These two CDs contain the complete singles from the Manic Street Preachers' twenty-five year musical career and it appears that most people tend to either love, hate or not know the band. Quite honestly, in my opinion there aren't many artists who have produced finer music over the same period and, although not everything they have released has been uniformly excellent, their high points - and there are many - are enough to raise hairs on necks, send shivers down spines and make fists joyously punch the air. From tender ballads to anthems of alienation or political/social rage, the writing of Bradfield, Edwards and Wire is head and shoulders above the general homogenous blandness which passes as popular music these days. As musicians, they're an incredibly tight group, and Bradfield is an incredible individual talent, with a powerful and yet beautiful voice and a superb musical ability, both in songwriting and performing - he is perhaps the most underrated guitarist around.
I was a little late in discovering the Manics, compared to some fans. My first album of theirs was 1994's The Holy Bible (represented here by "Faster", "She Is Suffering" and "Revol") which is an absolutely stunning piece of work and still remains their finest collection of songs, in my opinion. Dark, intelligent, powerful and magnificent, it was therefore a little bit of a shock to the system when Richie Edwards went missing and the band released "Everything Must Go" with the utterly brilliant lead single "A Design For Life", followed by equally strong singles, "Everything Must Go", "Kevin Carter" and "Australia". It could be said that the best tracks on that album weren't even singles. Their first album as a three-piece was almost a new sound for the group at that point, was infinitely more mainstream than The Holy Bible and yet it was perhaps their most commercially strong material they'd ever released and, arguably, remains so. This led me to explore their first two albums and I found some more mindblowingly great songs which I now count amongst my very favourites such as, "Motorcycle Emptiness" and "La Tristesse Durera (Scream to a Sigh)". It was at that point the Manics became elevated to the top tier of my very favourite artists.
"This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours" polarised many fans, with a large proportion of long-term admirers being disappointed by the mainstream feel of the follow-up to their greatest commercial success to date. It still contained some cracking songs, though, such as "If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next", "Tsunami" and "You Stole The Sun From My Heart". The Manics then went into commercial free-fall and, for a while, became a less urgent and essential band. However, they still released a handful of excellent singles such as "Let Robeson Sing" and "Ocean Spray". The Manic Street Preachers that the fans knew and loved truly came back to life with the magnificent "Send Away The Tigers" which rivals "Everything Must Go" when it comes to having track after track of catchy, bombastic, anthemic songs. "Autumnsong", "Your Love Alone Is Not Enough" and "Indian Summer" just scratch the surface of that album's bounty. More Manic Street Preachers gold followed with "Journal For Plague Lovers", their 2009 album which has a feel similar to "The Holy Bible" and is sadly unrepresented here and last year's "Postcards From A Young Man" which is also amongst the best work they have done during their musical lives.
I could continue to wax lyrical about the Manic Street Preachers, but I think I've said enough. This is an absolutely fantastic compilation and gives a good representative overview of the band's work throughout their career. If you have never heard of this band and like intelligent, catchy guitar-based music, give it a go. If you have only heard a couple of Manics songs, like them and want to hear more, buy this. If you're a Manic Street Preachers fan and have everything else, buy this for the one song not available anywhere else - listening to it, even though you've heard everything else before, will bring you immense pleasure and remind you (if you needed reminding) of exactly why you love the band so much. Don't stop here, though. If you have nothing but a best of this band, then you really do need to hear the other album tracks on (at least) "The Holy Bible", "Eveything Must Go", "Send Away The Tigers", "Journal For Plague Lovers" and "Postcards From A Young Man"... and that's me being brutal. They haven't released anything that isn't worth hearing, including National Treasures. Especially National Treasures. This is the day - to buy this album. Wonderful stuff.