Myxomatosis #8: On Our Band Could Be Your Life

American hardcore punk icon Henry Rollins was in town about a week and a half ago, and Larissa and I were there.  Originally known as the singer with legendary hardcore band Black Flag, Rollins spent the ’90s working as frontman of the Rollins Band and has spent most of his 30-plus year career writing and publishing his words not just in the form of lyrics, but in tour diaries and spoken word poetry performances and collections as well.  When his Winnipeg date was announced a couple of months back without any specifics as to what kind of show it would be, Larissa and I weren’t sure what to expect: music, poetry, or some impassioned ranting could all possibly be on the menu and in any combination.  It turns out the third option was what we were in for that night, and what delightful ranting it was.  Rollins told stories about his Black Flag days (once, when knocked out by a serious kick to the cranium, he remembers Greg Ginn waving at him after he came to, not to see if he was alright, but to alert him to the fact that they had to continue with their set despite the fact that their singer had just been knocked unconscious), his letters from fans, his longtime friendship with Ian MacKaye (they went to Aerosmith shows together when they were really young, something I can’t quite wrap my head around, especially knowing what MacKaye would come to stand for in a few short years), seeing the mausoleum of Kim Il-sung in North Korea, and his addiction to the road and to touring, among many other things.  He also spent plenty of time mocking his own country and (perhaps somewhat misguidedly) praising ours.  All in all, though, he was on amazing form and full of the legendary energy and passion that I’d heard and read about for so many years.

One of the more recent places I’d read (my reading it is recent; it was published in 2001) about Rollins and the music scene from which he emerged was in Michael Azerrad’s excellent book, Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes From the American Indie Underground 1981-1991.  While he begins with Black Flag and the hardcore scenes in California and Washington, D.C., Azerrad’s central thesis is that when Nirvana seemingly exploded into popular consciousness with the release of Nevermind in 1991, what actually brought that event to fruition was the slow, steady workup of significantly more underground, indie bands during the preceding ten years.  When grunge “broke” in the early ’90s, it was because of the work of American bands who refused to let go of punk when it dissolved in the late ’70s, instead morphing into hardcore and, later, college rock, before hitting critical mass with the advent of grunge.  In Our Band Could Be Your Life, Azerrad focuses on thirteen bands who carried that punk ideology through their influential but ultimately still obscure work in the ’80s.  From the overtly political post-punk of San Pedro’s Minutemen to the art rock scene in New York City that gave birth to Sonic Youth, the bands profiled by Azerrad are incredibly important to the way we understand American punk and alternative rock music today.  He explores the crushing ennui and restlessness that made and then ultimately destroyed The Replacements, the strident activism of Ian MacKaye and his two bands, Minor Threat and Fugazi, and the educated and curious urge to experiment that drove Mission of Burma’s music.

While I was familiar with most of the thirteen groups that are featured in Our Band Could Be Your Life, there were a couple bands that the book prompted me to investigate further, like Mudhoney and the Butthole Surfers.  His writing is excellent in the way that it brings together and finds similarities in scenes and genres happening all over the country over the course of more than a decade.  One of those uniting features of these bands is the hard work put in by them, the relentless touring, and DIY, often working class approach to financial decisions, from choices in record labels to the ultimate in economy touring.  Think of this week’s mixtape as the musical accompaniment to Azerrad’s book, offering a glimpse into the power, enthusiasm, and success of these bands.

Download Myxomatosis #8

Beat Happening – Angel Gone

Fugazi – Waiting Room

Big Black – Bad Penny

The Replacements – Unsatisfied

Minutemen – Sell or Be Sold

Mission of Burma – Fame and Fortune

Sonic Youth – Expressway to Yr. Skull

Butthole Surfers – Dum Dum

Black Flag – Thirsty and Miserable

Minor Threat – Look Back and Laugh

Mudhoney – Touch Me I’m Sick

Big Black – Kerosene

Dinosaur Jr. – Sludgefeast

Black Flag – Nervous Breakdown

Beat Happening – Bad Seeds

The Replacements – Androgynous

Mission of Burma – Mica

Sonic Youth – Death Valley ’69

Minutemen – Maybe Partying Will Help

Hüsker Dü – Reoccurring Dreams

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Blundering, Plundering: FAHH Giveaway of Jack White’s Blunderbuss

