I Killed the Zeitgeist – The Unorthodox Romance of Nicky Wire

I Killed the Zeitgeist– Nicky Wire

I Killed the Zeitgeist
I Killed the Zeitgeist

Strong, confident, beautiful, romantic…words that will never be used to describe the quality of Nicky Wire’s singing voice. Except, maybe the last one.

Wire’s voice, for all it lacks, does possess an undeniable innocence, charm, and yes, romanticism. Underneath of what sounds like a bizarre collage of inarticulate droning, is really something quite beautiful. Nicky Wire has given us a bit of himself; naked, unpolished, vulnerable. He trusts us to find beauty among the wreckage. We need to stop listening to the quality of Wire’s voice and listen to what he is saying. I have listened to Zeitgeist continuously over the last few days, and admit I have become a bit obsessed with it.

In the opening track, “I Killed the Zeitgeist” the line “Pain like the shattering of glass”, is one you would expect to hear erupting from James Dean Bradfield on a Manic Street Preachers album. However, sung in Wire’s flat, nondescript tone makes it feel more sincere, a little more…painful.

“Break my Heart Slowly” opens with a magnificent quote from Eleanor Coppola. The title alone is one of the most romantic I have heard. Especially when Wire has them spoken by Dora Maar. Maar was a poet, artist and photographer. However, she is best known for her volatile relationship with the artist Picasso. She was a fascinating dark beauty, who became Picassos muse; it isn’t surprising she also became Wire’s. It is the only single released from the album.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFpdwY75CUs

Later tracks like “The Shining Path” and “Bobby Untitled” are where Wire showcases his real lyrical aptitude. The Shining Path is a Peruvian guerilla group whose ideology, (funded by cocaine) is based on Maoism. The group uses violence and terrorism against the “bourgeois democracy” in order to create a communist state. In the song Wire, a student of politics, sings about his own revolution “creeping up and making plans” as “governments crash” and “hope dead like Jesus on the cross.” Wire’s Shining Path is obviously more personal and less violent, but the song suggests that we all eventually have to deal with conflicts outside of our control. Our own revolutions.

IMG_3168“Bobby Untitled” opens with the closing stanza of Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. Bobby Sands was a member of the IRA who died in prison during a hunger strike at the age of 27. Richey Edwards,Wire’s closet friend and bandmate, was confined in his own prison of mental illness. Edwards suffered from amongst other things, self-mutilation and anorexia. He disappeared in 1995, he was also 27. Wire’s confession “bits of me don’t exist anymore, I can’t replace what’s been and gone” are undoubtedly in reference to Richey. It is a touching tribute.

For me, the one track that stands alone as being the most romantic is the haunting “Everything Fades.” This is the darkest track on the album and that’s probably why I’m so attracted to it. Wire lyrics “Tied to a place we don’t belong” and “Frozen not dead, but grey and decayed” portray a sense of deep loss, not only of those close to him, but loss of the self.

Having nothing to lose, Wire described the process as “effortless” and himself as having “no expectations.”

Loss, confrontation and reflection. These are things we all relate to as we struggle to manage our way. This is Nicky Wire doing his own thing. It is brave and soul bearing, earnest and at times uncomfortable. This is his revelation, his purging. It is spectacular and beautiful.

This is NOT a Manic Street Preachers album. It is NOT an attempt to compete with James Dean Bradfield’s solo release, (Bradfield does lend his talents to two of the tracks), this is all Nicky Wire. Love him or hate him, he doesn’t give a fuck. That, is the romanticism.IMG_3166

Why is Richard Butler so Cool?

Richard Butler 1994, Washington D.C
Richard Butler 1994, Washington D.C -Photo by MJ Zander

Richard Butler is cool. The guy is absolutely dripping in the stuff. From the iconic Psychedelic Furs, to Love Spit Love, back to the Psychedelic Furs, Butler proves he’s got the one thing a lot of bands from the 80’s were missing….staying power based on originality.

Formed in 1977, the Furs released their self-titled debut album in 1980. A combination of punk and sixties psychedelia, the Furs became one of the most distinctive bands of the post punk genre. Butler, an art student who could be considered a bit of a visionary, saw music as a way to express things that painting couldn’t. After seeing the Sex Pistols at the 100 Club in London and realizing music didn’t have to be complicated or even, well, musical, to become a vehicle of expression, Butler decided it was time to form his own band. Butler claims he doesn’t think “anybody starts out being original.” However, with Butler’s cryptic lyrics and raw, sultry rasp, it didn’t take long for the Furs to do exactly that.

The Furs music was filled with an energy similar to punk. What separated them from bands like the Pistols was the delivery. Where Johnny Rotten spitted slogans and anti-establishment angst, Butler chose an enigmatic, ambivalent approach as if to say “here’s our music if you don’t like it, oh well.”

Seven albums later, after the 1991 release World Outside, the Furs called it a day. Butler, went on to form Love Spit Love with help from bandmate and brother Tim Butler. The band’s self-titled debut released in 1994 was well received. Butler’s rasp had been slightly polished and the music, while having elements from the Furs, sounded a bit tighter and mature thanks to the addition of guitarist Richard Fortus. 1995 found the band recording a cover version of The Smiths iconic “How Soon is Now” for the movie The Craft. This was a brave move. There are a certain songs that have already reached infallible perfection and should never be covered.  To do so is rock n roll sacrilege. “How Soon is Now” is one of those songs. It was the first time Richard Butler had disappointed me. However, he made up for it with the 1997 release of Trysome Eatone.

