Saturday, 23 May 2009
Journal For Plague Lovers Review
Image - Richey James Edwards. 1967 - 1995.
I first got into the Manic Street Preachers in the late 1980's, around about 1989 to be exact.
After hearing some of their songs on the radio for a while and said I liked them, a mate of mine one summer morning in around 1991-92 knocked on the door of my flat with a copy of Generation Terrorists and said, 'Have a listen to this, you will like this'.
I played the album about three times in a row each time growing more excited not just by the superb production, musicianship and song harmonies, but by the lyrics.
The lyrics were poetry.
Written by Richey James Edwards they were the ticker tape poetry of the subconscious of British society at that time, mixed in with imagery from history and the media.
His words seemed to encapsulate so beautifully so many contradictory elements of the age, and yet create perfect songs with those elegant and beautiful contraries.
Like Blake he had realised that only in the free flow of poetry could the essence of the modern world be defined, a world of fast presses, dropping bombs and sudden deaths all live on the media.
Time and space were now truly relative in the eyes of the beholder.
The aim of the band was to turn the media against itself, to reflect what the media pumped out and hurl it back at it with exploding grenades of frantic New Art Punk Rock.
They had an agenda, to use the media rather then allow the media to use them.
Everything was in his lyrics, from commentary on the Holocaust, songs about how political correctness and how liberalism would become Liberal Fascism ( PCP ) and the genocide of the Native American indians.
I only got to the see the original line of the up of the band at the free gig in Brockwell Park in May 1994 where they played some of the tracks of the new album, including Faster I believe.
In February 1995 Richey Edwards vanished.
It is now known he committed suicide.
Two months later Kurt Cobain killed himself.
These were the two men, both born the same year as me which was 1967 The Summer Of Love, both white and working class who articulated the voice of my generation, just as The Smiths had once done.
Kurt Cobain was the voice of the utterly desolate emptiness at the heart of the American Dream and the painted slithering rattle snake of Global Consumerism hung with scales of Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Reebok, Friends and Nike that is its bastard spawn. A working class man who found that fame and wealth were merely another form of inner emptiness.
Richey Edwards spoke of British society and global events as experienced through the eyes of a poet who sought to use art and music as revolutionary weapons of mass destruction against the political and financial elites as the real revolutionaries once used bombs and guns.
That generation in 1967 are a special generation.
We are The Children Of The Revolution, born in the year when the old gods returned to walk the earth.
The Children of 1967 were the first of a new breed of global witnesses, born to bear witness to the death of the world live on TV in full techni-colour and on live satellite feed.
We watched our elders rape, pollute and profane the planet.
We watched our governments, corporations, global institutions, politicians and business's make billions from wars and drowning the earth in blood.
We saw our socities sold out from under us, our birthrights, culture and heritage torn from us and replaced with a plasma TV. We watched death, disease, famine, war, murder and rapine sweep the world like a fire in the hearts of men.
Hypocrisy and cant mixed via the media and assisted governments impose multi-culturalism upon our nation.
We were gagged with political correctness and beaten until we called it freedom.
We saw our soldiers slaughtered in war after war whilst millions of immigrants marched unstopped into our country, we saw the abortion clinics filled with the aborted babies of our people whilst the schools were filled with children who could not speak English, we saw our culture criminalised and anti-discrimination laws passed that discrminate against us.
We watched it all - live on TV.
We watched Waco burn and Beslan bleed live as the flames leapt and the bullets flew.
We watched as the Iranian embassy in London exploded and masked SAS soldiers blasted their way in through the walls.
We watched the twin towers fall.
We watched it all in silence as it happened.
Our hands may be clean, but our hearts are broken from the horror of it all.
From being raised in the Cold War when the threat of MAD dominated geo-politics and I watched young, Russian conscripts in Afghanistan being executed and decapitated on the news by Afghan fighters and British warships burning in the dark waters off the Falklands Islands, burning at night and exploding, men struggling in the merciless icy waters that gripped them with its cold and then drew them under.
Richey whilst he lived tried to hold a mirror up to all this chaos so that the world would have to finally face its own reflection and see what it had become.
At the Brockwell Park gig in May 1994 Richey didnt look right.
The thin fragile stem of his body seemed ready to break.
Having followed the band in the NME and music press since around 1990 the stories of Richeys problems were becoming more regular.
Then The Holy Bible album came out in August 1994 and you could you could tell then this was a dark record one reflecting an almost existential howl of rage.
Richeys image at the time was that of a concentration camp victim.
The publicity photographs of him and Nicky Wire taken at the time were of them dressed and made up with make up as to be the undead our society, the zombie like emaciated inmates of some vast consumerist concentration camp of the soul, an unborn army of the undead, the aborted, hollow remnants of individuals who had been conditioned and enslaved by the media since birth, empty ciphers instead of people, the ignorant slaves of their own greed, desiring the status and commodities of this consumer slavery system of society.
The Holy Bible was the soundtrack of an apocalypse, both that of Richeys own personal descent into manic depression and also mankinds descent into eco-cide as he waged war against himself and the natural world.
The lyrics that Richey left behind are the final ones he wrote before he vanished.
They have been used as the basis of the songs and as you can see in the songs themselves, the lyrics and the sentence structure and vochal harmonisation positioned in relation to those sentence structures dictate the way the songs sound.
Richeys lyrics form the sound of the songs, for the harmonies of the songs have to be crafted around the structure of the lyrics.
Therefore the dynamic of the songs, the tempo, is changed and most of the songs relfect the same visceral hard rock edge of the original Holy Bible album, of which this is the true follow up.
It is a beautiful record.
Unlike so much music made today it lives.
The Manics after Richey were still one of the best bands Britain has ever produced, but they lost the soul of the band when Richey died.
All the talent still remained, but the fire in the heart of the band was out.
The music was still great but you knew that the thing that elevated the band to greatness, the fact that it was once home to a truly remarkable poet, was no longer there.
Without the poetry they became panto.
Stunts like the Cuba gig just revealed them as posturing rock gods with too much money and time on their hands surrounded by too many arse lickers giving them shit advice.
But with Richey they were unique - a fusion of art, poetry and rock music that was both a beautiful thing to behold and to hear.
Their songs had wings that could lift you to other places, songs that pumped pure nitro-glycerine through your veins and left your head reeling with the sheer intoxicating beauty of the lyrics.
The Journal of Plague Lovers is not a return to form for the band.
What this album is a monument to the greatness not just of Richey Edwards but also of the entire band itself.
It is a monument to the potential greatness of the band that we saw in The Holy Bible, finally finding its true form.
Those in the media press like the NME that mocked them and who questioned the integrity of Richey Edwards and their vision for the band have been proved now to have been nothing more than a troop of chattering monkeys who thought it wise in their ignorance to mock the Thinking Man.
This is why media monkeys only produce a noise, whilst the thinking men produce Art.
They now have two of the greatest albums of all time to their credit.
It is just a pity Richey aint here to see his final validation.
The last time I saw the Manic Street Preachers was on December 29th 1995 when I went to see the Manics as back up to the Stone Roses at Wembley Arena.
The Stone Roses gig was the last one with the original line up and John Squires.
The Manics gig was the first public gig since Richey had vanished.
As you watched the band you knew that a new era was about to begin and that they were about to become one of the biggest bands on the planet.
Yet, great as they were, your eye kept getting drawn to the shadows on the edge of the stage, searching for a sign of someone who was no longer there but whose presence and spirit still lingered on,
Richey exists in the legacy of the songs he left behind.
Enjoy this album, it is Richeys last testament.
Thanks to the Manic Street Preachers for giving it to the world.