I’ll never forget when The White Stripes first grabbed my attention and demanded I listen to them and their music.  I was sixteen and on a high school band trip, and of course as a teenager deprived of the arguable values of cable television, Much Music in particular, I spent much of my free time in the hotel room watching bad music videos and probably eating a lot of junk food.  Elephant had just been released, and as the clip for “Seven Nation Army” flashed across the TV screen I wasn’t able to turn away, or maybe even blink, for the duration of the song.  I hadn’t seen anything like it.  I was a naïve, sheltered, and easily impressed kid, sure, but the “Seven Nation Army” video is still, at least in my mind, one of the best visual and artistic statements any band has produced.  It was a sophisticated development of their take on the early 20th century Dutch artistic movement, De Stijl, it perfectly portrayed the menace and aggression of the song, and it gave an equally powerful visual image to pair with the duo’s backward-looking and yet innovative and original guitar-centric musical style.  I was hooked.

A day or two later, while still on the band trip, I picked up the CD and compulsively, obsessively tore through it countless times on the long bus ride home.  I very quickly discovered their back catalogue and the distinctive, slightly off-kilter, simple, and utterly effective videos they’d been making for a while.  I discovered their strange media presence, backstory, and devotion to the vintage and the analogue.  I also discovered Jack White’s guitar playing.  His blistering attack on songs like “Seven Nation Army” and “Fell in Love with a Girl” belied the pretty, acoustic simplicity of “Hotel Yorba” and “We’re Going to Be Friends.”  His surreal, vaguely threatening, often incomprehensible, American Gothic-influenced lyrics were dark and nightmarish and addictive.  I was intrigued by his fixation on old blues standards and innovative interpretations of old ideas into thoroughly contemporary songs.  And I could not – cannot – deny the ridiculous power and infectiousness of his riffs and solos.  Actually, I just put on “Girl, You Have No Faith in Medicine” again for old time’s sake and it was a party.  I was also lucky enough to see The White Stripes on their July 2007 stop in Winnipeg.  Unfortunately, I was not one of the super lucky few who were treated to an impromptu acoustic bus singalong on the afternoon of the concert day.

Several adventurous albums, a breakup, and a whole pile of varyingly successful collaborations and supergroups later, Jack White has re-emerged as a solo artist, which is good, because he largely still sounds like The White Stripes.  Why wouldn’t he?  He wrote most of their songs and furthermore, he’s spoken about how he wouldn’t have considered going on to a solo career if Meg had wanted to continue with the band.  He’s also incorporated more of his roots, soul, country, and Americana influences that sometimes surfaced with pals The Raconteurs.  The first single from Blunderbuss, “Sixteen Saltines”, is a slice of good old-fashioned White Stripes-era rock weirdness.  There’s something really satisfying about hearing Jack White sing “I eat sixteen saltine crackers then I lick my fingers.”  As well, for any doubters who perhaps thought he had abandoned his more esoteric impulses in favour of mainstream accessibility, I present the video clip for “Sixteen Saltines” and its, uh…theme…of really badly behaved and destructive youth.

The moral of the story is that even though his work isn’t always evenly great, it is always interesting.  The dude does not rest on his laurels.  And Blunderbuss is yet another distinctive album that Jack White can add to his collection.  We have two CD copies of the record to give away.  To win one of them, email me at laura@fromahighhorse.com within the next two weeks with Blunderbuss in the subject line.  After June 26th I’ll draw two winners from the entries.  Please note that this contest is open to Canadian residents only.  Good luck!

Jack White – Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy

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Leave Your Body Behind You: Richard Hawley’s Standing at the Sky’s Edge Reviewed

It’s difficult to know where to start with this album aside from just jumping in and experiencing it.  While Standing at the Sky’s Edge is certainly not a departure for Richard Hawley, this seventh solo studio effort from him is blazingly, exceptionally impressive in almost every aspect.  The textures, the production, the musicianship, the songwriting, the guitar work, and particularly the moods and feelings evoked are uniformly phenomenal.  The individual songs follow the same trajectory that whole album does: they each start slowly and gently before building to a cathartic finish that disarms with intensity.  This record sounds like an emotion-filled summer day spent with a loved one, becoming more overwhelming and more beautiful with each passing minute and finally culminating in an overflowing outpour of feelings and impulses.

