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Sonic Boom: Feeling Manic


Manic Street Preachers' excellent new album, Journal for Plague Lovers. Recommended!

Manic Street Preachers' excellent new album, Journal for Plague Lovers. Recommended!

Between the years of 1996 and 1999, I worked at a small record store in Manhattan’s West Village. And when I say small I mean small. Well, I mean small for a record store. For an SUV cabin, it would have been pretty roomy. Anyway, due to our spatial issues, we were best served by focusing our efforts and specializing in certain genres, rather than trying to stock everything under the sun (which didn’t stop my boss, the store’s owner, from trying to stock everything under the sun). Among the select group of genres in which we specialized were: house music (many of our patrons were DJs); Madonna rarities (many of our patrons were European and/or gay and/or rich); and Britpop.

Indeed, it was in large part because of the store’s emphasis on Britpop that I developed my own deep and abiding fondness for the music. Every week, during slow periods at the store, I read English music newspaper The NME, and because I was young, curious and particularly dull-witted, I accepted every word of their hyperbole as cold, hard fact. If you look through my CD collection, you will find no shortage of embarrassing garbage from the likes of Kula Shaker, Northern Uproar, Hurricane #1 and worse.


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Yet while I fell for plenty of these lies in those days, I was introduced to a lot of great, great music, too, for which I am forever grateful. And among that great music is the stuff by Welsh arena rockers Manic Street Preachers, who released their world-changing fourth album, Everything Must Go, in 1996, just in time for me to read about them literally every single week for three straight years in The NME. (NB: When I say “Welsh arena rockers,” I mean they play arenas in Wales; in the States, they would play small clubs, if they ever came here. Also, when I say “world-changing,” the world to which I refer consists of approximately 20,000 residents of the United Kingdom.) Everything Must Go was a massive blockbuster in its native UK—it spawned several unavoidable singles, including the band’s biggest and most significant musical moment, “A Design for Life”—and came complete with a strange, morbid, wildly compelling narrative: The band’s dark and disturbed co-lyricist, Richie Edwards, had gone missing two years prior and was widely believed to be dead (in November 2008, he was finally declared to be “presumed deceased”); Everything Must Go was the Manics’ first album since Edwards’ disappearance, and it sounded like a band trying to come to grips with loss and renewal. It was, and is, an enormous record, and its constant presence in my world left me a lifelong follower and fan of the band, who have since released five more records, all of which deserve to be heard (or at the very least released) in America.

I’m taking a long route to get to present day here, so let me get to it: Two weeks ago, I learned that Manic Street Preachers will be playing a few shows in the States this October, to promote their new album, the great, Steve Albini-produced Journal for Plague Lovers. It will be their first time on these shores in a decade. One of the cities they will be playing is New York.

This, to me, is an extremely big deal—the opportunity to see Manic Street Preachers in a New York City club is not to be missed under any circumstances. It is too rare, too special. Anyway, tickets to the show were set to go on sale on July 31, at noon—a moment for which I waited with childlike anticipation. I was so excited, in fact, that I documented the entire day on Twitter:

10:32 a.m. July 31 My dilemma: Manic Street Preachers’ tickets go on sale at noon EST; at about 11, I will enter a meeting that will last upwards of six hours.

10:38 a.m. July 31 OK, it won’t last six full hours, but it will FEEL like six hours. (Actually, it will feel like 11 hours.) But you see my problem? I’m lost.

11:02 a.m. July 31 It appears I fell prey to what’s known as a “false alarm”: My meeting has been canceled, or at least postponed. Crisis seemingly averted.

11:52 a.m. July 31 It seems I have spoken too soon. My meeting is back on, STARTING RIGHT NOW, putting my odds of getting Manics tickets, once again, in peril.

2:04 p.m. July 31 My meeting is over, my Manics tickets have been obtained…time at last to consume this Greek salad and catch up on the baseball news.

Needless to say, tickets were possible to obtain because no one in New York (with the exception of me and most Welsh expatriates between the ages of 25 and 40 living in the region) cares about Manic Street Preachers. The fact that I neglected to consider this lamentable reality—even for a moment, even in a panic—speaks to my enthusiasm for the band, my Anglophilia, my ingrained, NME-fostered myopia. It also speaks to my cheery perseverance in the face of utter futility—because I have been trying to get people to care about Manic Street preachers for most of my adult life and no one has bought it, no one has listened. But I’m still here, all these years later, still trying.

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