Manic Street Preachers – National Treasures (2011)

I love the Manics. It’s worth mentioning this up front, because it’s entirely unlikely I’ll write an unbiassed review.

The first I was introduced to the Manics was when “You Love Us” was released in 1991. Apart from a few self-releases, this was the debut single proper, and I clearly remember jumping around my bedroom to the song as I watched them perform on ‘Top of the Pops’. I was 16, and although I didn’t know better, during the years which intervened the Manics became no less important. I still jumped around, release after release!

It was 1991, I was 16 and the Manics were upon us. I decided to visit my local record shop rather than attend a double-Maths class at school the day debut album Generation Terrorists was released. To this day do not regret it! I have been a fan since that year and have loved almost everything the band have done since.

The problem with reviewing a Manic Street Preachers greatest hits album is simply that there is nothing negative to say about it! Sure, their albums have had low points as well as the many high ones. However they have always had amazing singles, and when you put these songs together all 38 are frankly jaw-dropping. This band has written some of the most important songs we have had the luxury of hearing.

From that 1991 debut album we have (amongst others) “Motown Junk”, “Stay Beautiful”, “You Love Us”, and “Motorcycle Emptiness”. Jump forward a few albums and you have such classics as “Everything Must Go”, “Design For Life”, “Kevin Carter”, and “If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next”. Toward more recent releases, you have “The Love of Richard Nixon”, “Your Love Alone is Not Enough”, “(It’s Not War) Just The End of Love”, and “Postcards from a Young Man”.

There isn’t a bad song on here, and truth be told you must buy it. No seriously, buy it. If you already own everything by the band, then just for the remastering it is worth your cash. The mastering is impressive; very decent bass levels and a standalone treble which clears the vocal and lead guitar into different channels, leaving you with crystal clear sound these songs have always deserved. If you don’t own every album then you need to buy this – there is not a bad song amongst this collection. It has to be said though that listening to their career like this makes me sad.

Sad that time is passing, and bands which I considered to be new, innovative, and providing a soundtrack to a generation are suddenly at an age where a true retrospective of their career is spanning 20 years!! 20 years!!

I’m sorry, but where did those years go? There are so many events of my life to which I can easily attribute to a Manics single, a tour or an album. The band was always there in my life’s soundtrack. I can sing along to every song on this album, and I will love this band until the day I die, however it such a culture shock to listen to this collection and have it rammed home that I am 36, no longer 16. Ouch!

For a generation the Manic Street Preachers were the band who stood up to the establishment, who questioned our position in our society, who were a voice for those of us who wanted to be heard…and now we are looking back at that time when they provided the soundtrack to our lives. Today they remind us of our yesteryear, not define our now.

At the end of their debut single the shouts of “We live in urban hell, we destroy rock and roll!” can be heard over the closing refrains.  Today the sentiment still stands true – the Manics have always been unique, they have always been a band who tell it like it is. A band who want us to stand shoulder to shoulder with them and kick out at the establishment.

They weren’t the first, and the won’t be the last, however for the Britpop generation (those of us currently in our 30s), this was the band who we should have been paying the most attention to, and if we didn’t then “National Treasures” will set you straight.

You owe it to yourself to listen to this album!

Gareth Fraser

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