There’s a bubbling corner of my spleen that I’ve long held back from venting due to the subject’s popularity among people who hold him up as some kind of lyrical genius, but I’ve decided it’s time…
Nicky Wire, the Manics’ bassist, is a nobhead of quite overwhelming proportions. He represents everything that’s wrong with working class intellectuals who think just because they’ve read a few books, they can re-hash the bits that have sank into their spongy brains, pepper their speech with cultural references and bamboozle individuals more impressionable than they are, promoting themselves as some kind of bohemian academic.
The tipping point came when reading the interview in the latest edition of Q, where he name-dropped more people per column inch than Piers Morgan after an Elton John party. In a three page interview, he managed (deep breath): Bill Drummond, Bruce Springsteen, Julie Burchill, Lipstick traces, Greil Marcus, Allen Ginsberg, The Clash, Oscar Wilde, Morrissey, Alex Turner, Crystal Castles, Alan Bennet, Alex Kapranos, Brian Eno, Coldplay, Enya, George Bernard Shaw, Andy Warhol, Stanley Kubrick, Will Young, The Horrors, Robbie Coltrane, Emma Thompson, Will Self, Andrew Marr, Simon Jenkins, Kirsty Wark, Jeremy Paxman, Alexei Sayle, Sylvia Plath, Elizabeth Jennings, Carol Anne Duffy, Emily Dickinson and Stevie Smith.
As if this pompous splurge wasn’t enough, he later wrote a series of statements he wasn’t spontaneous enough to voice at the time to the interviewer in the hope they’d be included. Among these were such wanky gems as, “The internet destroys the mystery and serendipity of knowledge.” and “A blank piece of paper and a pen is the greatest invention. It is so exciting to be confronted by possibility.” Hmm, all sounds a little bit ‘GCSE’ to me.
In the sparse text that nestled in between this systematic reeling off of names, he actually revealed himself to be not unpleasant, but the sort of chap who probably shuffled around in his awkward teenage years gazing shoeward and mumbling “But I know I’m special…” under his breath, though he doesn’t seem to have ever grown out of it. The impression he gives now is that of a friendless twentysomething at a kids’ kickabout in the park, impressing young-uns who are in no position to compete with his silky skills but remaining a creature of ridicule among his own peers.
Frankly, we’ve all been there. I know I have, and I’ll unhappily be the first to admit that I spent a few years being a bit of a nob in not dissimilar fashion. I’m not saying he’s thick – far from it. I’m not even saying he’s not interesting, but give it a rest matey-pops; you’re spectacularly normal, nothing more. Stephen Fry once said something along the lines of ‘Real intelligence means never actually using it’. However, at the polar end of the intellectual scale is Nicky, who spouts tin-pot philosophy like an ejaculating adolescent.
I went to a see Everything Must Go once – a play written by his brother, Patrick Jones. The script, which was pretty awful, deliberately incorporated many of The Manics’ lyrics (a dodgy gimmick at the best of times), but far from being seamless, the torturous insertion of these little nuggets were like the textual equivalent of pushing a frantic and reluctant cat into a cardboard box prior to a trip to the vet’s:
“I can’t believe you’ve let me down.”
“Yeah, well you stole the sun from my heart.”
Ouch. It must run in the family.