Manic Street Preachers -‘National Treasures-The Complete Singles’ (Columbia/Sony)
It’s now twenty years since the Manic Street Preachers first appeared. Over the course of their first decade they went from being seen as four angry young men in Mascara (this really was as far away from the norm as possible in 1991) to being able to sell out the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on December 31 1999. The next decade saw their profile remain fairly if not quite as high, an ongoing addition to their legacy, so that being labelled national treasures isn’t too far from the truth. National being the UK as a whole (though they’ve always worn their Welsh heritage proudly) in the sense that they never majorly cracked other markets further afield.
It’s not the first Manics compilation either – nine years ago they issued Forever Delayed, which was much more focused on the big hits of their career -and indeed there have been many; over thirty of these tracks here were top forty hits. This compilation takes a different approach, running from their first single proper ‘Motown Junk’ to their latest, a cover of The The’s ‘This Is The Day.’ And sure, you’ve probably heard (and indeed, even own) many of these tracks. But unlike Forever Delayed, as well as the big hits – including two number one singles – there’s many that never had as high a profile, but were examples of why they had such a devoted fanbase. Perhaps the person in the UK high street wasn’t really aware of tracks like ‘She Is Suffering’ ‘Life Becoming A Landslide’ ‘Let Robeson Sing’ ‘The Love of Richard Nixon’ to pick just four, lesser known tracks here.
Bono has been questioning on the eve of the twentieth anniversary of Achtung Baby whether U2 still have any relevance (to which you get the feeling three middle-aged Irishmen are first in line to say that they probably would do if he could just put aside his Messianic complex and get on with what he did in the first place). There’s no question that two decades into their career, the Manics have certainly reached a number of high points, and they clearly still feel the urge to reinvent themselves, rather than quietly become a heritage act. But for a band who famously claimed that they were going to release one double album and then split up, they have done remarkably well. Sure, they are no longer so manic, and were never particularly street. But they preach from the heart, like those Preachers from the Valleys they hailed from, and for many of us, they’ve soundtracked the last twenty years to some degree or other. I’m sure I’m not the only one hoping that we haven’t heard the last of the Manic Street Preachers just yet.
National Treasures-The Complete Singles is released on Columbia/Sony on October 31.
Get a free download of ‘Love’s Sweet Exile’ here