Editor’s Note: The Albumism staff has selected what we believe to be 50 fantastic first solo albums recorded by artists who departed—or simply took a temporary hiatus from—their respective groups, representing a varied cross-section of genres, styles and time periods. Click “Next Album” below to explore each album or view the full album index here.
James Dean Bradfield | The Great Western
Selected by Stephen Lee Naish
After the lackluster response to their 2004 record Lifeblood, Manic Street Preachers opted for a short hiatus. It wasn't long before the creative itch was felt and both front man James Dean Bradfield and bassist Nicky Wire announced solo records. Both came out within two months of each other in 2006. Bradfield's The Great Western landed first on July 24th and Wire's I Killed the Zeitgeist on September 25th. Whilst both records have merit, it is worth considering them as a package in order to better understand the nature of the mother band.
The Great Western is a glorious soul guitar record which allows Bradfield room to breathe and his lyrics flow out. The only track that shares any similarity to Manic Street Preachers’ core sound is the opening track and first single "That's No Way To Tell A Lie" with its stabbing guitar lines and shouty vocal. After this, the record falls into a steady flow of ballads and anthemic rock songs.
I Killed the Zeitgeist on the other hand is a swaggering punk/pop record that whilst more reminiscent of the Manics earlier recordings, especially the Heavenly Records era, takes on a poignant and fairly sophisticated air. Up to this point and despite being the chief lyricist, Wire had only been heard barking backing vocals and had led only a handful of Manics songs (“Ballad of the Bangkok Novetel” being the best). Wire's voice was a mix of The Fall's Mark E. Smith and The Velvet Underground's Lou Reed, a kind of sneering punk rock drawl. Because of this, anticipation for this record among the general public wasn't high.
Nonetheless, Wire's voice suits his shabby compositions. The title track, “The Shining Path,” “Break My Heart Slowly” and “Kimino Rock” are definite highlights. What is fascinating is that dispite the two records’ obvious differences in sound and style, they form two sides of the same coin and perfectly encapsulate the influences and contradictions of the Manic Street Preachers.