Manic Street Preachers - Generation Terrorists
THE FIRST thing to acknowledge about 'Generation Terrorists' is that the Manics have done it, they've pulled it off, they've released the debut double album they'd set their black rock'n'roll hearts on all along. A provocative. presumptuous enough gesture at the best of times (a debut double album, if you don't mind!) but in today's straightened climate of compilations, reissues and record company play-safe policies, it's nothing short of a modern miracle.
Mind you, for the racoon-eyed dreamers from the Welsh Valleys, the real shit is only just approaching the fan. Not least because for every flag hoisted in their honour in the hearts of the faithful there's a barrage of hostility, scorn and ridicule-the heavy artillery of the rods press-aimed straight at their puny, trembling frames. 'Generation Terrorists' is destined to be panned severely, both for a variety of very good reasons (we'll come to those later) and a plethora of silly, sulky ones. What people must decide at this point - the release of, if nothing else, the most ambitious, scene-stealing debut album of the '90s so far - is where they stand regarding the Manics. Are they rods heavyweights, deluded Strummer bunnies or nothing more than a huge pair of frilly pop bloomers snagged for all eternity on the Great Tree Of Hype? Do you view their major creative thievery, their peacock pretensions and dizzying perv need to be both loved and have their crotches boiled at the altar of the Rode Greats with simmering disgust, condescending snorts, or jealousy, agony and admiration, tinged with a re-touched nostalgia for your own one true love, the only person that ever meant anything to you: yourself(leastways, the person you always meant to be)?
Decide now, snivelling pop brethren, or prepare to face a lifetime in a world that will never ask you an important question again. One thing's for sure: sitting on the fence won't do (what do you need with another splinter up the ass?). Love 'em or hate 'em, the Manics are too crucial to languish in the limp limelight of your lethargy for long.
Having said that, it must be stressed that 'Generation Terrorists', a monstrous 18 tracker, incorporates all the Manicisms that ever irritated, amused and mesmerised detractors and fans alike and then some. Firstly, as this is the album the Manics always intended to make, it is not new-wave, home-grown, 'quirky' or UK-cuddly. It is a great woolly rock mammoth aimed at the US market with the kind of precision and determination lone assassins reserve for offing American presidents. This is both good-it's production by Cult twiddler Steve Brown gives 'GT a strong, solid, epic feel - and bad - its occasional appalling blandness is as genuinely horrific as any homophobic/racist sexist bon mot hardened rockers like Guns N' Roses (MSP faves, apparently) might retch up and, at times, the band's struggle to be perceived, aurally at least, as shaggy-haired, blue-jeaned Americans reeks of a desperation beyond the Chunderdome.
On the other hand, and in some obscure way this is supremely heartening, the Manics have not compromised their abrasive, agit-pop, scratch-mix slogan-choked lyrical style one iota despite having realised (presumably) that the Yanks won't understand word one of what they're saying. To be brutally frank nobody not even a coked-up Mastermind contestant with 'Mark E Smith B-sides: Analyse and Discuss' as a specialist subject, would understand most of them, simply because they're gibberish: punky, provocative, pretty-sounding, mismatched, sloganeering buzz-phrases cobbled together without a thought for grammatical coherence or even emotional clarity. Almost every track has got some cringe-worthy, astonishingly crass and clumsy line so I can't/ won't list them here.
Besides, who really gives a Rhett Butler if, occasionally, Richey and Nicky's (for they are the lunatic-lyricists in the Manics' squad) crazed, undisciplined, misanthropy-as-photomontage cum Social Commentary-news style provokes the listener into believing they are trapped forever in a cartoon world dreamed up by Jamie Reid, John Craven's Newsround and a team of bored lab-rats.
Moving on to that most pickled of chestnuts: Is it derivative? The answer has to be 'Yes'. In this department the Manics are to the creative life-force what Ronnie Biggs was to British Rail, though where the bulk of 'Generation Terrorists' is concerned, their main steals are from the archives of ancient and modern heavy rock and not the arse-end of spikey sub-Clash culture as they are normally charged. Thus they get to sound like the Stones, the Pistols, Public Enemy, Joe's lot, Billy Idol, Guns N' Roses, Elvis Costello, REM, the Velvets, Led Zeppelin, the Dead Kennedys, Queen, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, The Ruts, Poison, Europe, Meatloaf and Cher (courtesy of the much trumpeted duet with porn icon Traci Lords) and anybody else with half a grain of pop or Nick grit you may like to mention.
The real question is 'Who Cares?' Expecting a rock band of the '90s not to resemble their forefathers and immediate contemporaries is like expecting human beings to give birth to different shaped babies every time. The essential appeal of rock'n'roll is its myriad different interpretations of the same unoriginal idea: namely that loud, noisy music makes people feel alive. Deal with it, or die.
What's more important is that the Manic Street Preachers have transcended their sleepy provincial roots and produced something for the Global Everybody. Their enemies expected 'London' Calling: The Remix' and they've come up with the 'Use Your Illusions' 'I' and 'II' the Gunners only ever had illusions about. When the kids of the future sit on the Manics' lap and ask what they did in the Music Wan of the Early '90s, at least the Manics can truthfully say they did their bit and weren't mere foot-soldiers in the Great Army Of The Mediocre. Similarly, who cares if 'Generation Terrorists' turns out to be this year's turkey, the Ishtar/Heaven's Gate of vinyl People who steer too close to the sun often get their wings melted. The great thing is - the Manics dare to fly. So
and stuff the marking system.