By 1996, Manic Street Preachers had been through things that most bands don’t go through in their entire lives. Their guitarist had disappeared, they’d gained a huge following in a short amount of time, and they’d already changed record label three times. But maybe that’s what made the band so legendary (in only three years since their first release, no less), and then they released their best-selling album so far.
In 2016, ‘Everything Must Go’ celebrated it’s 20th birthday. Here’s how it sounds to somebody who wasn’t even born.
The first track, ‘Elvis Impersonator: Blackpool Pier’ creates the perfect opening for an album: the calming sound of waves crashing against a shore, the delicate strings of a harp, the ghosting of an acoustic guitar. It’s like a safety net, it’s luring you in and it’s making you feel secure. And just after you feel completely unharmed, the striking tones of the chorus kick in.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s still not heavy, per se. But it’s certainly a change from the last minute you’ve just listened to. Bradfield’s vocals are still soft, sounding like they’d fit better in a lullaby rather than a sort of protest song against Americanisation, but this time, there’s more of an inflection and that’s where you can hear the protest: it sounds like screaming.
Next on the record is Manic’s popular single ‘A Design For Life’, a song that, lyrically, explores so many themes it’s hard to keep up. But the main idea primarily focuses on the working class identity, something the band feels strongly about.
The music itself has the potential to be boring, but with the talent of the musicians, it’s anything but. It’s memorable, it’s sharp, and it’s a melody you won’t forget in a while. And that’s why it’s so notable. It’s been used in adverts and TV shows alike, it’s been covered by many other artists and choirs – and that’s why everybody knows it.
The rest of the album goes on the same – hooks everywhere, lyrics to make politicians stop and think, and enough originality for the Welsh trio to become noticeable. And almost half way through the album, you get to the title track. Bassist and lyricist Nicky Wire described the song as a message to fans, explaining that just because the music changed after the loss of Richey Edwards, the music is still the same. And it’s kind of them to do this, and it’s incredible they had the strength to carry on after the tragedy. After all, most bands have done much less.
But that’s what the album is: it’s a big fuck you to politics, to people who said they couldn’t to it, but it’s also a big thank you to those who believed in them and supported them. It’s what makes the album so important, it’s the reason Everything Must Go is so iconic. And it’s the reason we love them.