Manic Street Preachers have never been afraid of making political statements.
The band's clear-minded, intelligent approach to left wing politics - now spearheaded by lyricist Nicky Wire - has been highly influential in British music, although it is more recently becoming more and more the exception to the rule.
Singer James Dean Bradfield's lyrics, though, often dwell on the personal; we're thinking his solo album 'The Great Western', or singles such as 'Ocean Spray'.
New single 'Distant Colours' however finds the vocalist dwelling on political ruptures, and the disconnection he feels between current events and the left wing movement he grew up around.
Clash spoke to the singer yesterday, a phone call connecting a snowy London to an equally ice-bound Cardiff that touched on many aspects of the group's incoming album 'Resistance Is Futile'.
We'd like to share a preview, though, focussing on the new single, and James' motivations for writing it...
"It was just a song that came together in an amalgam of confusion and dejection at the general election and the American Presidential election," he tells Clash. "I was just trying to kind of trying to figure out how you could define yourself by knowing what your enemy was like you did when you were 16 years old. Which, for me, was 1986, ‘85, ‘84. All those years. And I just decided that you couldn’t any more because, obviously, the left has fractured, the centre left has fractured, the centre ground was unoccupied..."
"I suppose it all came to a real fruition with the referendum (on UK membership of the EU), when you realise that you’re sitting around the table with people who all vaguely had the same voting patterns in their life just ripping each other apart."
"You had people really from the Corbyn/Benn side of politics, where they have a really old fashioned strain of Communism in them and they are very much suspicious of any large federal body, let alone Brussels, because obviously enshrined in large federal super-structures like that is they don’t believe in bailing out industries, they don’t believe in nationalising industries to save them… which is very anti-socialist. It’s an anti-socialist as you can get, really."
He continues: "So you had people like that, and then you would have people post-New Labour, and people in love with the EU on a philosophical basis, rather than a realistic basis, and you’d have these groups of people just ripping each other apart before the referendum and the election."
"And in the American Presidential election I was thinking, it’s not even so fucked up that it’s left vs. right any more, with those words becoming dis-entangled from each other, it’s just an absolute fucking tribal gathering of complete madness."
It's from these tumultuous events that new single 'Distant Colours' emerged. "There is a tiny bit of handringing about the song but I don’t mind that," he explains. "I don’t mind that. Sometimes a song has to be about that emotionally explosive moment, which you can look back on and be slightly embarassed by, but nonetheless it was written in the guise of a love song, like: where can I pin my colours?"
"When you get to a certain age you can’t pretend not to be that age," James tells Clash. "Everything becomes a distant colour. Everything becomes a distant memory. You start disengaging with memory and engaging with reality, and reality is so fractured you’re left with nothing. So that’s what the song is about!"
The video itself was directed by Kieran Evans, who has developed a close creative partnership with Manic Street Preachers' Nicky Wire. James Dean Bradfield explains: "They wanted to find the other angle of the song, which is that at a certain age you try to find symbols in the past, and you try to keep hold of them so they don’t become a distant colour. You want to try and find impressions in them, to use them as signposts so you can find your future from the direction your past is."
The video utilises sites of historical and personal importance across Wales, a mixture of the band's own history and national politics. The singer says: "All those references that were in ‘Distant Colours’ cross borders of North, East, South, and West Wales. There are very impressive reminders of what you can lose by remembering, and what you can actually gain by remembering. I suppose the video is a tiny bit of an antidote to the lyric, I think."
Watch the video below, and look out for our full feature next week.
Manic Street Preachers will release new album 'Resistance Is Futile' on April 13th.
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