It is well known that no other band has inspired its fans to write more than the Manic Street Preachers. If every person who listened to the Velvet Underground formed a band, then everyone who listened to the Manics started a fanzine. Everything is the fastest selling music book, ever. The proportion of those who bought it to see if their fanzine was mentioned can only be hazarded, but I suspect it was a fair few.
Published in 1999, when the Manics were releasing ‘This is my truth . . .’, Everything reads much better the further away it is from the events described. After quickly getting through their very early lives (always the dullest part of any biography), the pages of the band forming absolutely sparkle. Price introduces his readers to Situationism, Marxism, and Malraux without floundering, accompanying philosophy with the Manics’ frequent banality:
“At one stage Richey was spending eight to ten hours playing ‘Donald Duck Quackshot’, ‘Mickey and the Castle of Illusion’, ‘PGA Tour Golf’ and ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ on the Megadrive.”
Price conveys the brilliantly the raw mess of life in an ascending band, as hatred, love and fights counterpoint the assault on the charts. But he is constantly undermined, not by an un-cooperative band, but by the realization that the Manics are utter crap. For Price has been a critic long enough to hate faking orgasms over songs that he doesn’t like. We read the following descriptions of their songs: ‘frankly embarrassing lyrics’, ‘the next two tracks also fall into the category of Horrible Heavy Metal’, ‘metal lite’, ‘a somewhat slug-paced six-minute rocker’ – and that’s just the first album. Price sometimes omits mentioning a song at all, concentrating on the ones he can find merit in.
Musically, the Manics are an embarrassment. I have been meaning to write about them for ages, but the music has always held me back. I cannot bear singers who can’t sing. I will not suffer their uninspired cliched rock. James Dean Bradfield’s barely modulated shout is a poor vehicle for occasionally interesting lyrics. Interesting, note, not great or poetic. For all this, Simon Price’s 280 page summation of their career is eminently readable: full of insight into matters of more import than the Manics themselves.