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Manic Street Preachers: 'National Treasures' - Album review

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Manic Street Preachers: National Treasures
Released on Monday, Oct 31 2011

"There's nothing glamorous in having a 20-year career in rock," Nicky Wire said back in 1991. Two decades, ten albums and nearly 40 singles later, he's probably sick of having that quote shoved down his throat, but it really wasn't meant to be like this for the Manic Street Preachers.

Few would have imagined that this mess of eyeliner and spraypaint with an unhealthy Appetite for Destruction fixation would still be here today. They've somehow outlasted acid house, shoegazing, Madchester, grunge and Britpop. They've survived five Prime Ministers. A collection of every proper CD single in their back catalogue, National Treasures feels like a slightly amazed look back. A necessarily-selective snapshot of a 20 year career that somehow manages to tell the whole story; a tale of success, screw-ups and bad decisions that doesn't put a single foot wrong.

'Motown Junk' sums up the whole thing. A giddy-if-pointless Public Enemy sample, headsmashing walls of guitar and pounding bass, James Dean Bradfield pushing the treble into the red on guitar and vocals both, and lyrics that pogo all over the line between ridiculous and sublime, sounding all the better for not caring where they end up ("I laughed when Lennon got shot").

Then, batch-by-chronological-batch, we stumble through the less-than-secret history of the Manic Street Preachers. From irresistible metal stupidity to duets with former underage porn stars, Cardigans and Bunnymen. There's a number one single about the Spanish Civil War alongside U2 levels of stadium emptiness. A perverse guitar-free celebration of Richard Nixon following spit-in-your-face Chomsky and Camus-quoting thrash rock.

Of course there are gaps in the story. No tracks from the single-free Journal For Plague Lovers, while the Holy Bible cuts suffer out of context. There's also the yawning, infinite space between 'She Is Suffering' and 'A Design For Life', as four became three. But unlike a more flattering cut 'n' paste approach to the back catalogue, National Treasures tells it straight.

Against all odds, Manic Street Preachers are British pop's ultimate survivors. Proof that in the long run it's far better to be ridiculed by some than meekly accepted by all. They've been laughed at, battered, bruised, indulged, celebrated, diminished, reborn, accepted, mocked, hated and loved all over again. Iconoclasts become pop superstars. Misfits turned national treasures.

Tracks to download: 'Motown Junk', 'Theme from M.A.S.H. (Suicide Is Painless)', 'A Design For Life', 'The Masses Against the Classes', 'This Is the Day'

If you like this, you'll like: The Clash, Guns N' Roses, Mansun



Watch the Manic Street Preachers 'Motown Junk' music video below:

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