Before we plunge in headfirst, a bit of background: Hawley, erstwhile Pulp and Longpigs member, general Britpop dabbler, enthusiastic collaborator to many, and stylish ‘50s throwback, really truly bloomed as a musician and songwriter when he went solo and in 2001 released a self-titled mini-LP.  Since then he’s been steadily building on the success of that recording and the follow-up to it, Late Night Final.  Hawley was already known for his skilful and emotive guitar work in the ‘90s, and the retro guitar rock that he writes as a solo artist only complements his playing more, as indeed it should.  I don’t generally (generally!) consider myself a big fan of a lot of guitar show-offery, but when it’s this well-executed and contributes so much texture and atmosphere…nay, is the texture and atmosphere, the centre-stage guitar and frequent solos are a joy.  Not to be a total curmudgeon (well, okay…) but I’m also not much of a love song person and the tunes showcased on Sky’s Edge are primarily love songs.  I can forgive them, though, when they’re as dreamy and psychedelic as this, and particularly when they’re delivered with a touch of humour.

While in the past Hawley’s subject matter has dealt primarily on the city sights and sounds of his beloved Sheffield, just one look at the Sky’s Edge cover art shows that this is a different affair, not so much about life in Sheffield as much as life around it, despite the fact that it’s (presumably) named after the Sheffield neighbourhood Skye Edge.  There’s a hint of the pastoral to the psychedelic sounds featured here, and the effect is simultaneously isolating and rousing, if not outright unifying.  There’s also less of the mellow crooning and string-laden soaring pop arrangements that have become synonymous with his name.  These sounds are replaced with denser, more melancholy songs that are still pop-oriented but slight skewed, bent with desire and urgency.

We start our plunge with “She Brings the Sunlight”, a gorgeous slow-burner that begins innocuously and gently but then disarms with a dark and dissonant string introduction.  The psychedelic element is apparent straight away, as there’s a distinct distortion on Hawley’s rich voice and an undercurrent to the guitar chords that evokes both an organ and Eastern strings.  There’s also an exotic, erotic undercurrent that’s further emphasised by the lyrics about the preamble to and aftermath of sex as well as a pervading, indefinable claustrophobia.  For something touted as darker and more psychedelic than anything Hawley’s done before, it suits him remarkably well and feels much more like a different facet of his musical persona than any sort of calculated overreach.

The title track is up next, and it is equally bold and distinctive.  In it, Hawley relates accounts of three characters and the crimes they commit in increasing desperation.  The line “they were sliding down the razor’s edge and watched their lives slowly sinking away” unifies this motley crew of unlikely criminals; ordinary people whose circumstances, along with their government’s refusal to recognize and help them, renders their lives tragic and ultimately invisible.  The Biblical names of all three characters – Joseph, Mary, and Jacob – suggest a timelessness to this government-prompted ennui and the people who are affected by it (and please see Larissa’s piece on Plan B’s “Ill Manors” for more information and opinion).  This idea is accompanied by slowly building guitar that is fully unleashed for a powerful solo after the second verse.  Like “She Brings the Sunlight”, this song is also coloured by a darkness, in this case a desolate hopelessness instead of passion and eroticism.  The song doesn’t come across as hopeless, though, but as a personal, albeit fictionalized, take on the small scale effects of economic recession combined with a Tory government and a deeply entrenched class system.

“Time Will Bring You Winter” again includes some Eastern influences and a pronounced reverb on Hawley’s voice that is eerie and rich.  The lyrics tumble over each other and pile up in echoing images of mysticism and pagan rituals of the changing seasons.  The guitar works resoundingly well with the other instruments and effects on display here, creating an aural image of autumn in the two-minute instrumental section that closes the song.  This flows into the immediately faster paced “Down in the Woods”, a paean to the beauty of nature that begins by disdainfully writing off cars and TV and those who revere them.  There is something of the Dionysian bacchanalia in the words: “There must be a place for us/For you and I to be as one/Around your shoulders, in your hair/My eyes are blinded by solar flares/Won’t you follow me down, down into the woods/Won’t you follow me down, come back feeling good.”  The music is hard and fast and again drenched in echo, definitely continuing in the sexual theme as begun by the “She Brings the Sunlight”, this time climaxing at the sight of a rainbow and loss of control and the euphoria of love.

