I want to fly and run till it hurts
Sleep for a while and speak no words in Australia
Koala (Thanks, Diliff - wiki)
On February 1st, 1995, the songwriter and rhythm guitarist for the Welsh rock ensemble Manic Street Preachers disappeared from a hotel in London. Richard James Edwards had been instrumental in elevating the band out of obscurity, securing cult status for the act with his political and intelligent lyrics. Officially presumed dead in 2008, Edwards’ mysterious disappearance left the band floundering and profoundly scarred, none more so than Nicky Wire, bassist and pianist for the band.
In the aftermath of Edwards' disappearance, the band started recording a new album, one that would be released in late 1996, Everything Must Go.
The album isn't their best, a fact attributed to Wire's emotional state and consequent writer's block in the wake of Edwards' absence. "Australia" was the fourth single released from the album and is a powerful metaphor for the emotional state of the band, particularly Wire's.
“Australia” is a song about the one place considered by the band to be furthest from Wales and everything that reminded them of Edwards. Australia is an enormous country, spanning almost 2,500 miles east to west. Even with industrialisation and a developing agricultural scene, the interior of the country remains mostly uninhabited desert, with strings of urbanisation along the coast.
Known for kangaroos, koalas and didgeridoos, Australia couldn't be more wild and different from the quaint Welsh towns from which the Manic Street Preachers hail. After being discovered by the Dutch in the early 17th Century, Eastern Australia was later claimed by Britain and served as a penal colony until the early 20th Century. Despite its dubious colonisation and controversial dealings with the Australian Aborigines, Australia today is a highly-developed country with the 13th largest economy in the world and, in the wake of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, has become a must-see on most tourist itineraries.
War memorial (Thanks, John Torres - English wiki)
For the Welsh lads of Manic Street Preachers, Australia represented a refuge from their emotional turmoil and confusion at the time. This is evident in the dark lyrics, “I don't know if I'm tired and I don't know if I'm ill, My cheeks are turning yellow, I think I'll take another pill.” Despite the darker nature of the album in its entirety, featuring singles such as "Kevin Carter," about the deeply troubled South African combat photographer who eventually took his own life following media backlash over his Pulitzer Prize winning photograph, Everything Must Go
still enjoyed relative success. The album was short-listed for the 1996 Mercury Prize for the best album and took away two BRIT Awards for Best British Band and Best British Album.
“Australia” is a lively rock song, the epitome of the Manic Street Preachers' sound and style: driving rhythms overlaid with melancholy and thought-provoking lyrics, this time, however, featuring Nicky Wire's voice without the previous dash of raunchy vocals provided by Edwards. Considering all that the band went through after Edwards' disappearance, it's a wonder the band held it together, having now maintained a successful career for over twenty years. ~ Suzanne van Rooyen
Suzanne is a tattooed storyteller from South Africa. She currently lives in Finland and finds the cold, dark forests nothing if not inspiring. Although she has a Master’s degree in music, Suzanne prefers conjuring strange worlds and creating quirky characters. Her published novels include
Dragon's Teeth, Obscura Burning, and
The Other Me. When not writing, she teaches dance and music to middle schoolers and eats far too much peanut-butter.