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Riffs & Meaning

Manic Street Preachers and Know Your Enemy

A critical analysis of the career of the Manic Street Preachers and their 2001 record Know Your Enemy.


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Despite high and low brow pop culture references in their lyrics, sleeve art, and in interviews, no concise in-depth study exists of the Manic Street Preachers. This book is in some ways a response to that fact, a study of the band through one particular record.

Whilst The Holy Bible, Everything Must Go and even Generation Terrorists seem like obvious albums to cover, 2001’s Know Your Enemy is the pivotal point used here to explore the band bestowed a Godlike Genius Award by the NME.

Know Your Enemy encapsulates all previous incarnations of the Manics and acts as a pointer towards their future as a creative unit. It was a real attempt to explore new avenues in sound, embrace their socialist political views, renew their stance as music industry outsiders, antagonize other bands and basically be the Manics the fans really wanted them to be!


[su_quote cite=”Paolo Hewitt”]This book brims with passion and insight and care… every five pages or so Naish had me scrambling to hear various Manics songs from across the years.[/su_quote]

[su_quote cite=”Chris O’Leary, Rebel Rebel: The Songs of David Bowie, 1964-1976 and Ashes to Ashes”]The Manic Street Preachers have long been a blind spot for me. In Riffs and Meaning, Stephen Lee Naish does a great service by creating a solid context for the band — how it developed and how it intersected with its rivals and critics (both in the press and on the stage). Centering his attention on one of their thorniest, most sprawling albums, Know Your Enemy, about which even the band has seemed ambivalent, Naish explores how the “untameable child of Manic Street Preachers’ records” was a fundamental work, finally letting them escape the shadow of their lost guitarist/songwriter Richey Edwards and “to forge a different version of the Manic Street Preachers that was almost completely set apart from their previous incarnations”.[/su_quote]

[su_quote cite=”John Sellers, author of Perfect From Now On: How Indie Rock Saved My Life”]Like many bands worth obsessing over, the Manic Street Preachers are virtually unknown here in the States. [But this is a] passionate discourse about a divisive album that you should absolutely listen to again immediately.[/su_quote]

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Stephen Lee Naish

STEPHEN LEE NAISH‘s writing explores film, politics, and popular culture. His essays have appeared in numerous journals and periodicals. He lives in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.


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