“Every agent defect, every artist sells out “ – William Burroughs
Why do our heroes let us all down? (aka When did the Manics stop being important)
The Manics to me happen to be one of the most important bands I've ever heard. Why? I guess I’m one of that 1 or 2% who listened to the lyrics and got interested in political issues because of what they
said. The Manics and Consolidateds' "Friendly Facism" (and Hiphoprisys’ album) made a tremendous impact on me. I started to read up on the Holocaust because of Primo Levis quotes, Chomsky because he talked about the US policy to rape and pillage the rest of the world. They made an impact because it was a band that's said more than "I love you baby all the same". It was a band that's used the sphere of music to say something about the world, to highlight that which was important but you'd never hear Mick Hucknall say. A band that was intelligent well read, knowledgeable and unafraid to speak this out loud. That's why the Manics meant so much to me and still do. That's why they mattered, once. Because when they spoke about American policy over the third world or the pacification of the masses by stupid meaningless love songs, they made me want to find out. They made me want to learn. Very few other bands have ever made me want
to learn. Now they write the same meaningless love songs that they would have vitriolically hated 5 years ago, turned into a band with a huge audience and the potential to make this people aware of a wider issues - they have an audience hanging on their every word - the size of which they only dreamed of 5 years ago.
And they're pissing the opportunities they would have dreamed for 5 years ago up against the wind. They’ve nothing to say anymore. The “masses against the classes” single was lyrically obtuse, obscuring its meaning behind meaningless metaphors, the sound of a band railing against its own irrelevancy, screaming to be heard, screaming to to have meaning and purpose again, when all they can offer it empty rhetoric and slogans.
And you expect me not to care? You expect me not to feel disappointed? That's this band that spoke so loudly and intelligently and promised so much, have turned out to be all talk and no trousers. A band that hates other bands like Chumbawumba that actively pursue the political ideals (and can outtalk them intelligently and rationally) and the ideas that the Manics have abandoned out of apathy. These bands are a threat to the politicized audience that the Manics have created. Nickys reactionary comments about Chumbawumba are the manics running scared. When, In 1993, The Manics took out on tour in 1993 Credit to the Nation, and . CTTN share the same political viewpoint as Chumbawumba. CTTN are effectively Chumbawumba, with 2/3rds of CTTNs’ output programmed and produced by Chumbawumba). Nicky’s reactionary comments are nothing but the reaction of someone who is threatened and feels he has to discredit his opponents - the same policy big tobacco companies took against Jefferey Wigand (who spoke out against them in court and on national TV), the same policy the US media takes against those who challenge and speak out against US foreign policy, just as the Manics used to do. A band who have become everything they railed against when they began. A band who have become the vacous, empty stadium rockers they once set out to destroy. If the Clash had been playing stadiums in 1990 just because they didn't know what else to do when they had nothing artistically valid left to say, how much vitriol and scorn would they pour on their former heroes who had the indignity of growing crap in public? As much as they would have now on themselves if they had seen this 10 years ago.
That's why the manics will always matter, or at least, should always matter. Because they made a difference. Now all I feel radiating from the VHS copy of Leaving the 20th Century is mass indifference.A huge band in a faceless arena going through the motions , a founder member gone and artistically amputated, selling T-shirts and trading on the memories of their glory days, trading off their backcatalogue, like the bloated stadium dinosaurs Pink Floyd have been ever since 1987.A perfectly valid comparison and one the band never want to hear,
however true it is.No one can tell me that the reason for releasing "Leaving the 20th Century" (a far better video than Everything live, but maybe a better title would have “live! tonight! sold out!”) is artistically valid,its an excuse to cash in on a millenium night, like watching a video of your best mates party. A crass cynical commerical move, devoid of artistic relevance. It just reminded me that the manics are just a shadow of what they used to be. A pantomime - like Nicky making that immature oral sex motion to the words "swallow" in motorcycle emptiness for the hundreth time in a row, Like Nicky Wire jumping with a skipping rope during “You Love Us” for the 5th night in a row on the Arena tour in December 1998, predicatable, safe, pantomime. A band that used to shine like stars, now dull like chrome. A band certainly in need of "bringing the whole edifice down on their unworthy heads" (Richard Burton, in the film “The Medusa Touch”, as quoted in the Manics Ready for Drowning).Watching Leaving the 20th Century - with its crass red,green and white colours on the spine , a subliminal racist gesture the band would have railed against when they sang "theres not enough black in the union jack", its self congratulatory nature - look at us we're brilliant aren't we great heres some fans saying how good we are because we want to bolster our egos - , a video that for me just vindicates my refusal to see them on the Truth tour because I said I'd never see them in an arena, and I kept my word. A video that vinidcates to me that all I would have come home with is memories of how good they used to be, rather than are now. I've no desire to see them just turn into a crushingly ordinary band, an alternative to the Stereophonics and as artically vapid and empty as Oasis. But as long as they've got a brand new dyson, now that is decadence, and Seanus Moorus has a new improved DVD player, they why should they care? Comfortable, safe, warm, why challenge anymore? And as a pastiche of the band is on stage , the surrogate band play on, and the Manic Street preachers have left the building.