Generation Terrrorists (1992) **
Elvis Costello once said of punk that anyone could do it, but not everyone could do it interestingly. The Manic Street Preachers prove his point. Hair metal guitar attack with a punk attitude, the Manics come across as a less than inspired amalgam of the Clash and Guns'n'Roses. Though they occassionally rise to the occasion with an exciting anthem such as the single "Stay Beautiful," that rocks like the bastard stepson of Billy Idol making out with Slade, too often these mid-tempo, overproduced glam rockers plod and shout unconvincingly. The "revolutionary" leftist stance they espouse as radical chic is the only reason the U.K. press paid any attention to this by-the-numbers rehash of arena rock posing and cliches; the Manics cover no ground that hasn't already been trod by a thousand other hard rock bands "Condemned to Rock'n'Roll" (their pathetic attempt to close their album with a "Garageland" for bar bands to raise their fists to, or insert another of the hundreds of Rawk'n'Roll! anthems from Bill Haley to Mott here __________). It's cheekily ironic to have porn starlet and Guns'n'Roses groupie Traci Lords sing backup vocals on "Little Baby Nothing," an attack on the fashion industry's exploitation of those poor little oppressed supermodels, but that's as clever as the album gets.
Their rather simple-minded and lyrically confused condemnations of the usual lefty suspects - consumerism ("Slash N' Burn"), the sham of democracy ("Democracy Coma"), the PMRC ("Tennessee"), militarism ("Repeat [U.K.]" which is repeated on the second side as "Repeat [Stars and Stripes]") - attempt rousingly anthemic status but end up more often than not sounding like hectoring football chants. The glammy, glossy overproduction seems at odds with the edge and grit in their lyrics, and the distance between the lyrical attitude and unadventurous music undercuts both. "Motorcyle Emptiness," displays a rare moment of confident melodicism, but would have been more effective if the running length were cut in half; then it's back to slashing guitars and Slade-y bellowed football choruses. The Manics are effective at delivering basic, exciting rock'n'roll, but don't offer enough memorable riffs to hang on to their anthemic choruses to make it worthwhile. Fourteen indistinguishable hard glam rockers after the other (the U.K. double album had 18) that, true to their namesake, won't convert the non-believers, only annoy passerby.