My first impression of the sleeve cover was, "How she reminds me of Richey Edwards!" Confused and apprehended, bloodshed and morbid. Richey was of course never confused. He was strong-willed (stronger than Mensa, Miller and Mailer) and a firm believer (of nothing).
To say richey is the gist or the soul of the band is a bit unfair to the other members and also a mystification or even deification of the very person. I still love Manics after the AWOL of Richey Edwards and consider Lifeblood as one of their best albums. However, with the magic touch of Richey (so actually it's me who mystify him), Manic Street Preachers lives up to its name again, preaching the unfinished business of the holy bible, fervently, with vehemence and sympathy, sometimes with rare tenderness. Still captivated by failed heroes/villains (Marlon J.D.), sympathetic with victims (She Bathed Herself In A Bath Of Bleach), skeptical of banality (Me and Stephen Hawking, Facing Page: Top Left) and hatred to the reign and the dominant, whitewash and lies (Journal for Plague Lovers, Virginia State Epileptic Colony), it is the good old manics we know from the idealistic angry young man in Generation Terrorists and Gold Against The Soul to the misanthropist in The Holy Bible. In Journal For Plague Lovers, anger and pain is further internalized, but silence is not sacrifice. The misanthropist becomes weary and withdrawn, seeking for an untethered place for a tired soul (This Joke Sport Severed, William's Last Words). These are the rare tender moments for the manics, though these also are the heart-breaking moments for those who love the person or the band. I never have problem with the voice of Nicky Wire (and cannot understand why people feel so abhorrence). I even think it's better to have Nicky to sing William's Last Words, laid-back and playful, he mollifies the otherwise too sentimental song.
My favourites are All Is Vanity and Doors Closing Slowly. Manics becomes the manic supporter of the authoritarian in AIV, people are simply lacking intelligence to make the right choice or, it makes no difference if we have choices or not, they are all lies after all, that's very cynical and very err ... richey.
Besides your cynicism, what else have you got? Emptiness and nothingness growing since teenage years has never died away, sense of uselessness only grows stronger. Doors closing slowly, so are you trapped within or without? Maybe it's true that crucifixion is easier than the stale existence and decaying. "In the end we had pieces of the puzzle but no matter how we put them together gaps remained. Oddly-shaped emptiness mapped by what surrounded them like countries we couldn't name." The world is noisy (listen to the voice of the accomplishment). What's your yearning? What's your loathing? Distant guitar with military / funeral drumbeats, clock-ticking, humdrum and routine, but your days are numbered, and you are mute.