Written By: Victoria Hill
The story of the Manic Street Preachers has always been an interesting one. The band started in Wales in 1986 as a quartet. In 1995, lyricist and rhythm guitar player, Richey Edwards disappeared on the day that the band was due to travel to America for a promotional tour.
The band and Richey’s family never gave up hope in finding him, but the signs didn’t look good, as Richey’s car was found abandoned near a notorious suicide location. Richey had problems with drugs and alcohol and was known to be a cutter. Over the years, there were sightings in various countries, but they all turned out to be false. In 2008, Richey’s family legally declared him dead. The band never stopped recording, and became of the biggest acts in the UK.
Journal For Plague Lovers, is the only album to have each song written solely by Richey. The band dedicated the album to his memory, stating, “All 13 songs on the new record feature lyrics left to us by Richey. The brilliance and intelligence of the lyrics dictated that we had to finally use them. Topics include The Grande Odalisque by Ingres, Marlon Brando, Giant Haystacks, celebrity, consumerism and dysmorphia, all reiterating the genius and intellect of Richard James Edwards.”
Knowing that this album contains lyrics written by Richey, I feel like I’m listening to the last thoughts of someone who was tortured inside and was coming to the end. I can’t image what it was like for the band to record these songs.
A lyric that stood out for me was “He stood like a statue/As he was beaten across the face” from the song “Marlon JD.” The line shows the writer’s strength to stand up after taking so much across the chin.
On “All Is Vanity,” James Dean Bradfield sings, “It’s a fucked-up life, sunshine.” There’s something that seems comforting about that line; like an acknowledgment that life can be fucked up (sorry to be redundant). The track is a statement that there is more than the veneer people put up to protect themselves from heartache, and as much as life can be bad, there are good points as well.
Manic Street Preachers have always put out great albums, but the focus and intensity shown on Journal For Plague Lovers is exceptionally sharp. I felt the presence of Richey on this record, and I get the sense that band did too. I felt sad listening to the album, as I realize that this is the last we’ll ever get to hear from Richey, but I also felt a sense of closure, as Richey is now able to rest in peace.