In 1991, Manic Street Preachers declared with great hubris that they would “release one album that will outsell ‘Appetite For Destruction’, tour the world, headline Wembley for three nights and then burn out”. 25 years later they’ve just played a sell-out tour honouring their first ‘mature’ album, ‘Everything Must Go’. It’s not three nights at Wembley and the debut never outsold that Guns ‘N Roses, but we’re glad to see them back anyway. Manic Street Preachers were one of the many bands to set out their stall in sweeping, manifesto-like statements, and while their self-destruction never worked out, bits of music’s great manifestos have much to teach us. Here are some of the best.
“Don’t make punk rock”.
From the manifesto of: Bill Drummond, KLF
Twenty years after burning a million quid in a situationist prank, Drummond has sage advice for a younger generation in the form of his 10 Commandments For Art. His reasoning behind his unlikely statement is that art forms soon become old. He explains: “The instant a music can be defined as a genre and thus copied, it’s dead.”
“Art should be accessible to everyone”
From the manifesto of: Pussy Riot
The girls from Pussy Riot make some admirable statements in their manifesto, but taking their art to the people caused them major trouble. Their decision to perform the politicised punk ‘prayer’ ‘Hail Mary, Expel Putin’ at a Moscow cathedral landed two members in Russia’s finest correctional facility.
“Escape the constant, endless, meaningless jabbering that distracts you from who you really are and what you really want to do.”
From the manifesto of: Jarvis Cocker
Good old Jarvis is bang on trend with his ode to simpler times. His Nu-Troglodyte Manifesto was published earlier this year in AnOther, and in short the former Pulp man is urging us all to get off the internet so we get stuff done. Using a cave as his metaphor for forgoing the distractions of technology, he references the Beatles beginnings at The Cavern in Liverpool. Jarvis explains: “Back in the cave. I mean – c’mon: why do you think it was even called ‘rock music’ in the first place?” Tweet him in agreement.
“Having deconstructed everything we should be thinking about putting everything back together”
From the manifesto of: Savages
Savages’ manifesto appeared emblazoned on their debut album ‘Silence Yourself’, and echoes Jarvis Cocker’s in its appeal to drown out the unnecessary ‘noise’ of modern life. Savages warn the excessive noises will, “divert your attention to what’s convenient.”
“Keep to the point”
From the manifesto of: Wire
After a lot of intellectualising, Wire are on hand to offer up some no nonsense advice. Their succinct set of seven tenets is a refreshing antidote to other, sometimes, self-important and overblown mandates. They are: No solos, No declaration, When the words run out it stops, No chorusing out, No rocking out, Keep to the point, No Americanisms.
“I’ve got better things to do than sit around and fuck my head, hang out with the living dead”.
From the manifesto of: Minor Threat
Arguably, ‘Straight Edge’ is a song rather than a manifesto, but it might as well be. The songs lyrics chart the punk subculture’s rejection of the use of drugs or alcohol, and is an anthem for temple-bodied punks the world over.
“I believe with my whole heart mind body that girls constitute a revolutionary soul force that can, and will change the world for real.”
From the manifesto of: Bikini Kill
Acting as spokepeople for the Riot Grrrl movement Bikini Kill published a coherent manifesto in their zine in 1991. It might be 25 years old, but the sentiment is still sadly pertinent to new generation of feminists.
“Whatever the use artists make of theory, academic discourse can only become interesting if it is modified and changed by its object in some way and is engaged by readers on its own (modified) terms.”
From the manifesto of: Hunter Hunt-Hendrix, Liturgy
— Totally Dublin (@totallydublin) October 26, 2015
Black metaller Hunt-Hendrix wrote a 100-page thesis on the genrew named Transcendental Black Metal: A Vision of Apocalyptic Humanism. Unafraid of taking himself or his art too seriously Hunt-Hendrix embarked on something earnest, exhaustive and long. So very long.
“A dictionary means nothing unless you listen to the words”.
From the manifesto of: Manic Street Preachers
Although the band never released a formal manifesto, they did release regular news letters complete with comprehensive views on the state of the world. It’s an apt metaphor for the band and music manifestos as a whole. May be we should take a little time to listen to what they have to say. Unless, of course, it’s a hundred page bafflingly batshit piece on black metal.