Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust set up the campaign ‘Let’s Get Lyrical’ to celebrate song lyrics. My chosen song is Manic Street Preachers’Faster:
I was sixteen years old and it was a glorious summer. I was simultaneously going through hell and having the best summer of my life. Everything was falling apart, and I was falling in love. All to the soundtrack of The Holy Bible.
One of the first adult books I read as a teenager was ‘1984’. Faster begins with the voice of John Hurt from the film version, and the themes from ’1984′ permeate the song. The lyrics play with perceptions of weakness and strength, looking at the means through which we construct ourselves to be able to function ‘normally’ in society. Faster explores the repercussions when dominant norms are rejected, the centre of which is the paraphrased Japanese proverb: “the nail that sticks up needs hammered down.”
I can recite every word of Faster, but always with James Dean Bradfield’s particular inflections shaping the words for me. They are impracticable lyrics, their impossibility adding to their perverse and beautiful magic. The lyrics are mischievous, and astutely self-aware, highlighting the self-regard in self-disgust. This is punctuated by an almost teen-like rebelliousness as idols are flippantly dismissed.
Faster is a story of self-destruction, but it never wallows in self-pity. The ascetic is collapsing under the weight of their own expectations, but the finality of complete collapse isn’t fulfilled in the lyrics. As we reach the misanthropic end, we are led back to the beginning, the architect choreographing our journey. We greet the pioneer and the pure, finding defiance and a rejection of society’s reductive values. Our attention is drawn to how we (mis)use words, the way we shape, and are shaped by, language. Habermas gives us the ideal speech situation, Derrida gives us the poison-cure. Faster and The Holy Bible are my poison-cure.
Faster is bleak, but I have always found it to be exuberant and oddly life-affirming. There is something delicious in its seduction, the way it has you singing along as if it is the happiest song in the world. Faster brings me to life like a broken marionette, a stilted walk, severed strings, a new way of engaging with the world. Faster on repeat, I am butcher, primitive, perverted, carrying the beautiful hell that was that glorious summer. The Holy Bible fuels my ambitions, and here I am – becoming Master. Seduced by this poison-cure, I have my ecstasy.