Catherine Anne Davies on the best moments from her homecountry heroes
Andrew Trendell

07:00 28th November 2015

Pop-noir with a vengeance is a dish best served cold, and there's nowhere colder for making the most elegiac but human music than Wales. With a love of literature, fiction and darkness going hand in hand with a knack for melody, it stands to reason that The Anchoress, aka Catherine AD, should be quite the superfan of her nation's heroes, Manic Street Preachers. 

The Anchoress' upcoming album not only 'deconstructs normative ideas of love and romance', but features a track that 'ironically references a bedroom shrine to Margaret Thatcher'. Hell, this stuff could have come straight from the page of Richey Edwards or Nicky Wire. 

And so, to get under the skin of the music that really makes The Anchoress tick, we asked her to pick her top 10 Manics' songs of all time. 

The Anchoress releases her debut album, Confessions Of A Romance Novelist, on 15 January 2016. 

1. Faster
“I am an architect /They call me a butcher”
The first Manics songs I ever clapped my ears on. I can still remember how it just completely stopped me in my tracks with its litany of literary name-dropping. There was no hope for me after that, and I was straight down to the public library ordering books by the armful and seeking out every old interview I could find of theirs. So began my journey with the band… 

2. Kevin Carter
“Wasted your life in black and white”
My favourite track from the very first Manics album I ever bought after saving up my weekly pocket money. Richey’s ability to juxtapose such condensed images that also manage to construct a succinct yet vivid biography of the Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist is a hallmark for me of the band’s lyrical prowess.

3. Comfort Comes
“The difference between love and comfort / Is that comfort's more reliable and true”
My favourite B-side from the Life Becoming A Landslide EP that, in hindsight, hinted at what was to come, musically speaking.

4. Yourself
“Too many teenage holes to fill”
I spent an unhealthy number of hours lying in the bath listening to Gold Against The Soul after I borrowed a CD copy from my local library. This was my favourite track that often soundtracked me turning into a prune…

5. 4st 7lbs
“Choice is skeletal in everybody's life”
I probably don’t need to explain why this is one of my favourite Manics songs. An absolute lyrical masterclass that verges on poetry rather than pop music.

6. Little Baby Nothing
“Your lack of ego offends male mentality”
It was a close call between this and ‘Methadone Pretty’ from Generation Terrorists but this song ruined me for the next ten years in setting the bar way too high thinking every man might be as capable of understanding what it’s like to inhabit the female body… My lifetime ambition is to duet on this with the band. Hint! Hint!

7. Rewind The Film
"I want to feel small / holding on my father's hand..."
A Manics song where someone else sings the majority of the lead vocal just shouldn't make sense. But Richard Hawley's gloriously melancholic tones add the perfect amount of melodrama to this nostalgic paean to lost youth. Accompanied by the stunning video by Kieran Evans, this song formed a bittersweet soundtrack to the sudden death of my father two years ago.

8. Love Torn Us Under
“Memory cannot choose where it wants to be”
The achingly beautiful B-side to ‘She is Suffering’. A brilliant solo turn from James Dean Bradfield.

9. Jackie Collins Existential Question Time
“A situationist sisterhood of Jackie and Joan”
Questions of sexual morality set against the backdrop of some killer guitar hooks… After falling out of love with the band for a time, Journal For Plague Lovers signalled a kind of homecoming for me which was underlined by getting to interview Nicky Wire for a few hours at their London show for this release. He was just as smart, funny and well-read as you could imagine.

10. Europa Geht Durch Mich
“More words and less meaning”
Not least because it lyrically checks Simple Minds with whom I’ve been touring this year…

Manic Street Preachers be playing Everything Must Go in full, along with 'hits, b-sides and new songs' in their native Wales with a huge show at Swansea's Liberty Stadium on Saturday 28 May 2016. Support comes from Public Service Broadcasting and Super Furry Animals.  

Get your Manic Street Preachers tickets here

For more information on The Anchoress, find her on:
Official Website

  • 12. 'Revol': The ultimate Edwards idiosyncrasy. We challenge you to find a better or more infectious song about group-sex in the Kremlin, let alone one capable of charting at No.22.

  • 11. 'From Despair To Where': Co-written with Nicky Wire and packed with all of the Manics' autumnal, majestic misery - using pop to explore the weakening effect of modern life on the human mind, until "there's nothing nice in my head, the adult world took it all away", being left with just "an imitation of dignity".

  • 10. 'PCP': A relentless live favourite, loaded with so many words and references that you can't help but crack a smile at the closing "227 lears and I can't remember the first line." It also contains Edwards' exquisite mantra: "BE PURE, BE VIGILANT, BEHAVE."

  • 9. 'Marlon JD': "He stood like a statue, as he was beaten across the face with a horse-whip where the wounds already exist" opens this blistering gem from Journal For Plague Lovers, showing Edwards' intellect at it's most uncompromising as he squares up to the concept of ultimate self-discipline and living a life without clutter or luxury.

  • 8. 'Little Baby Nothing': Another Wire-Edwards partnership, tenderly assassinating our "culture of alienation, boredom and despair" and man's exploitation of women, leaving many "hopelessly passive and compatible".

  • 7. 'Me And Stephen Hawking': A lyric left behind by Edwards just prior to his disappearance, but the ultimate encapsulation of his vast consumption of high and low culture, blended with his often underrated wit: "Oh the joy, me and Stephen Hawking - we laugh. We missed the sex revolution when we failed the physical."

  • 6. 'Motorcycle Emptiness': The Manics' first bona fide universal anthem was inspired by the brilliant film Rumble Fish to create a very modern lament on how consumer culture actually ends up consuming us.

  • 5. 'This Joke Sport Severed': "Loose and guilty and whipped, sterility persecutes and I have plenty" - there are few more telling signs of one's eloquence in the face of torment.

  • 4. '4st 7lbs': "I eat too much to die, and not enough to stay alive," says the opening sample taken from anorexic documentary Caraline's Story - kicking off a military beat as the track delves into Edwards' warped stasis as he sought control through anorexia: "I want to walk in the snow, and not leave a footprint, I want to walk in the snow and not soil its purity."

  • 3. 'Archives Of Pain': "I would say that 'Archives Of Pain' is one of Richey's most chillingly brave lyrics," Wire told Gigwise, reflecting on The Holy Bible's most visceral moment. Touching on the glorification of serial killers and seemingly advocating capital punishment, it deals with human beings' fascination with murder and religion in place of reson, with Bradfield's crowning achievement of a backing track that sounds like boiling battery acid.

  • 2. 'Faster': The song that sets up the manifesto to the album. From John Hurt uttering "I hate purity, I hate goodness, I want everyone corrupt" to the band's deeply-ingrained drive to remain more cultured that anyone despite the ever-accelerating shallowness of modern culture: "I am an architect, they call me a butcher...I know I believe in nothing, but it is my nothing."

  • 1. 'Yes': "You crazy fucker, how do I write music for this?" thought Bradfield when Edwards handed him the lyrics to what would become one of the greatest opening tracks in rock history. An anthem for anyone who's ever felt cheapened by the self-prostitution by doing just what it takes to get by, the Manics crowning moment comes in this firey number that states we're all whores, and that 'everything is for sale'.

Photo: Press