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Manic Street Preachers - This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours
IT has been on my mind for a while...
IN THIS PHOTO: Manic Street Preachers in 2018/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Press
but I have been looking back at the albums from 1998 and wondering whether they have remained relevant and as memorable now as back then. It is always hard to create a record that can be passed down the ages and, even in a year as productive and exceptional as 1998, there were many that have been lost and nobody listens to. The Manic Street Preachers launched This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours the same year as we saw blockbusters from Madonna (Ray of Light), Beck (Mutations); Garbage (Version 2.0) and the Beastie Boys (Hello Nasty) – you can throw Lauryn Hill (The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill) and Massive Attack (Mezzanine) in there! I have talked a lot about the 1990s and which years (of the decade) were best but you cannot ignore how transforming and inspiring 1998 was. We had seen the best of Britpop and movements past; there was a gap for a new revolution and a fresh wave. What we saw was Electronic music and Trip-Hop coming more into the forefront and the mainstream as busy and exceptional as ever. Such was the quality and vibrancy of 1998, it is no surprise we are recalling the best albums from the year and comparing them with today’s crop. The Manic Street Preachers have not long released an album, Resistance Is Futile, and, although it is good, there is little of the same genius that defined their 1998 milestone.
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1996’s Everything Must Go was the first album with their brother, Richey Edwards, and it was a tough time for them. A few of Edwards’ lyrics and songs would make that record – and unearthed writings were used on future Manics albums – but it was a band facing a new future and a very harsh reality. It is a shock the final record is so cohesive and memorable – you’d forgive the band for being distracted and too emotional to write something cohesive! The success of Everything Must Go pushed them forward and, whilst 1998’s response was less intense than some of the songs on Everything Must Go; This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours is overflowing with emotion, texture and quality. Whereas Everything Must Go was released at the height of Britpop – although it was not as chirpy and Pop-orientated as a lot of Britpop sounds –; 1998 was a different year and the British mainstream was embracing something different. This was the first Manics album with lyrics entirely by Nicky Wire and, as such, it was different in tone and unlike any other release. James Dean Bradfield and Sean Moore tackled the music and, together they released something far less accelerated and Hard-Rock-inspired than we were used to. There were glacial elements and more instruments; softer elements and angles in some songs and a more rounded and experimental affair.
I will talk about an anniversary release of the record (out tomorrow) and a Manic Street Preachers tour but, for me and many, 1998 was a terrific year for music where we were seeing many of our best-loved bands either change or dip in popularity. Britpop heroes like Oasis and Blur were heading in different directions (Oasis less successful than their rivals at this point) and other genres were coming in – there was more influence from American artists and genres like Hip-Hop, Trip-Hop and Electro. The Manic Street preachers, like a lot of their peers, were succeeding when it came to exploring new ground and able to produce the big anthems. If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next – they were pretty keen on long titles back then! – was inspired by the Spanish Civil War and the Welsh volunteers who joined the left-wing International Brigades. You Stole the Sun from My Heart was Nicky Wire’s fatigue at touring and a desire for rest. The band was talking about tension, fears and exhaustion on Everything Must Go (Australia looked at getting far away and escaping the chaos in the U.K. and their ranks) and one could see some comparisons with the previous offering. This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours boasted thirteen songs and only one of them (the epic hit, Tsunami) was under four minutes.
Lesser bands were have put bloated songs with needless solos together but the lengthy 1998 gem from the Manic Street Preachers was them confident and taking their sound to new heights! Every song sounds focused, inventive and original and it showed what a strong unit the Welsh band were (and continue to be). In this review, Pitchfork drilled down to the truth and beauty of an incredible record:
“Supporting Wire's powerful lyrics, the Manic Street Preachers play with virtuosity and conviction. James Dean Bradfield's voice has never sounded better-- he's evolved into one of the best rock singers around. The band's music is also the most far- ranging of their career, incorporating a broader instrumentation that includes non- typical rock instruments like the sitar, melodica, omnichords, and organ. For example, "Ready For Drowning" possesses a moody, almost classical- sounding organ with some of the most intriguing harmonic shifts ever penned by a rock musician.
