Wednesday, 26 November 2008

'Beautiful Dignity in Self Abuse': Richey Edwards

I was sad to read on Sunday that Richey Edwards had been officially pronounced dead , 14 years after disappearing. It seemed that, for me, my last grain of hope had gone with that news. I guess Richey isn’t coming back to save the Manic Street Preachers from letting their current mediocrity consume the band and carrying them to a limp end. It seems that the story of the Manics will be a scream to a sigh.

The Manics without Richey have been a different band and it hasn’t served them well in the long term. Yes, in the years immediately following his disappearance, they produced two great, accessible albums, as they reached the apex of their fame, in Everything Must Go and This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours. But since then accessibility has taken over values previously held dear to the band and they have turned out a number of albums which can be broadly defined as dross. And I think that the Manics are aware of this. Their last album, Send Away The Tigers was a desperate attempt to get back to what they had in The Holy Bible era, but inevitably it lacked something and I, like many others know that something, is Richey Edwards.

Although never a great musician by any standards, Richey’s lyrics on the first four albums (Generation Terrorists, Gold against the Soul, The Holy Bible and Everything Must Go) are second to none in my eyes. It is a great skill to write songs which are so uncomfortable to listen to yet so poignant – to take in personal issues and issues from the bleak world that surrounded him and then to filter them into well-versed, coherent and meaningful lyrics in songs such as 4st 7lb and Archives of Pain is a great achievement. His life in the media spotlight was blighted by his problems with weight, depression, drugs and drink but maintained a defiant charisma and style as the bands frontman, along with Nicky Wire.

For me Richey Edwards has always been about escapism. Forming a band and signing to a major label in order to escape the bleak nothingness and boredom of the South Wales Valleys. Self abuse, bleak lyrics and eyeliner to escape his insecurities, drug and drink abuse to escape the pressures of fame and finally disappearance to escape it all. Whether dead or alive Richey has left a fantastic lyrical legacy especially on The Holy Bible and I think it will be a long time before Richey’s legacy is forgotten.

Tim Cox

1 comment:

Stuck In Sepia Film said...

Amen to that but as a Manics fan, I have to disagree about their later albums. Know Your Enemy is a good album and so is Lifeblood, with it's cool melancholy. Nicky's lyrics are good too but they cannot be compared to Richey's, they are just very different lyricists. As Nicky said, Richey probably wouldn't be able to write A Design For Life and if he did, it would be far too complex. Oh and SATT is a great mainstream rock album, with some great lyrics like the title track, Imperial Bodybags, I'm just a patsy, Rendition etc.