More about: Manic Street Preachers
"More fans of ours have gone into education than they have gone into bands," admits Manics bassist Nicky Wire in new warts n' all documentary, No Manifesto. "We genuinely thought music had a place in society to inform people, to instruct people, to make a difference."
It's that very essence of the Manics that is the truth behind their survival and their importance. It all makes for what one fan in the film describes as "not a cigarettes and alchohol kind of rock". During their inception and rise, rock was awash with stars glorifying hedonism and ignorance - but here were a band leading by example in kicking back at the world, standing out, digesting culture and thinking for themselves.
That is the lasting legacy of the Manics. While Oasis and Blur inspired waves of copycats, Manics' fans picked up books instead of guitars. That drive and connection is what No Manifesto so successfully explores.
But it's more than a loveletter, No Manifesto is a portrait. For a band that have invested so much in history, they have often fallen victim to the folklore of rock mythology and legend. A lot of that was intentional, but it's important to remember the Manics as four very grounded and real individuals.
To explore this, No Manifesto picks up when the band were recovering from the commercial failure of the too-often-maligned Lifeblood, as they write and record the career-invigorating wake-up call of Send Away The Tigers. In a space where culture, personal politics and attitude meet sheer shameless anthemics, the record is in many ways the true spirit of the Manics. It seems quite fitting that it is during this voyage of rediscovery that we get under the skin of one of the most important bands of the last 25 years.
"We used to have a philosophy called 'denialism'," says James Dean Bradfield of the band's founding manifesto. "Run for three hours every day, don't have a girlfriend, don't care about having money, there must be no humour in our music or our lyrics..., don't take any drugs, always wear your guitars low, don't have a fan club, don't like The Beatles or ever admit to liking The Beatles, never write a love song."
He admits that the idea that they have stuck to all of these rules is "ridiculous", adding "we were young and fucking mental, give us a break. We were very bitter, twisted, inward-looking people."
While a few policies have gone awry, the Manics are still very much the inventive, focussed, bitter and twisted force for good that they initially set out to be. If there's one message that No Manifesto carries, it's that there is no other band on Earth that can do what they do. Who else can a track about mass murder and capital punishment and turn it into a sing-along anthem? Explaining 'Archives of Pain', Bradfield says "if you don't believe in God, you expect the state to serve out justice, if there's no punishment to fit certain crimes then justice doesn't exist, if justice doesn't exist, then people revert back to God."
They're always the mess of eye-liner and spraypaint, spitting out Plath and Pinter, but it's refreshing to scratch beneath the make-up and take a peak behind the military regalia. With surprisingly candid interviews with the band, fans and collaborators, as well as unprecendented behind-the-scenes access and blistering live footage, No Manifesto adds human flesh to the bones of the myth - from their own weaknesses to thier love of a good Wimpy burger.
The story roams from their meeting as children, to their first gig as awkward punks, the horror behind The Holy Bible and Richey Edwards' disappearance, their ascent to stadium greatness, that Cuba trip and their subsequent fall and rise.
Some of the more touching and tender moments come from Wire delving into a box of memories and keepsakes from Edwards revealing how they communicated in their younger days - including a card reading "happy birthday to the nicest mind-destroyer" and a collage reading "the 70's in 88, glossy monthlies and informative data shows allow the aware to adorn suits that could cover the cost to feed a whole family, but this generation has been designed to wear money at the cost of living next to the skin on its back."
That humanity lies at the heart of No Manifesto. "If you go home and still think you're a rock star, you're just a fucking embarassment," says Wire, patting his dog as he wonders proudly around his garden. This is the man behind the cross-dressing, barbed-tongued minister of propaganda.
We also see James Dean Bradfield as a culinary master, smoking as he retells his past as if with friends. But most important of all, we get to know the riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma that is drummer Sean Moore. Normally the strong and silent type, the metromonic drumming machine here blooms as brutally honest, gun-toting, dry-humoured misanthrope - taking aim at the band's critics, often their fans and the many misconceptions that surround them. Essential viewing for any hardcore Manics fans out there.
That honesty echoes throughout the film, often cuttingly so. As well as calling out that 'prick' who always calls for 'Sleepflower' at every gig, we're also subject to in-studio squabbling as well as the band facing up to the destructive failure of the 'electro-pop nightmare' of 'The Love Of Richard Nixon' and Lifeblood, their abysmal lack of success in the United States, the grand folly of the trip to Cuba and even sparring with their 'spikey' fans.
"I think there is a mutual respect and mutual hatred and a mutual love between us and the fans and them and us," admits Wire. "Sometimes they despise us and sometimes we despise them."
Their following naturally call-out their criticisms, from certain songs to make-up choices and Nicky's singing, and the band too respond to their reactions. But this relationship, like any other, is so volatile because they're so involved in one another - and fans would do well to invest in this film.
Upon first viewing, certain weaknesses in No Manifesto really pang. The age and insignificance of some footage borders on irrelevance (who needs an interview with The Delays or a discussion of 'Underdogs' now?), incorporating classic film clips is at times inconsistent with the flow, there's some poorly executed and misplaced animation and often a jarring sense of time-hopping. However, watch it again and it shines as a colourful and fully-formed portrait of a band like no other - carried out in the independent, DIY spirit it deserves.
As Wire himself states pondering photos of the band with Kylie Minogue, Arthur Skargill and Fidel Castro, they attract 'a different kind of clientèle' - and they're all on show. "I think we're probably one of the most balanced experiences that you can have," admits Bradfield. "We're full of bile, we're full of love, we're full of hate, we're full of understanding, we're full of forgiveness and we're full of revenge". They've made a difference.
Screening dates of No Manifesto are below, before a general release on DVD and Blu-Ray on 16 February 2015.
Premiere Weekend - Features four-Song Concert Video from Past Present Future tour, plus Q&A with the filmmakers.
Jan 31 8:10 PM Manchester Cornerhouse Cinema
Opening Week - Features Q&A with the filmmakers
Feb 2 8:00 PM London Prince Charles Cinema
Feb 3 6:00 PM Nottingham Broadway Cinema
Feb 4 6:30 PM London Curzon Soho
Manic Street Preachers played a series of gigs in December to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their 1994 Holy Bible album - during which they played the album in full.
Manic Street Preachers' Holy Bible tour dates for 2015 are below. For tickets and information, visit here.
30 May EDINBURGH, Usher Hall
1 June WOLVERHAMPTON, Civic Hall
2 June SOUTHAMPTON, Guildhall
5 June CARDIFF, Castle
More about: Manic Street Preachers