The Album List #10: Manic Street Preachers “This Is My Truth Tell me Yours”

The best art is sometimes born out of tragedy.

I am probably the only Manic Street Preachers fan in all of North America. I am devoted. 164 songs on my iTunes devoted- only a few bands top them in sheer volume. They are a band with a bit of a sad history, having lost member Richey Edwards a couple of years into their successful 1990s album run. After Richey’s disappearance, the band continued on, releasing the explosive Everything Must Go album that is utterly magnificent.

But it’s This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours that remains my favourite. It’s the album I discovered first, as it has their first international single release,  and first U.K. number one. It also holds my favourite song by the band, and as much as I love their earlier, angrier punk incarnation, I appreciate the blend of attitude, politics, introspection, and restraint of this record.

The album is the first with no lyrics by Richey, only by bassist Nicky Wire, and the first thing you notice is that the darkness, while still there, is completely different. No longer mired in self-destruction, the lyrics became more dynamic somehow.  Take the complex topic of the Spanish Civil War- how does that become a five-minute pop song? Well, you take influences from Orwell and Spanish Republican recruitment posters, famously quote Hywel Francis in your lyrics, and try to stop the next Franco from taking hold somewhere in the world by writing a lovely melody as well. Then release a video mocking modern consumer culture while you’re at it. Just because you can.

The album tells of tales of doubt ( “The Everlasting”), tragic twins (“Tsunami”), the Hillsborough tragedy (“S.Y.M.M.”), the consequences of constant depression (“You’re Tender and You’re Tired”), the difficulty of life on the road (“You Stole The Sun From My Heart”), the ego that spawns dictators both big and small (“My Little Empire”). There is a lovely melody that backs the lament of the watering down of national culture (“Ready For Drowning”).  As the band retreated from their brazen beginnings and relied on the much more inner mind and simple life of Wire, who would write more a more personally (to some detriment, I might add), the melodies got bigger. The tales of being at home and doing the washing up are encased in bold guitars and strings, the personal reaction to national tragedies are match with foggy darkness and a piercing vocal from the always underrated James Dean Bradfield (seriously, the guy is one of the best vocalists of the last thirty years, if not in all of rock music history). I would also make the argument that Sean Moore is one of the great drummers in rock and roll today as well. They are bloody amazing musicians.

It’s a brilliant and beautiful album from start to finish, in constant rotation in my house since I bought it in 1999. Yes, it lacks the rage of Generation Terrorists, the balls of The Holy Bible, the immediacy of Everything Must Go. But the fact is, this album may be the conventional choice from this band. It’s also the correct one. It’s the one I love more than I can express, the album I crave when I’m down and low. I love this band. I love this album. I love each song. I particularly love the impossibly lovely “Tsunami”, with its wave of guitars and strings consuming the chorus.

Yes, I get it. The band is an inventive one, a divisive one.

I don’t care. I love their go at being the biggest, greatest band in the world, even if it was just for a brief moment. They did it better than all their peers.

I wish everyone else loved them as much as I do. That’s all.


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