The humour I mentioned before is part of the next song, “Seek It.”  In the vein of Hawley’s work previous to this album, it’s a much gentler pop song than the preceding tunes, but it continues to deal with the earthiness of sex and attraction, and the line that I find funny is “I had a dream and you were in it/We were naked, can’t remember what happened next/It was weird.”  Whether that line is meant humourously or not, the strange honest earnestness of it is somewhat surprising and totally amusing, and maybe not in a completely good way.  Other than that, “Seek It” is perhaps one of the less interesting songs on Sky’s Edge even as it offers a soothing kind of musical palate cleanser for the rest of the album.  It’s innocuous and pretty enough, and for this five minutes, that’s enough.  “The Wood Collier’s Grave” is spare and haunting, the guitars faint while a ghostly presence seems to hang over it.  At just over three minutes it’s by far the shortest track here as well, and the haunting presence of death aura is executed so well that you wish it could go on just a little longer.  Hawley’s rich voice particularly suits this song’s hushed vibe, as the quieter his voice becomes the more its subtle nuances are audible.

We return to all-out rock on “Leave Your Body Behind You”, its title also indicating a return to the album’s loose theme of cathartic release.  The music follows suits: the reverb here comes close to drowning out Hawley altogether, and that’s the point.  The track is closed by increasingly frenzied guitar and atmospheric noise over a choir that repeats “leave your body behind you” and it’s so effective that you want to take that very advice.  The sheer amount of noise produced and transmitted in the final minute and a half of this song is staggering, and staggeringly beautiful.  In the world of this album, it’s euphoric love and being in the presence of nature that can transcend the human state and achieve new levels of consciousness.  Overtly psychedelic but also beautiful and an unprecedented success from Hawley, who had seemingly found his groove in retro guitar pop but has now shown himself to far more versatile.  Standing at the Sky’s Edge closes with “Before”, a kind of comedown from the bacchanal that was “Leave Your Body Behind You.”  This tune forges a connection between the blazing psych-rock of songs like “She Brings the Sunlight” and the gentler pop of “Seek It”, with lovely gentle verses and a lengthy middle solo section that brings the harder rock sound into context on this song and on the album itself.

A meditation on the beauty and power of love and nature, this excursion into the sometimes dark and psychedelic has turned out to be an unqualified success for Hawley.  While his guitar-playing and versatile quality of his voice suggested he’d be able to make a jump like this, it seemed he had found his songwriting and stylistic niche and that he’d stick to it.  It suited him well, after all.  But progress is progress, and people get bored.  There are so many musical and stylistic experiments done by musicians and artists that fall completely flat, and I’m so happy to say that Hawley’s foray into psychedelia isn’t one of them.  A testament to his skill and willingness to commit to an idea, Standing at the Sky’s Edge ranks among Richard Hawley’s best work.

Richard Hawley – Standing at the Sky’s Edge

Richard Hawley – Leave Your Body Behind You

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Myxomatosis #7: Brought to You By the Letter A

Myxomatosis

Over the last month or so, the John Peel Centre for Creative Arts, has been building The Space, a website in which you can peruse the great DJ’s office, including Peel Sessions, photos, video/tv, radio shows, a blog, and last, but certainly not least, his record collection. This last feature is only putting up the first 100 of each alphabetic filing letter (fair enough since Peel had 29 000 records), and it has so far reached the letter “E.” You get to see the records as they are on the shelve, but when you roll your mouse over each one, you get a thumbnail image of the album cover, the artist, the title, and the code that Peel assigned it. When you click on an album, you can view the album’s paratextual materials alongside Peel’s typewritten index card with the track listing, an idiosyncratic, redundant gesture of collection that seems to express a special sort of possession as collector and curator. In addition to the various social media widgets, you have the opportunity to listen to the album via Spotify. It’s a fascinating project if only to demonstrate the issues around collection and taste. As John Peel is considered one of the most trusted tastemakers in the world, his honesty and authenticity show up in his collection, including some unexpected records that others may not see as worth owning, and perhaps he didn’t see them as terribly tasteful either, but couldn’t part with certain records for other reasons. Of course, records, or any other collected object, can mean more than their actual content. It begs the question of why we collect anything.

