A little over 20 years ago a quartet of young men exploded out of South Wales to take not only the UK, but also Japan and a few other parts of the world, by storm with an album that seemed to bundle up the previous decade and a half of music into one package.
The Manic Street Preachers are a band who, since then, have had their ups and downs and I think I first encountered them at the wrong time. While I very much like A Design For Life and If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next, and they both come off generally good albums, their career after this, in my eyes at least, was on something of a decline.
So it was with something of a gamble that I first properly delved into Generation Terrorists with its 20th anniversary “Legacy Edition”.
From the off I wondered why I had wasted 20 years on not giving this album a proper listen. Combining elements of the first wave of British punk with the sheen of 80s rock the opening salvo of Slash ‘N’ Burn and Nat West – Barclays – Midlands – Lloyds frankly lay waste to much other music coming out of the UK at the time and more than stand up now.
As well as the shiny punk (for want of a better description) there are tracks like Motorcycle Emptiness, an undeniable classic track, that combine the Manic’s typically socially aware lyrics with a slower tune that makes for something verging on mainstream radio friendly (not counting BBC Radio 1) and feels like a custom built hit record.
As the record continues, across 18 tracks, this feels like a mammoth record for a first album from a young band essentially growing out of the punk movement, albeit in their own isolated way, and, having checked out the documentary on the DVD included in this package, this was an act of extreme hubris from the band that, thankfully for them, paid off.
Across the rest of this special edition we get a second disc of demo recordings from their various early recording sessions from South Wales to London via their first indie label record deal, which is certainly something for the completists, as well as the aforementioned DVD which features a newly made documentary exploring the band’s early career up to the start of the process for their second album.
The DVD also, inevitably, features all of the promos relating to the tracks on the album, including a few alternative and new versions probably less generally seen, and a series of contemporary performances and interviews from BBC TV and radio.
But back to the album itself and, with a style merging so many elements, from the British sleaze-glam of The Quireboys and The Dogs D’Amour to the first wave punk of Sex Pistols and The Clash via the polished glamish pop-rock of The Cult, Generation Terrorists is a truly excellent album that stands up today in such a way that its clear why it launched what became a stadium filling career for the band and, while I still don’t get their later records, this is an undeniable masterpiece.
It would be nice to hear something this fresh and full of energy hitting the mainstream in British rock music today.
This one seems the appropriate video to put on a review with that quote at the start.