Saturday, 7 September 2013

Hope Lies In The Proles

I was in my mid-teens in 1996 and just getting 'in' to music whilst hurtling towards GCSE exams and apparently growing up.  Britpop was in it's pomp and Oasis vs Blur was arguably one of the biggest things on the planet.  The bandwagon was big enough to share with the likes of menswe@r (who were great) and Kula Shaker whilst giving some much deserved exposure to Pulp, Elastica and Manic Street Preachers.

There were personalities everywhere; the warring oafish Gallaghers, the ever changing Albarn, the embodiment of geek chic in Jarvis but no one really came close to the fierce intelligence held by Wire and Edwards.  Nicky and Richey weren't happy to just be a bit clever and well read; it was a display.  It was a weapon against the mainstream and that's how a song alluding to Auschwitz got to number 2 in the UK charts.

The first single from Everything Must Go and since The Holy Bible and the events in February 1995 saw a change in tack.  Introspection and rebuilding linked with nostalgia and a redefinition of the band's identity to give A Design For Life.

My first exposure was the video.  Mistreated celluloid showing the band in the ruins of the Roundhouse and Nicky strutting around dressed as a Madchester relic.  The strings start gently and then the guitars but there is nothing that prepares you for the chorus.  Simple, repetitive and now anthemic if you listen to the NME, it was a call to arms; a 20th century 'workers of the world, unite!'  The Manics had reestablished their own socialist credentials whilst reminding us that we were still in the midst of class conflict.  It would be another year before the Labour landslide and hopes pinned on Tony Blair.

The song is so self aware, identifying the working class and yet screaming that we shouldn't be underestimated, hints of Orwell, Bacon and Marx all tied together with Blackwood and Welsh mining.  These are just a few of the reasons why I love this song, it's just unbelievable it was kept off the number 1 spot by Return of the Mack by Mark Morrison.