I think I collect because it gives me both a sense of identity and a sense of community with fellow collectors. And as much as I wouldn’t like to admit it, it gives me a sense of control. I don’t know whether to be disturbed or proud that my office space is growing to look more like Peel’s. At a paltry 361 vinyl records, including singles, I’m still a long way off. I can understand the impulse to catalogue, and there’s a certain satisfaction of mastery over the objects you’ve specially selected. I’ve never done a count on how many MP3s I own, nor have I had the time and patience to count my CDs (or even to rip them all to a hard drive), so I don’t really have a handle on the entirety of my music collection. As a person who came of age as a music fan before the widespread access to MP3s and before the resurgence of vinyl, I may have roughly 1000 CDs. I often wonder if I feel more ownership over my physical, tangible pieces of music, and what that means. It could mean that I’ll always be a bit of an old-fashioned digital immigrant, too overwhelmed by the multiplicity of the immaterial and in need of a grounding in concrete objects. It could also mean that that the digital, in its inherent shareability and lack of monetary value, works against fetishism in productive, non-capitalistic ways, and thus defies a sense of private ownership. There’s a part of me that wants to be free of so many objects and to become an easily mobile, digital subject living in the cyberspace clouds; however, there’s another part of me that wants tangibility and the aesthetic experience it brings. I’m sure some of my anxiety over temporality plays into my feelings about collecting as well.

In the spirit of the John Peel project, I’ve decided to make a mix out of a good portion of the artists filed under “A” on both my record and CD shelves, and in my hard drive. Here’s to you, Mr. Peel.

Download Myxomatosis #7 here.

(A) – The Associates

Jealous Guy – Art Brut

Little Boy Blue – Artery

Whip in My Valise – Adam and the Ants

Terminal Escape – Alcian Blue

Unfall – Abwärts

Iris was a Pupil – Autechre

The Look of Love – ABC

Here I Stand and Face the Rain – a-ha

Becoming the Wraith – autoKratz

Lose It – Austra

A Bang in the Void – Apparat

Sadness Licks the Sun – Anika

Mother’s Day Part I – AFS

Hypnotized – Aberfeldy

These Things Happen – Action Painting!

Life Classes/Life Model – The Auteurs

Cerberus – Amon Düül II

The Big Bamboozle – Barry Adamson

Educated Hand – Archivist

Motown Answer – Arab Strap

Acro(Nym) – Allegories

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Preamble, Preemption: My Rejected Proposal for a 33 1/3 Book on the Manic Street Preachers’ The Holy Bible

33 1/3 Series Logo

I don’t like having regrets. So when the latest call for proposals for the 33 1/3 book series came up, I decided I had to make an attempt. After mulling the possibilities over for at least a couple of months and then conducting a bit of research, I ultimately pulled the writing of the proposal together over a few days leading up to the deadline. The call was a bit vague as to how academic the proposal had to be, especially since many of the previous books in the series wouldn’t fall into that kind of categorization. Since I’m both a bit academic and a bit crazy fan, I figured I might be able to blend the two worlds relatively effectively. I decided to write about my favourite album from my favourite band: The Holy Bible by the Manic Street Preachers. To me, it is enough of a seminal album to be included in the series, and the more I thought about it, it seemed to be a key element to the essence of the Manics. Whilst there had been many pieces written about the Manics in the context of their politics, gender, Welshness, and fans, there seems to be an absence of work about their relation to archive and memory. The more I probed the idea, the more I realized how much of their art depended on their memory work, and that this work could be traced back to The Holy Bible, which was representative of what makes the Manics unique and so appealing to me. After submitting my proposal, it made me a bit nervous to discover that two other people decided to submit proposals for The Holy Bible, and one person chose to submit one for Journal for Plague Lovers, but at the same time, I knew that I had a promising angle and that I had put in a lot of effort and thought.

After an anxious wait, I received a rejection email today, and saw the posted long-list of 94 proposals making it through the first hurdle. One of them is for The Holy Bible. I’m fairly disappointed, but knowing how many factors could be at play here, I accept their decision. I’ve asked for some more detailed feedback beyond the generic rejection – it’s always useful to have some comments in order to improve, and it seems fair to ask since I feel as though I’ve put in more work than I’ve noticed in previous proposals to this series. David Barker, the series editor, encourages those who were rejected to post their proposals online, so I’m going to do that. Here’s the draft introduction:

Many claim that The Holy Bible is the Manic Street Preachers’ masterpiece. I argue that it’s their Gesamtkunstwerk. It is the beginning and the end, the moment the Manics split their identity into two, the watershed at which the shadow of memory flows in different directions. It condensed and intensified everything the Manics were to that point and became the touchstone for what they could ever be. It finally made them authentic, but it also made them impossible. The Manics are polarizing, even amongst fans. Fans speak of the Generation Terrorist era, the Holy Bible era, the Everything Must Go era, and they often rally behind one of them. There aren’t too many bands that have such distinct eras, or can even be described as having eras. For better, and sometimes worse, memory and the archive came to define the Manic Street Preachers.

