“We’ll see you back in two years, hopefully,” said Manic Street Preachers’ Nicky Wire before stepping off stage at the London O2 Arena in December 2011.
The concert was supposed to be a giant send off before taking a well-earned break. They’d released three albums in as many years, touring the world with each one.
But now, the Welsh trio are back, with Rewind The Film – their 11th studio album – and a string of live shows. They’ve also already recorded their next album, to be released in 2014. Some holiday.
“We always knew it was going to be hard to be away,” says singer James Dean Bradfield, 44. “The word ‘institutionalised’ carries negative connotations, but we are – we’re institutionalised within the Manics; having something to aim for, being organised, having a schedule, deadlines, we love it.
“We’re very disciplined like that. And if you’ve written songs you love, it’s difficult not to want to play them to people. We nearly made it two years without playing a show in the UK,” he adds, smiling, “so that’s not so bad.”
Unlike previous album Postcards From A Young Man, which was full of the grandiose political statements, huge string arrangements and rousing choruses, Rewind The Film is smaller in scale and introspective in theme – not something normally associated with the Manics.
The new album’s title track sees Bradfield duet with Richard Hawley, one of the few musicians the un-starry guitarist counts as a friend. It’s one of three duets on the album, the others being 4 Lonely Roads with Welsh singer Cate Le Bon, and This Sullen Welsh Heart with Lucy Rose.
“I can hear the TV advert now – ‘Filled with a sense of self-doubt, mortality and the oncoming creep of one’s tender years – 12 new songs from the Manic Street Preachers’.
“We’ve never made things easy for ourselves, so let’s not start now.”