Released at the height of Britpop in the mid-1990s, the album was a commercial and critical success, it is considered one of the best rock albums of the decade and of all time, and to this day the album has sold more than two million copies worldwide. Everything Must Go was placed by the NME in number 182 in their list of 500 greatest albums of all time.
Everything Must Go represents a change of style for the band. Their previous album, The Holy Bible, had been a stark, disturbing album with a minimal amount of instrumentation, whilst this album embraces synths and strings, has a more commercial feel and fits with the Britpop movement that was prevalent at the time. The lyrical focus of the album is also shifted, due in part to Edwards' departure. Instead of introspective and autobiographical tracks such as "4st 7lb", Wire's predilection for historical and political themes dominates; however, five songs feature Edwards' lyrics; the last time his lyrics would feature in a Manics album until 2009's Journal for Plague Lovers. The album's lyrical themes would continue through their next record, This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours.
Subjects tackled on the album include the tragic life of the photographer Kevin Carter, on the track of the same name, Willem de Kooning and the maltreatment of animals in captivity on "Small Black Flowers That Grow in the Sky" (which is a quote from the film The Best Years of Our Lives. The latter track, with lyrics by Edwards, can also be interpreted as an exploration of his mental state before his disappearance; the line "Here chewing your tail is joy" for instance may be as much about Richey's self-harm as it is the tormented self-injury of zoo animals.
Part of the rhythm guitar on "No Surface All Feeling" was recorded by Edwards before his disappearance, making it only the second time that Edwards' guitar-work was present on a Manic Street Preachers recorded track (the other instance being "La Tristesse Durera (Scream to a Sigh)" on Gold Against the Soul.) Bradfield typically performs all the guitar parts for their recordings.
Writing for Q magazine in June 1996, Tom Doyle thought that Everything Must Go had "little in common" with its predecessor, The Holy Bible, and saw the album as a return to, and improvement upon, the "epic pop-rock" sound of Gold Against the Soul. He noted the band's choice of producer, Mike Hedges, as a possible contributing factor to the overall change in sound, and drew parallels to the lyrics of Kurt Cobain and the "reverb-laden" music of Phil Spector. Nicholas Barber of The Independent described Everything Must Go as "the most immediate, assured and anthemic British hard-rock album since Oasis's Definitely Maybe". He also thought that the record was more accessible when comparing it to the "crushingly heavy-going" sound of The Holy Bible, especially, he noted, for a band "who once would have spat at the breadhead, corporate-sell-out idea of a hummable ditty. "Vox magazine's Mark Sutherland saw Everything Must Go as the group's "most approachable" album, describing it as a "record so superb it might just make intelligence fashionable again", and surmising that the album "proves that, professionally, at least, the Manic Street Preachers don't miss Richey. "
In 1998, Q readers voted it the 11th greatest album of all time, while in 2000 the same magazine placed it at number 39 in its list of the "100 Greatest British Albums Ever". The album also won the award for Best British Album at the 1997 Brit Awards.
As with the lead single "A Design for Life", the album peaked at #2 in the UK charts. "Everything Must Go", "Kevin Carter" and "Australia" were also released as singles and reached the UK Top 10. So far the album has gone Triple Platinum in the UK and is their most successful album to date, spending 82 weeks in the top 75 albums with the album still in the top 5 a year after its release.
A 10th anniversary edition of the album was released on 6 November 2006. It included the original album, demos, B-sides, remixes, rehearsals and alternate takes of the album's songs, spread out over two CDs. An additional DVD, featuring music videos, live performances, TV appearances, a 45-minute documentary on the making of the album, and two films by Patrick Jones, completed the three-disc set.