The first press in a major publication that I'm aware of is a feature in the NME from 4th August 1990. As with much of the press that I'll be referring to in this blog, if you didn't happen to buy and/or keep the music papers over the years, you can find them in the NME Originals magazine which came out around the time of 'Forever Delayed' and contains the major articles and reviews about the Manics in the NME over the years. I didn't pick this up at the time, so ended up with a slightly dog-eared copy bought from Ebay a few years ago.
The article is written in an interview style but seems to be just one of their 'manifestos' cut up, with 'questions' inserted in between to make them sound a bit silly. The quotes range from the slightly snotty 'We've spray painted our school shirts to wipe out the brainwash and the boredom' to the classic 'When we jump on stage it is not rock 'n' roll cliche but the geometry of contempt'. Speaking as a maths graduate I'm highly impressed that anyone can manage to get the word 'geometry' into a rock interview. Manic Street Protractors anyone?
The article is a positive one though, Steven Wells commenting 'They still sound too much like The Clash but by the end of the year they will be releasing songs that match the beautiful, stark, gibbering genius of their prose. Then they will be the most important rock band in the world.' The timescales weren't exactly correct, but an impression had certainly been made.
The same edition of the NME also contained a brief review of 'New Art Riot', being described as 'Sham 69 with balls and brains' by the resident reviewer before guest reviewers the Pixies decided it 'sounds pretty good...but it just didn't suck me in.'
After a brief feature and a single review, in the 11th October edition of the NME there was now a live review at the Camden Falcon, a chance for the Manics to really let the press sit up and take notice. With a photo of Nicky kneeling, shirt adorned with the words 'Rock 'n' Roll Suicide' and a picture of Sid Vicious, it certainly put across a more exciting visual message than the photo attached to the previous feature. Reviewer Simon Dudfield, later of Fabulous, has obviously been converted to the cause gushing forth 'I love their tight white trousers that make them walk funny, I love their spray painted T-shirts with 'Destroy Work' on them....and I love the way they look so alienated and misunderstood.' It also touches on another common feature of the Manics early career - the fact that they seem to polarise opinion so completely. Already it seemed you either love them or hate them.
I have to admit to being slightly dubious as to whether these songs are the 'ten songs for two singles' requested by Heavenly, as referred to by Simon Price in 'Everything'. There are 7 songs included, which minus the 3 songs on 'Motown Junk' does add up, however 'You Love Us' sounds slightly different and its B-sides (not included here) would push it over to 12.
'Repeat' kicks things off with a whimper, for what is an obviously energetic rallying cry live the band are definitely struggling to capture it on tape, this version seeming slow and lethargic with a strange echoey quality to it. The first appearance of 'Methadone Pretty' shows more of a classic rock feel, definitely less punk than the other early songs. This is effectively the same song that would turn up later on, just a little rough around the edges but with no real change to the lyrics or music.
'Faceless Sense of Void' (later to become 'Love's Sweet Exile') is next turning up like an old friend, and it is definitely starting to sound more like old material. Shuffling along it certainly doesn't seem like it would have fitted in on 'Generation Terrorists' in this form. However, it is another great version with a fantastic performance from Sean on the drum stool. A new song 'You Love Us' follows, apart from a few bits here and there this is essentially the Heavenly version with an inferior production job. If 'Motown Junk' did come from these sessions it says a lot for the power of that song that it was picked ahead of this. Compared to their recorded output so far this is the first song that seems genuinely exciting, that meets the expectations you would get from reading one of those early manifestos. Listening to this version actually reignited my love for the song after hearing all the more recent bouncy, cabaret live versions. James still says 'fake like saver' though.
Speaking of exciting, 'Generation Terrorists', later to become 'Stay Beautiful', continues the new material. In terms of differences to the final version there are maybe 50% different lyrics, additional back up vocals, and the final two words of the chorus are actually spoken rather than being replaced by a squall of guitar (sorry this is a family blog). Between this and 'You Love Us' there is most definitely more attitude in the new songs. 'Soul Contamination' gets a recording, being a song that dates back to the Horse & Groom gig a year or so earlier although compared to the rest of the material it sounds like it is destined to be a B side, which it ultimately was. The last song, 'Democracy Coma', is another new one that, like 'Methadone Pretty', shows more of a rock leaning than the punkier songs, and that's not to say that either type is starting to get diluted, the songs are definitely getting better. It seems like there are three types of song now - early songs still hanging around, the energetic punk songs and the more mature rock songs, definitely not the one-trick ponies that the music press might like to have painted them as.
|Picture from NME Originals - look closely and you can see the scar on Nicky's neck|
Live Review NME 19th January 1991