very quickly. They were never much good. Some diverting early singles, the odd OK track on later albums, not enough to justify the devotion.

Standard gibberish in the lyrics. Junior looked all louche, draped over the side of her chair. A mess of eyeliner and spraypaint sounds like a whale of a time to her.

Ah, I do like this shoddy record. It was the first MSPs song I ever heard and I was wryly surprised that this new, shocking punk thing had basically recorded a Huey Lewis melody.