The Holy Bible has been called the sound of intolerance and body horror, bleak, pressurized, contorted, nihilist, vile. To me, it is the sound of a monument being built for the sole purpose of its wreckage and ruin, endlessly perpetuating the significance of its own archive. It sounds monolithic and monochrome, beautiful and frightful in its symmetry. It is the cover art of Jenny Saville’s Strategy (South Face/Front Face/North Face) made sonic. The music has the intensity of a silent scream, throwing razor-sharp, post-punk angles and white noise around a dark distillation of trauma. There are few reprieves, and when they come, they are funereal and just as damning. The grind and knell of the low register and the metallic clang and scratch of the guitar and percussion create a claustrophobic anxiety and relentless, righteous fury. The lyrics range over totalitarianism, genocide, serial killers, prostitution, anorexia, self-harm, racial violence, class war, discipline, censorship, and self-obsession; they have been broken and malformed into a scansion that James Dean Bradfield has somehow managed to fashion into speech in twisted tongues. Just as The Holy Bible confronts you with everything humanity would like to forget, it also desires its own annihilation. It’s hard not to make comparisons between the album and the band itself. Having written seventy percent of the lyrics for The Holy Bible and having lived through a highly public breakdown in the year leading up to the record’s release, this 1994 album will always be inextricably bound to Richey Edwards’s disappearance the following year.

The Manics have built an identity around an intensely present absence and acts of memorialization. Their position is unique: a band that had lost a member who was simultaneously nothing and everything. As a guitarist who couldn’t really play guitar and thus had only played a couple of small parts on recordings, and as a prominent lyricist who had the ability to generate intelligent and provocative soundbites and thus had most often been the public face of the band, Richey Edwards was an odd entity. The consecrated space at stage right where Edwards once stood is like Rachel Whiteread’s Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square. An absence made present. A negative index.

The self-memorialization began well before The Holy Bible. It is well-known that the Manics plotted their ascendancy with researched precision and strategy; they were planners, especially Edwards who became their “Minister of Information.” With self-consciously “iconic” photos and outrageous soundbites, it seemed that the Manics were intent on devising their own celebrity myth. The death drive of vowing to break up after selling sixteen million copies of their debut album is a case in point. Their idolization of those defined by the Pop Art death drive, such as James Dean and Marilyn Monroe, reaffirmed their desire to become legendary, but also ephemeral. They reveled in the idea of short-lived glamour and immortality through the media archive. This conflict between wanting to live on in memory and to completely destroy that which made you famous may have an interesting precedent in Andreas Huyssen’s book Present Pasts.

Huyssen writes of Richard Wagner’s first thoughts about a performance of his opera Siegfried to be mounted near Zurich. Wagner intended for the theatre to be dismantled three days after the performance and for the score to be burned. At the same time, Wagner’s work was inherently Romantic and has unfortunately become bound up with the fascist tendency towards epic monumentalism. This tension between Wagner’s wish to be hugely memorable and everlasting, and his consciousness of the transitory, which may, too, contribute to monumentalism, creates a friction at the heart of memory studies. A comparison between Wagner’s incongruous, yet somehow compatible, attitudes and those of the Manic Street Preachers is striking, and can begin to explain the contentious composition of the band’s identity and of The Holy Bible itself.

Derision of and desire for nostalgia were also already a part of the Manic Street Preachers’ repertoire before The Holy Bible. Songs like “New Art Riot,” “Motown Junk,” “Methadone Pretty,” and “Nostalgic Pushead,” condemned society’s inclination to immerse itself in complacent, comfortable nostalgia, to anesthetize with the familiar and shallow. They often pledged to destroy history and the art that came before them, and if they destroyed themselves in the process, so much the better. In spite of these denials of the past and accusations against history itself, the Manics also longed for youth and childhood, too. In “Life Becoming a Landslide” and “From Despair to Where,” the assumption is that childhood was a more innocent time, now corrupted by age and the passing of time into adulthood. These ideas of modern, swift self-destruction and Romantic, nostalgic myths of childhood innocence then tumbled into the event horizon that is The Holy Bible.

