Manic Street Preachers - Generation Terrorists (20th anniversary edition)

There is a memory of finding Manic Street Preachers' Snub TV appearance and spray-painted Levis faintly ridiculous - yet being caught up enough to travel 50 miles one Monday afternoon in order to get Generation Terrorists on release day. Likewise, I had seen Birdland, the band the Manics had followed round at gigs, so the live experience never appealed; nevertheless the debut album hung around, with daily spins soundtracking most of the rest of 1992.

Those daily plays turned into never played it since, not once but at the time it resonated because it made sense and it was recognisable. Or at least the Manics themselves were. You looked at the Manics and you saw yourself staring back. Maybe I would've fallen harder if the Sylvia Plath quotes had not seemed quite so obvious but Marilyn Monroe and Alan Bleasdale! Bad skin and bad hair! Nights spend hanging around in each others' bedrooms because there was nothing else to do! Darts! And snooker! And watching The Good Films on TV and not having money because our parents were just ordinary and One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and 'What have you got?' and books from the library and just nowhere boys from nowhere. It allowed you to forgive the over-reaching ambition and lapses into clumsy moderate rock. After all, 'Motorcycle Emptiness' made up for everything else. It made sense.

It was pre-internet and pretty much everything was viewed through the lens of the weekly music press. Richie and Nicky were the last of a kind, spending time between issues drawing up new manifestos, new pithy comments and new headlines, understanding what you said was at least as important as what you sounded like. With Oasis (and Suede) just around the corner, it's off the mark to say MSP were the last British band to properly matter, but they might just remain the last genuinely interesting band, the one that might actually change a life.

Generation Terrorists was the first communique. There would be more - some better, some worse - and many stories were yet to unfold. Two decades later, this debut is a Polaroid (it was like Instagram but you kept them in a shoe box) of a time that now seems distant. Modern audiences may find it quaint, at best. You needed to be there, I suppose. It was about finding solace in shared places and a shared understanding of community and the events and history that shaped the way you thought about the world. It was a life's work and it was the life of many people born from about 1968 until 1976. Now there is almost too much history, too much culture to take in. It makes the existence of another band like Manic Street Preachers impossible to imagine.

Sentimentalists (as the Manics themselves were/are) should plump for the extended set that includes some demos and a documentary about the album's making-of for a reminder of what youthful promise and ambition can look (and sound) like. You may, finally, want to give the album itself another spin, just for old time's sake. It's not great and is sometimes silly but it has its moments - just like all of us. Stay beautiful, and all that.



out of 10

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