Reef Younis is an obsessive fan who respects the power of goodbye.



Ask me what my favourite album is and I’ll either punch you in the face or walk away, muttering something about the “impossibilities” and “impracticalities” of such a “ridiculous” question. Ask me in a plural sense and it’s considerably less likely to result in casual violence. But, like any music fan, I will often find myself regressing, because as much as I like to convince myself I’m forward thinking, I’ll always, naturally, be inspired by what preceded.

More acutely, though, I find myself attracted to the legacy; the implosions; the disappearance; the silence and the prospect that we’ll never see or hear a band again. There’s romance in absence, in fundamental finality, and it’s a simple, cardinal rule: always leave them wanting more.

“The most important thing we can do is get massive and throw it all away. We only wanna make one album, one double album, 30 songs and that’ll be our statement, then we’ll split up. It’s all we wanna do; it’s what we’ve aimed for all our lives. There’s no glory in being top of the indie charts, there’s no glory in being Top 30. You’ve gotta be Number One. We just wanna be the most important reference point of the Nineties. That’s all.”

Remember that bold, definitive statement? It was a manifesto steeped in political anger and philosophical ideology; buried in beautiful lyrical prose; decorated in glitter and eyeliner and delivered at the fingertips, and by the voices of, four seemingly eternally angry skinny white boys who wanted to take over the fucking world. That was the Manic Street Preachers in 1990.

“Ask me this in 1999 and I’d have said ‘We’ll sell a million records’. Now, we could sell 50,000. We survived Madchester, Britpop, whatever. We’ve drifted away and made our own niche, much like the best bands do…we’ll always be around,” Nicky Wire, October, 2010. As a die-hard early Manics fan, I’ll vehemently argue their case until I run out of logic, reason or expletives but it’s not difficult to see the contrast. The sex, drugs and rock n roll is/was the doctrine of every rabble of adolescent upstarts looking to tote guitars in search of fame and money and it’s not a charge levelled solely at any one band.

Music history is littered with culprits (see Oasis, The Cure, Metallica, U2, Ryan Adams etc.) content with churning out half-baked albums of drivelling revivalism, a world away from the vitality of their earlier work and there is also a fine, self-righteous line mythologizing a band’s legacy, constantly feeding the mystique through fond reminiscence vs longevity and opportunity. After all, what self-respecting fan wouldn’t want the chance to see one of their favourite bands live and direct?

But it often dregs up the spectre of grizzled reformations; garish renaissance tours fuelled by commercial greed; super groups idly trotting out the line that they have something to prove other than the ability to meet the minimum payment on their Amex.

Few bands are arrogant enough to believe they’ll get it perfect first time but no one wants to hear dead relics either. When it works perfectly, we’re left with a spectre and a gnawing sense of conclusion that both thrills and angers at the mere mention of their name; the dormant love re-ignited; a reminder of the power and unrealised potential. But when that passion is put under needless routine demand, it’s like any relationship in that respect: you always know when it’s time to call it a day. Then again, perhaps I’ve just got commitment issues.

By Reef Younis

Originally published in issue 24 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. December 2010

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