THIS afternoon, the Manic Street Preachers will finally discover if this week’s speculation about their latest album reaching number one in the charts has proved true.
Resistance Is Futile has been leading the charge in the Official Charts, vying for the top spot against the Greatest Showman soundtrack and last week’s number one by Kylie Minogue.
It’s the band’s 13th album and comes 26 years after their debut album Generation Terrorists, and 20 years after their last (and only) number one album, This Is My Truth So Tell Me Yours. So what kind of album is it that’s putting them back at the top of the charts?
Bassist and lyricist Nicky Wire, 49, describes Resistance Is Futile as ‘the most melodic album we’ve done for a long time. We approached all the songs as if we were trying to write a single.’
And they’re certainly good at that. Since Motown Junk in 1991, they’ve had 34 UK Top 40 hits, including the anthemic A Design For Life and Everything Must Go.
We’re still obsessed with writing the perfect song
The band are about to take the latest album out on tour and when I speak to him, Wire is feeling reflective. ‘The album is about memory and loss, about stuff that’s disappearing before our eyes — such as the cultural importance of music. It doesn’t stand in the centre of culture in the way it felt it did when we were growing up.
‘There’s a general fragmentation of life in general — it’s rare that people coalesce around any particular moment as everything is so fractured. With music in particular it got to the stage that the platform you consumed music on seemed more important than the music itself.
‘When I was growing up, there was a tribal element where you could identify people if they were a soul boy, a goth or into heavy metal. Now, it looks like everyone goes to the same shop and buys the same clothes.’
So is he nostalgic for a bygone era? ‘It’s not about nostalgia, you can’t bring stuff back and there were plenty of s*** things as well — but some things are worth highlighting because the never-ending digital push gets to the point where people don’t really know who they are or what they stand for.
‘The album isn’t a political commentary or a judgment — it’s more about a sense of bewilderment and trying to find refuge in the things that give you comfort, whether that’s pieces of art or culture or making music. It’s art as a hiding place from being battered by the never-ending digital storm.’
And in typical Manics fashion there are plenty of references on the album — including songs about David Bowie, photographer Vivian Maier, artist Yves Klein in the song International Blue and Dylan Thomas on Dylan and Caitlin, a duet with The Anchoress. The group have always been renowned for the intense and fiercely devoted fanbase they attracted with early releases such as You Love Us, Stay Beautiful and Slash ’N’ Burn.
‘At our age it would be easy to slip into that lifestyle of doing a greatest hits tour every year’
‘From the start, if you got into us, it meant something to you,’ says Wire. ‘We were like that with The Smiths and Echo And The Bunnymen and when we got into The Clash it changed our lives.
‘We had an element of those sort of people in our audience and then when we got massive, around A Design For Life, other people would come to see us for entertainment and to hear certain songs.’ But the band are gaining new fans all the time. ‘We picked up a lot of new fans with Send Away The Tigers in 2007, but we’ve been going nearly 30 years, so older fans still bring their children,’ he says. ‘We’re very grateful for the new generations of fans because it stops us turning into a heritage act.
‘We’ve done enough to stay relevant and people feel we’re still a band worth being interested in, which really helps. Otherwise, at our age it would be easy to slip into that lifestyle of doing a greatest hits tour every year.’
Indeed, recent years have seen them do a anniversary tours for the acclaimed album The Holy Bible and commercial favourite Everything Must Go. So will this latest tour see them concentrate on the new stuff? ‘We’ve got too much of a duty to please to not do the hits,’ laughs Wire. ‘We supported Bob Dylan several years ago. I adore Dylan but it was a bit weird to see him reinterpret every song to the point where you couldn’t recognise it. I really admired him. He was standing in front of 25,000 people and everyone was thinking “what’s that?”’
So, alongside new material, there’ll be old favourites and, says Wire, some B-sides and rarities. The Manics famously announced they’d sell 16 million copies of their debut album then split up. But they didn’t sell 16 million copies and they’ve never split up. So, what gives them the motivation to keep making new music?
‘If you add all the sales up, we’ve sold 16 million,’ laughs Wire. ‘But it would have to count as the world’s longest compilation album. We’re still obsessed with writing the perfect song.
‘International Blue felt vital, exciting and youthful — it felt really good to have written that. And as long as we have that goosebump moment between the three of us then we’re alright. When that goes, you’re just going through the motions — we had quite a few of those goosebump moments on this album.’ The record-buying public would seem to agree.
■ The tour starts in Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena on April 23, and they’ll be playing at Southbank’s Meltdown Festival, Penn Festival and Y Not Fest in Derbyshire, manicstreetpreachers.com