Ben Myers: My top 10 Manic Street Preachers tracks

27 September 2010

Ben Myers' new novel, Richard, charts the rise of the Manic Street Preachers from their formation in 1986 to the disappearance of their guitarist Richey Edwards in February 1995. Here, Ben has compiled his top 10 songs by the band during the era that the book covers...

 

You can hear the songs on YouTube by clicking on the song title...

1. UK Channel Boredom

I bought this flexi disc for £1 by mail order in 1991. It was scratchy, muffled and recorded for the defiantly punk rock budget of £25. The song took its name from a Richey Edwards-penned press release: "We are the only young kids in UK Channel Boredom to realise the future is in tight trousers and dyed hair..." How true.

2. Suicide Alley

The band's official debut is the type of pure musical adrenaline rush than could only be played by the young; it's retrogressive, but vital-sounding too. It also has a one-note guitar riff, as previously utilised by the likes of Buzzcocks and The Clash.

3. Spectators of Suicide (Heavenly Version)

Possibly the first time the Manics showed their soft underbelly on this dreamy, almost ethereal, song. The lyrics however paint a bleak portrait of a modern (proto-'Broken') Britain where "the only free choice is the refusal to pay" and they demand "Free heroin shots for those who will no longer beg."

4. Motown Junk

My favourite Manics song - four minutes of power chords, fierce intent and amazing lyrics about suffocating in boredom, being "numbed-out in piss towns" and a suffering a "communal tyranny / a jail that bleeds our wrists. All across the provinces, teenagers nodded in recognition. This song still sounds hungry today.

5. R.P. McMurphySoul Contamination

The two B-sides to the band's 1991 major label: the former an acoustic song about Jack Nicholson's character in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, the latter an obscure blast of jangling power-punk.

6. La Tristesse Durera (Scream To A Sigh)

Noted for being named after Van Gogh's suicide note - "the sadness will last forever" - and tackling the subject of WWII veterans this was an odd single: a cross between AOR rock and baggy indie-dance.

7. Yes

A staggeringly dark song about child prostitution that set the tone for The Holy Bible album and provided a grim insight into the mind of Richey Edwards. "In these plagued streets of pity you can buy anything..."

8. Faster

Not only a claustrophobic-sounding song that references four great writers of the 20th century - Miller, Mailer, Plath and Pinter - and not only features the immortal line "I know I believe in nothing but it is my nothing", 'Faster' also featured one of very few guitar solos worth hearing. A most subversive Top 20 hit.

9. Judge Yr'self

The last song recorded with Richey is suitably dark and aggressive and shot through with lyrics that hint at some post-12 Step Programme soul-searching: "Find your truth / Face your truth / Speak your truth..."

10. Design For Life

The first release after Richey disappeared - and the first not feature his input - was by far the Manics' biggest hit. A swooning prole anthem that they may not have bettered since.

 

Visit Ben's blog, Man of Letters to find out more.

 

You may also like