More than ever, the Manics - with the Smiths, Britain's greatest anti-pop pop group - stand out as the last of a line: born as they were into the last generation raised on and defined by "classic" British socialism, they were the last generation to even be aware of the concepts and contexts that defined everything they did, from Generation Terrorists' Marxist dissection of Guns N' Roses ("Condemned to Rock'n'Roll" by the deliberate, organised actions of Thatcherism) to the lush despair of Gold Against the Soul (classic post-92-election ennui) to the absolute apocalypse of The Holy Bible (released in 1994, in so many ways the most important post-Cold War cultural year). All that "New Labour, New Manics" stuff was utterly unjustified by the lyrical content of Everything Must Go - as the band's biographer Simon Price once commented, "A Design for Life", like "Common People", was important precisely because it was anti-Blairite - but their appropriation was inevitable considering the times, and in some ways they never quite recovered. The platinum sales covered and hid the fact that, in terms of the wider culture, they were (unfortunately) already walking shells.
They were a life-changing teenage experience for me (as with The Moomins or Moondial, the two TV series that had the biggest long-term impact on me in childhood, the full meaning and context of that experience will not be shared by anyone even slightly younger). I still feel more affinity to them, in terms of what they believe and stand for, of their grounding and background: as I've stated previously, I feel that British pop as we had known it died in about 1995, and what we have now is a fundamentally different (and inferior) thing, in terms of its dynamic, its background, its audience and its ideology. But somehow I don't want to listen to their new stuff, I feel it would almost be living on dreams, false promises of a pop, a set of principles, that we can never see again and it would be (however sadly) futile even to try. If I listen to grime or bassline more than any other current British music, it's because a) they're made by people who are fundamentally excluded from, and can never connect to, the nouveau bourgeoisie (whose equivalents would once have blissfully left pop altogether alone) that most current British pop is made by and for, and b) they are at least entirely of this moment, and stop me living on ghosts and dead dreams of irretrievable pop glories.
So, yes. I'm glad this album has been made. It will undoubtedly be better than almost any other British album this year (although that means less than it may appear to now the internet has decisively shifted the centre of gravity in British pop - and all pop - back where it started, to the individual song, the moment). But do I want to listen to it? It would, in many ways, be evn more lacerating than The Holy Bible was the first time you heard it. And I'm not sure whether I can take that. Call me a coward. You'd probably be right.