The Manic Street Preachers are also one of the few groups capable of integrating orchestral instruments in a way that still produces great rock music (check out the cello in "My Little Empire"), always avoiding the schmaltzy elevator music that can result when some rock musos get a hold of an orchestra. Meanwhile, they manage to infuse some quite dour lyrics with some of the most haunting melodies in rock this side of Radiohead. Bradfield and Moore seldom choose the obvious chords, arrangements and melodies, resulting in music that is heads- and- tails above almost any band on the planet. I'd say it's my album of the year so far, but I picked it number one last year. (It actually came out in the U.K. last fall)”.
There is something timeless and ever-intriguing about This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours as it is not an ultra-Britpop smash or something that was of a particular scene. I was at school when the album came out (I was fourteen) and I was wondering what would follow the epicness and influence. I had been aware of the Manic Street Preachers and loved albums like Everything Must Go and The Holy Bible (1994). I was drawn by their raw sound and huge tracks and was excited to get my hands on their fifth album. The thing I was struck by was the shift in sound and how easy songs like You Stole the Sun from My Heart became anthems of the year. You had the catchy choruses and distinct Manics sound but there was new light to be discovered. Unlike today, there was a giddiness and excitement in the ear in September when the album arrived on the shelves. CLASH, in their recent celebration piece, talked about the rush of expectation that was in the air and why the album resonated:
“As the clock struck midnight on September 13th 1998 thousands of Manic Street Preachers fans were queuing, some for up to 13 hours, outside Cardiff’s Virgin Megastores to be among the first to buy 'This is My Truth Tell Me Yours' and have their copy signed by the band, James Dean Bradfield, Nicky Wire and Sean Moore...
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As Britpop ate its self in a haze of cocaine in Camden and Champagne at Number 10, newly occupied by Labour’s Tony Blair, it was left to the Manics to give the country a new soundtrack. They had always stood apart from Britpop and it had been obvious they would live through other phases once that era ended.
As an album it stands the test of time better than any of the pop bands that dominated that year. It’s personal while remaining relatable and political while remaining authentic. The new re-issue captures its weary urgency perfectly and some of its messages seem even more important now than they were 20 years ago”.
There are, as of tomorrow, Collectors’ Editions of the album to mark its twentieth anniversary. Although the official anniversary was a few months back; these C.D. and vinyl bundles are must-haves for people like me who were hit by This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours when it arrived back in 1998. We get to hear new selections and there are demos and rehearsal recordings. It gives new light and exposure to a treasure of an album that, to me, was the last time the Manic Street Preachers created real genius. That might seem harsh but I think they hit a peak in 1998 and what we saw was a combination of new formation and responsibility – Nicky Wire as the lyricist – and the band facing a new time in British music…
Of course, being Vinyl Corner, I would urge people to get their hands on the two-L.P. version of the record (from tomorrow) and play it in its full glory. The Manic Street Preachers went on to evolve their sound and create more fantastic albums but, in many ways, they were unable to eclipse the wonder and revelation of This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours. Listen to the album with a record player and quiet room and you get to hear all the nuances and notes that make This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours such a rare treat. It is the sound of a band venturing in a slightly new direction but pulling off an incredible feat They could have stumbled and weakened after the intensity and exhaustion of Everything Must Go but, instead, they seemed refreshed and captivating. Whilst it is hard to name other albums that sound like This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours; I know so many bands who were inspired to get into music because of the 1998 smash. Many were following the band before then but had their eyes and minds opened following their fifth album. If you can get the twentieth anniversary releases (either one or all three) tomorrow then I urge you to but, if not, pick up the original album on vinyl and set some time aside to drink it all in! In 1998, many were raving about Air’s Moon Safari and Hole’s Celebrity Skin but one cannot mention a glorious year without mention the Manic Street Preachers’ wondrous...
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THIS Is My Truth Tell Me Yours.