Manic Street Preachers — Reflecting on the 30th Anniversary of “Generation Terrorists” | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Friday, September 22nd, 2023  

Manic Street Preachers — Reflecting on the 30th Anniversary of “Generation Terrorists”

The Album Was First Released on February 10, 1992

Feb 10, 2022
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Despite the tendency of age to reveal those memories of disillusioned youth as the romantically futile shams they happen to be, something about feeling young and clever retains its appeal far beyond the realization that no one ever really is. Not since The Smiths dropped The Queen is Dead in 1986 had a musical group conveyed the excessive, borderline literate bedroom anguish and adolescent radicalism that Welsh rockers Manic Street Preachers did in their time, lending a fresh voice to the vacuous realm of high school alienation. Delivering a timely blend of biting punk, alt, and glam rock, the group’s much anticipated 1992 debut—members had promised the public the “greatest rock album ever”—was released to favorable reviews, introducing Manic Street Preachers to a wider audience. Generation Terrorists is, of course, far from being the greatest release of its genre, but is most certainly a classic, boasting some remarkable musicianship on its immortal anthems of angst and recklessness.

Opening cut “Slash ’n’ Burn” introduces the album in a wash of electric ferocity, its gleeful glam metal riffs mirroring those of hair rockers Guns n’ Roses and Mötley Crüe. Immediately, Generation Terrorists establishes itself as a worthy “guitar” album—one of its major assets—as James Dean Bradfield shreds across each track with admirable ease. The same can be said for songs “Born to End,” “You Love Us,” “Love’s Sweet Exile,” and “Methadone Pretty,” which rock hard, displaying top notch artistry in their sweaty aggression. Key entries “Motorcycle Emptiness”—the album’s finest inclusion—and “Little Baby Nothing” dig a bit deeper, while still retaining their respectively jagged edges. The former, something of a reinterpretation of S.E. Hinton’s 1975 novel Rumble Fish, portrays estranged adolescence in the face of mass consumerism and societal decay, with lyrics such as “all we want from you are the kicks you’ve given us” still sticking to concrete. The latter, an entrancing power ballad, benefits from an appearance by actress/singer Traci Lords, whose guest vocals add a stirring sense of compelling femininity to the group’s generally testosterone-driven cock rock tendencies. Similarly, “Stay Beautiful” emits a bit of melodic tenderness amidst a storm of smeared mascara and scrappy debauchery, although its ardently anti-consumerist lyrics still place it alongside the album’s more critical cuts. The jangled sadness of “So Dead” and mercurial grit of “Spectators of Suicide” render the two tracks among the album’s most eclectic offerings, laying early groundwork for the group’s magnum opus The Holy Bible, released two years later.

Of course, Generation Terrorists wouldn’t be complete without the notorious presence of rhythm guitarist Richey Edwards, who is credited on the album, but does not perform here. It is notable that Edwards, along with bassist Nicky Wire, crafted the group’s biting lyrics in its early years. A literary-minded creative firecracker, Edwards personally provided much of the Manics’ early bombast, his antics enshrouding the music in its own defiant mythology. When not expressing fondness for the likes of Mishima and Dostoevsky, Edwards was busy hyping his band to the press, engaging in public acts of self-mutilation—he once carved “4 Real” into his arm with a razor blade in response to an interviewer’s inquiry as to his devotion to art—and waging candid battles with addiction and depression. Regrettably, he remains missing now some 27 years on, having vanished seemingly without a trace in February 1995, eventually declared legally dead in 2008. Edwards’ controversial image and mysterious demise, coupled with the Manics’ monumental sound and increased popularity, ensured the group’s status as integral icons of ’90s alt rock. Generation Terrorists, despite its flaws, represents the genesis of the Manics’ legacy, as well as that of a late-20th century youth culture torn between working class ennui and burning political passion, these internal contradictions represented exquisitely throughout much of the group’s output.

As long as there is youth to be disenfranchised, there is a place in popular culture for albums such as Generation Terrorists. While it may not pack the same hormonal punch it did when the listener was 16 or 17, the music is still solid enough to conjure some vicious sentimentality. Within the annals of modern rock history, Manic Street Preachers hold an important place, and their invigorating debut continues to age relatively well. Enjoy Generation Terrorists for what it is and lose yourself in the tornadic flurry of self-destruction and bloody teenage conviction—just don’t become lost for too long, as 30 years, in the end, is but the blink of an eye.

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