[E4] ‘New Art Riot’

Released on: New Art Riot E.P. (EP #1) Damaged Goods, 22 June 1990
Track: 1

Buoyed with the minor but significant press recognition of their first single, the release of an EP was the natural next step for Manic Street Preachers. That EP, New Art Riot, was released in June 1990 on Damaged Goods Records, a London-based independent label which had initially been founded in 1988 for the purpose of putting out punk reissues. The Manics EP became one of the first releases from the label to feature a contemporary artist, and was originally released in a limited edition of 1,000 12-inch vinyl copies. Owing to the efforts of producer Robin Wynn Evans and engineer Mark Tempest, the represents a significant professionalisation of recording quality when compared with earlier tracks.

The true significance of New Art Riot lies not in its musical content – which is only slightly less derivative of the Clash than Suicide Alley – but in its increasingly focused crystallisation of the lyrical ideas upon which Generation Terrorists and much of the band’s later career would be based. While in the title track in particular contained some crass exhortations to violence and specific allusions and references are few as compared with the band’s later work, the distinctive mixture of rage and resignation that would become a Manics trademark is very much in place. Much of the credit for this must go to the genesis of the Edwards and Wire’s lyrical partnership, which would endure until the former’s disappearance.

Opening the record in brash and joyous fashion, ‘New Art Riot’ contributed a little to the band’s musical development – Bradfield’s guitar work is notably less influenced by Mick Jones here – but is an under-recognised statement of intent in lyrical terms. The opening two lines – “vintage aromas and vintage ideas / old men greying to a dying country’s needs” – are a slightly awkward but nevertheless accurate summation not only of the John Major government of the early 1990s but also of the UK in general over the last thirty years. A later line, “hospital closures kill more people than car bombs ever will / and it saves money because people are expendable” reads like a damning indictment of the perverse security agenda and era of “austerity” more than twenty years ahead of time. This is one of a number of Manic Street Preachers lyrics which fly in the face of the conventional idea that personal lyrics are more timeless than political ones, either because of history’s tendency to repeat itself or because some problems seem to refuse to go away.

Choice Lyric (Full Lyrics)
“Vintage aromas and vintage ideas / old men greying to a dying country’s needs”

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