Saturday, May 30, 2009

New Manic Street Preachers album?

And it's being explicitly marketed as a followup to The Holy Bible? And it features leftover Edwards lyrics? On the one hand, this sounds sort of cynical, and really, fifteen years on, when all the band members are fortysomething family men, doesn't this seem a little...affected? On the other hand, I can't deny being intrigued nonetheless. Perhaps the reader of this blog who keeps up with these things more than I do will weigh in on this in the near future.

Anyway, I think I'm getting old and cynical: I still like the band, but now when I hear some of their more intentionally incendiary lyrics, I can't help picturing a picture of a kitten trying to look ferocious, emblazoned with the legend "I IZ A TUFF REVOLOOSHINAREE." Aren't you just ADORABLE? I want to ask. So, while I'm aware that in one sense this is an incredibly unfair exercise, but let's spotlight a few of their more egregiously silly efforts to be transgressive, shall we?

"I laughed when Lennon got shot."
-"Motown Junk"

No you didn't. Get over yourselves. Depending on whether this is a Wire lyric or an Edwards lyric, you were eleven or thirteen when Lennon was shot. Really now.

"Sterilize rapists! All I preach is extinction!"
-"Archive of Pain"

Yeah, Andrea Dworkin would be proud no doubt, but can I point out that all three of you left are married? I'm just saying. And...I kinda doubt that you were eschewing sex on principle even back in the day. I could be wrong! But I'm not.

"Fuck the Brady Bill! Fuck the Brady Bill! If God made man they say, John Colt made him equal."

Yeah. This is the part where I point out that, as much as it may pain you guys to hear it, you are all somewhat fey Englishmen from middle-to-upper-middle-class backgrounds. I would be willing to be some some fair amount of money that none of you have ever used a firearm. You are not Black Panthers. And even if you were, getting that worked up over a five-day waiting period? Seriously?

"Churchill no different; wished the workers bled to a machine."
-"The Intense Humming of Evil"

Yes, I know you're cool Marxists and stuff, but I kind of doubt that even Karl would make the assertion that Britain and Germany in 1943 were pretty much morally equivalent. And I even-more doubt that "the workers" would agree with this assertion. But maybe they've just been brainwashed.

"England's glory lives on in world-wide genocide, so celebrate Buchenwald as her majesty's heir."
-"We Her Majesty's Prisoners"

Along the same lines...Look, I'm not saying British imperialism was a pretty sight. I AM saying, however, that it was pretty well OVER by this song's release in 1991, as much as it might do your self-righteous RAGE good to believe otherwise. And honestly, dudes, Nazi comparisons are great and everything, but really, is this the only way you can shock the bourgeoisie?


Anonymous Anonymous pontificated to the effect that...

It does sound cynical, but hey, the reviewers seem to like it, so I'll give it a fair shake. The way I see it, Richey's disappearance was the dramatic peak of their entire lives, so they can't help but relive it again and again on every new album that they make, and in fact that provides their best new songs ("Your Love Alone Is Not Enough"). It is the only subject that still inspires them, so hey, maybe they can still squeeze something out of it.

Right now, I would say that I personally enjoy their incendiary albums (i.e. the first three) more than any of the others. In fact, I'd name their first album as my favourite, followed by the second, with The Holy Bible a mere third. It may be that I like that stuff for the same reason that you laugh at it -- however, I think it is more 'courageous' (in terms of flouting bourgeois conventions) to put a burning EU flag on your album cover (GT) than to compare Saddam Hussein and Milosevic to serial killers, as on THB (foreign dictators carefully included for Fairness and Balance, so that the listeners can feel good about themselves for being empowered and informed about global issues).

Regarding your points:

1. "All I preach is extinction" -- no argument on the goofiness of the line. However, I think Edwards might actually have eschewed sex, at least around the time of THB. It was probably out of repressed fear more than principle, but I think his greatest conquest (at least, as described in the hack music press) was to purchase a handjob from a prostitute, which he seemed to derive no pleasure from, so I don't think he was really living up the rock star dream. Toward the end, he seemed to be repulsed by anything related to "flesh."

2. "England's glory lives on in world-wide genocide, so celebrate Buchenwald as her majesty's heir."

I think this is actually quite simple -- they're saying that the British invented concentration camps. Which is true. Concentration camps were created by the British during the Boer War, and used to starve women and children. So other than the use of the metaphor "her majesty's heir," the Manics are just making a statement of fact here.

And by the way, that is a very non-trivial statement. The misdeeds of the British Empire are not exactly talked about in British society. Sure, you have the right to talk about them, but that's only for Crazy Immoderate Leftists, not for Sensible People. Contemporary European liberalism prefers to express its humanitarian ideology in safe ways, by attacking the humanitarian abuses allegedly committed by Evil Foreign Dictators.

3. "Churchill no different; wished the workers bled to a machine." I don't know about "the workers," that part is probably just Marxist pabulum. But yeah, Churchill was a fascist. Sure, no one would claim moral equivalence _in 1943_, as you say...but the point is that it could easily have been the other way around. Nearly every world leader in the run-up to WW2 professed some variant of fascism, so _in 1934_, they might have been flattered by such a comparison. Churchill, in particular, was a cruel colonial administrator, not to mention a racist. Such views were widespread among the European intellectual elite too -- for instance, The Economist is a middlebrow policy-wonk rag today, but in the 30s, they praised Hitler's economic policies.

Honestly, I think that things like this are actually THE ONLY way to be truly "incendiary" in contemporary Europe. Europeans are just as selective in their historical memory now as they ever were. We have already discussed this, so I know you don't agree, but I think that even the currently reigning "humanitarian" ideology is just a cover for European ambition. So, no, the Manics were not prophets or political visionaries by any means, but I do think that their writing at the time was uniquely brave, at least for their milieu.

(Word verification entry: "spoology". Hm.)


1:52 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. pontificated to the effect that...

You certainly make a good point regarding the Buchenwald line--I still think Nazi comparisons are facile, and I still think that the group wishes--wished, anyway--that they'd lived in a time when there was MORE of this stuff going on in the here and now for them to be angry about, but yeah, imperialism is obviously a very bad thing (wow, what a courageous moral stand on my part THAT was).

And I know dern well that Churchill did very bad things in the Boer War and elsewhere...I dunno, though. I won't argue that at the very least there were authoritarian tendencies there, but it seems as though tossing the word "fascist" around so easily puts one squickily close to Jonah Goldberg territory. Though I suppose draining the word of meaning was part of his goal.

I'm remaining agnostic about Europe's possible ulterior motives. I'll be happy to condemn anything untoward as it occurs, but for the time being, I will still feel vaguely jealous of my German officemate.

3:33 PM  

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