Richard Butler -Washington D.C. 1994  Photo taken by MJ Zander
Richard Butler -Washington D.C. 1994 Photo taken by MJ Zander

Richard Butler’s artistry goes beyond his music. A 2013 exhibit in New York entitled “ahatfulofrain” showcased his work that falls somewhere between abstract and visionary. Butler’s paintings are full of bizarre beauty with a dreamy quality that draws you into them. You can check them out here. https://player.vimeo.com/video/64023283?api=1&player_id=player_1

Butler has reunited with the Furs and is currently on tour.  You can find out more info here. http://www.thepsychedelicfurs.com/tour.html

Feasting with Panthers – A Tribute to Oscar Wilde

You saw the world and with words celebrated its beauty. Oscar_Wilde_Sarony

In verse you found an unspoken truth,

not confined by reason, religion or morals.

You gave and sought the return of love,

that came from within you, born in your soul.

You wrote sonnets and the moon understood.

The one you gave your scarlet to understood

only vanity as a mask for beauty.

The surface feeling of flesh was not your soul.

The sweetness of sorrow was your everlasting truth.

The thing that dare not speak its name, love,

buried by unseen beliefs others called morals.

Disgrace in your heart, a broken figure, sculpted by morals

pulled from a parchment the ancients understood.

Created from the hands of man without love,

ideals of faith covered in fabricated beauty,

preaching a tragic, false truth,

replaced passion with mourning in your soul

Nature followed art and bloomed in your soul.Oscar_Wilde

Carnations of green were your morals.

Within each petal held the fearless truth.

To live for pleasure and suffer for sorrow understood,

a darker scarlet revealing the price of beauty.

Without suffering there can not be love.

Man was a symbol, nature was God and suffering was love.

From the de profundis of your soul,

came a pure and naked beauty,

sacrificed in the brutal light of meaningless morals.

It was not you, who needed to be understood.

It was those who feared an ugly self –truth.

You found suffering to be the truth,

and art through sorrow created a deeper love.

The cold comfort of seclusion you understood,

while panthers feasted on your soul,

dining on a bitter meal of humility and morals.

You found suffering was its own beauty.

You didn’t seek to find truth, for it was already in your soul.

You sought the pleasure of love and received the pain of morals.

But you knew you were not from this time, you understood you were beauty.Oscar_Wilde_by_Napoleon_Sarony,_1882

Death of a Polaroid – A Manics Family Album

Death of a Polaroid
Death of a Polaroid

“As is so often the case with art-whether music, film, photography or painting-true beauty shines through in the imperfections.” -Nicky Wire

I love books. I’m actually kind of manic about them. (See what I did there?) Sometimes you come across one that is more than just a book. It’s an experience.

Nicky Wire’s Death of a Polaroid A Manics Family Album, is a rich, salient collection of stunning, personal images taken primarily by Nicky Wire and long time group photographer Mitch Ikeda. Almost 300 pages of poignant images sit between its pink covers. The images were chosen from Wire’s massive collection of Polaroids taken over the last 20 years. Wire describes it as “the unfolding and unraveling really, of four young kids that grew up in a bedroom, dreaming of taking over the world.”

A thoughtful foreword written by Wire, opens the book as he describes his ardor for the medium, which is followed by a in-depth conversation with Wire and Jeremy Deller. Deller, is an artist that has worked with the band over the years. In 1997 he put together an exhibit of artwork created by Manics fans entitled The Uses of Literacy. You can check it out here. http://www.jeremydeller.org/TheUsesOfLiteracy/TheUsesOfLiteracy.php

In an interview with the publisher, Farber & Farber, Wire stated his love of  Polaroids was due to their “simplicity” and “instantaneous beauty”.

The images are “unplanned randomness”  but placed in an order that creates a visual biography of the band. The majority of band photos are of the three remaining Manics, with Richey Edwards nicely represented in the early pages.

Wire's embellishments of
Wire’s embellishments of “The Everlasting”

The pictures taken by Nicky Wire show his love of the organic and abstract. To Nicky Wire, the Polaroid  “…is perfect for the medium of cataloguing a rock and roll band.” Many of the images embellished by Wire, give the viewer insight to his unique perspective.

This collection  of captured epoch moments in the history of the Manic Street Preachers is as diverse as their music. Like the Manics, it is beautiful, chaotic, and profound. Many of the images are compelling and provocative.

Death of a Polaroid -A Manics Family Album is not a book meant to sit on a shelf. It is an indulgement meant to be savored. As we move deeper into technology and social media, connecting with the rest of the world, a break back into a simpler time acts as a reboot. Nicky Wire may have Killed the Zeitgeist, but not before he preserved it in this book. IMG_2972

If you’d like to have a more thorough look through the book, you can do that here. http://www.farrowdesign.com/blog/nicky_wiredeath_of_a_polaroidbook_design_wk