Everything Must Go (1996)

Ellena Arroyo

Material’s important. Any songwriter will tell you that. Without good material, production value can only cover so much texture, guitar parts can only numb the ears for so long. Material is important. It gives a band the basis that they stand on. And at a time when Manic Street Preachers had lost their lyricist/guitarist to a vacuous uncertainty, good material was all they had.

But for Nicky Wire, bassist and secondary lyricist, this task proved daunting as he now found himself the group’s chief songwriter and idea’s person. Vocaslist/guitarist James Dean Bradfield also found himself under duress, unsure how to arrange their music without Edwards’ intellect to guide them. But with the blessing of Edwards’ family to continue playing and the fortuitous chance to work with producer Mike Hedges, the Welsh trio convened at Chateau De La Rouge Motte, France in 1995 to record their fourth album, one that stripped away much of what they had striven for beforehand.

Strangely, given the ominous and bleak scenario the band found themselves in, ‘Everything Must Go’ proved to be a much sprightlier record than either ‘Gold Against The Soul’ (1993) or ‘The Holy Bible’ (1994). Where ‘Bible’ was devoid of any complicated instrumentation other than some spiralling solos, ‘Everything’ adorned itself with bee-bop harmonies, comely string work and reserved orchestration. With jangly rockers ‘Kevin Carter’ and the title track centreing the album, skiffle belter ‘Elvis Impersonator: Blackpool Pier’ opening the album and sumptuous acoustic ballad ‘Small Black Flowers That Grow in the Sky” closing the second half, this record proved to be as archetypal a great Britpop record as any released in 1996. Fittingly, it is only closing track ‘No Surface All Feeling’ which would have fitted on ‘Bible’; incidentally, it is also the only song on the record that features Edwards guitar playing.

Edwards shadow skirts through the record (some of his leftover lyrics were used on the album), but this proved to be the album where Wire called the shots. ‘A Design For Life’ proved his calling card, what ‘Faster’ was to Edwards (a fixture of anarchic sentiments detailing the fall and failings of humanity), ‘Design’ was to Wire (the proclaimed socialist calling to the plight of his fellow workers). Wire, more conscious of the impact of singles than his mentor, gave ‘Design’a chorus eternally ingrained in the minds of festival audiences for generations to come, giving the band a much needed UK no. 2 hit. ‘Australia’ and ‘Further Away’ continued this trend of sing-along chorusses, acknowledging that the modern music market favoured 45’s over records. Edwards’ words, used on ‘The Girl Who Wanted To Be God’ and ‘Small Black Flowers..’ proved the band had not lost their taste for the viperous.

The biggest revelation on the record is just how competent a singer James Dean Bradfield proved himself to be. Always a better singer than contemporaries Brett Anderson, Jarvis Cocker or Damon Albarn, previous records emphasised the loudness of their guitar parts, meaning his vocals tended to come across as abrasive and shouty. Here, he takes a much more nuanced approach, giving a soulful resonance to the pop saturated ‘Kevin Carter’, a silent whispered singing to ‘Enola/Alone’, while the chorus of the title track is only mere notes away from operatic. This, over chiming stacattos and beautiful orchestration, and you have a pop record par excellence.

You can’t help feeling happy for the band, nineteen years on. A strong re-invention that proved a commercial hit, a solid new direction and innovative pop structure, ‘Everything’ proved to be the band’s second consecutive masterpiece. Where ‘Bible’ succeeded in sounding completely alien to any other band, ‘Everything’ succeeded in conforming to the pop movement- and proving their superiority to other Britpop bands.

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