Friday, 13 August 2010

Wish Fulfillment

"We're banning Charlatans fans from our gigs because they all have moustaches."
Nicky Wire, Manic Street Preachers (1992)

OK, so when I said this week that I’m an old git that only gets excited about touring bands when its embarrassingly personal it wasn’t necessarily an open invitation to every band I’ve irrationally adored to come play for me in Australia. That said I do very much appreciate the Manic Street Preachers and Charlatans getting off their bottoms and scheduling tours down under for this November. Whatever your reasons, thank you.

Clearly the Charlatans weren’t put off by their first ever Australian tour just two years ago despite what was technically stalking by me and my friend Julie (who achieved one of her proudest moments in life helping Tim Burgess rearrange his sweaty fringe – at his request). Northwich’s grooviest fuckers will be back to promote their 11th studio album Who We Touch,out through Shock on 17 September.

I understand the words ‘11th studio album’ aren’t generally associated with a band at their peak, but 2008’s You Cross My Path was a little gem and I can assure you the three times I saw them in 2007/08 were as good as any other time in their career. The truth is a night out with the Charlatans is always worth your bus fare and even a taxi home, if only so you can experience the high of Sproston Green live. When you’ve followed a band every step of the way for 20 years love tends to obscure all logic but if the idea of dancing euphorically for a couple of hours appeals in any way then just take my word for it and go.

Tickets for the Charlatans November 2010 tour of Australia go on sale Friday 20 August through Custom-Made or from venues: Wed 10th - Brisbane, Hi-Fi; Thurs 11th - Sydney, Metro Theatre; Fri 12th - Melbourne, Billboard;Sat 13th - Adelaide, Fowlers Live; Mon 15th - Fremantle, Metropolis

Having given up on ever seeing the Manic Street Preachers again, news that James Dean Bradfield, Sean Moore and Nicky Wire have decided to temporarily swap South Wales for New South Wales after an 11 year absence has left me both cock and a-hoop. If my love of the Charlatans (and no Nicky, I’ve never had a moustache) is about something spontaneous and irrepressible that I can’t resist - my devotion to the fortunes of the Manic Street Preachers is more akin to supporting a football team. I feel like I no longer have any choice in the matter; for as long as there is a Manic Street Preachers I am doomed to follow. It’s no longer about whether they win or lose – indeed losing is pretty expected - but that they exist at all that draws me in. Not that I expect many in Australia to share my glee. In all my time living here I haven’t met anyone who shares my enthusiasm for the Manics

This isn't unique to Australia. Apart from two or three unlikely years in the mid-nineties the Manic Street Preachers (and their fans) have operated under the old Millwall FC adage of 'nobody loves us and we don't care'. Hated by many in the pre-Britpop indie world for their punk-style sloganeering, big-gob proclamations ('We will always hate Slowdive more than Hitler') and tendency towards mainstream American rawk, they have been derided since their post Holy Bible/Everything Must Go popular nadir for being a sanitised version of the band they used to be.

What's missing here is the story and having lived it with them (well, you know, from my own bedroom) I will always love the Manic Street Preachers more than Pavement, Belle and Sebastian or any other bands of a similar vintage that Pitchfork says it is OK to like. It still excites me to think about even the idea of four Babycham-drinking working class boys from the Welsh Valleys dressed in Top Shop blouses and glittery make-up spouting Camus, Chuck D, Octave Mirbeau and Sylvia Plath being the biggest band in the world. It’s the kind of excitement that inspired me to walk to one of their gigs through dodgy areas of Dublin dressed in bright white army surplus clothes, a Belgian army helmet and a ton make up. I got an apple thrown at me by some teenager, which is getting off quite lightly really considering what I looked like (though the green stain never came out which was a shame).

The Manics' story is Control, Billy Elliot and Rocky wrapped into one tragic and beautiful epic, and yet many people can't see past the soundtrack. If I may steal an analogy from the current election coverage, the Manics are a bit like the Australian Green Party; loved too much by their supporters and hated too much by their detractors. The result is a distorted public view of a band who deserve more credit than history has afforded them, but perhaps - based on music alone - not as much as their devotees think.

Even I can't claim the three or four piece Manics were ever able to consistently create music that matched their lofty ambitions. Still songs like Faster, Design for Life, You Love Us, Too Cold Here, Of Walking Abortion, No Surface all Feeling, If You Tolerate This Your Children will Be Next, Motown Junk, PCP, Black Dog on My Shoulder and Small Black Flowers That Grow in the Sky are reason enough for anyone to go and see them live.

More encouragingly the band are coming off the back of a genuine return to form in the album Journal for Plague Lovers. It might just be that I like the Manics more when James Dean Bradfield is struggling to sing all the words (Plague Lovers' lyrics were solely drawn from notes and poems left to the band by Richie Edwards when he went missing in 1995) but it was the first of their albums to really grab me for a decade (the remix album, featuring the Horrors, Four Tet, Underworld and Fuck Buttons amongst others was also surprisingly worthwhile, unlike the majority of similar projects).

Like the Charlatans, the Manics also have a new album to flog, Postcards from a Young Man (the cover of which features a very Edwards-like photograph of a young Tim Roth). Described by Bradfield as "one last shot at mass communication" and Wire as "heavy metal Tamla Motown. Van Halen playing the Supremes" it will no doubt promise more than it can ever deliver. But hey, that's the Manic Street Preachers and if that's what it takes to be able to share a room with them one last time, then I for one am happy.

Manic Street Preachers’ Postcards From A Young Man Tour:
Saturday 13th November – The Hi-Fi, Brisbane
Monday 15th November – The Metro, Sydney
Thursday 18th November – HQ, Adelaide
Saturday 20th November -The Forum, Melbourne
Monday 22nd November – Metropolis Freemantle

Tickets on sale Wednesday 18th August

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