Why did the Manic Street Preachers become my lifestyle choice? Why was I so attracted to them and their music? Yes, it had a lot to do with their intelligence, anger, and politics. And their unabashed anthems. And their androgyny. But I think it was also how they worked with memory. That preemptive nostalgia. The bittersweet consciousness of never really being in the moment because you’re already haunting your own future. The self-fulfilling mythology of them. Their grandiose desire both to preserve and to destroy in epic proportions. Andreas Huyssen’s statement that “the only monument that counts is the one already imagined as ruin” seems apt here. I’ve always been one to anticipate loss, to get some sort of perverse joy from imagining how sweetly sad this moment will be as a memory in the future. I was profoundly terrified of leaving childhood; my tenth birthday heralded anxiety because I knew I could never return to a single-digit age. The temporality of the world outside was equally as unsettling; at seven years old, I felt a sense of loss when the year turned from 1989 to 1990. This nostalgia fever likely influenced by own archival tendencies, which manifested in the many different obsessive collections I developed throughout childhood, adolescence, and into adulthood. Despite being intrigued by the Manics as early as 1998, they didn’t become my favourite band until several years later. In a sense, I was recruited by Richey Edwards, his present absence drawing me into the band’s origins from a short glimpse of an old performance on British television and from the cover of a magazine commemorating the decade since his disappearance. The Manics reinforce my desperation to make memories involving them, to make my life a soundtracked narrative with poignant nostalgia for the future, and to make meaning from their art while applying it to my own. My Manics collection becomes intimately tied to my sense of recollection. For better or worse, the Manics and their archive have come to define me.

The Manic Street Preachers’ grand narrative is tempting. Hindsight provides the best foreshadowing. As Simon Price has noted, their story begs to be narrativized. The Holy Bible became the apotheosis of their memory work by intensifying the private made public, the personal made political. Edwards’s disappearance, crucially not a visible suicide, heightened its effect. Perhaps due to the self-memorializing that had already been intrinsic to the Manics’ presentation of themselves, the sense of impending drastic change was already being taken up by the media before Edwards went missing. At the time of The Holy Bible’s release, the music press was heralding the end of a chapter. Many regard The Holy Bible to be the Manics’ truly authentic moment, the critically acclaimed cult success. People will persist in comparing everything that follows to the myth of that album. The Manics have also used it in a myriad of ways, including kicking against it to produce their next most acclaimed album, Everything Must Go, and returning to it in full to make Journal for Plague Lovers. As the band who pronounced “Libraries gave us power,” their strength and worth seemed to keep springing from the archive.

Their story and music are palimpsests, inscribed and reinscribed, self-referential and self-reverential. Their past is inescapable and the way they work with it and within it time after time is fascinating. Repeat after me, death sentence heritage.

The combination of an extraordinary album with an extraordinary act of self-mythologization has irrevocably shaped the Manic Street Preachers. The Manics haunted their own future, and their past continues to bleed into their present; time has been particularly malleable for them. The phrase “forever delayed” first appeared in the Manics’ history as a lyric on “Roses in the Hospital,” a song from their second album Gold Against the Soul, and then it became the title for their first greatest hits collection in 2002. A single called “4 Ever Delayed,” which was originally planned for this greatest hits collection but then scrapped, resurfaced on the b-side collection Lipstick Traces the following year. The phrase implies infinite stasis. And there have been times when the Manics could be accused of stagnating or becoming stultified by their own nostalgia. But another way of looking at “forever delayed” is “always becoming.” The Manics will never reach a real completion, nor will they lose sight of the potential in their own traces.

The Holy Bible proved that their eyes were set on a memorable ruin, born to end before they began. And it put them in the perfect position to be the band that meant everything and nothing.

If you’re interested in the rest of the proposal, feel free to download it at the link below. I’ve removed the CV information, but otherwise left the full proposal intact.

Download my full 33 1/3 proposal.

Archives of Pain – Manic Street Preachers

Mausoleum – Manic Street Preachers

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