Manic Street Preachers
The Holy Bible
10th Anniversary Edition
First Appeared in The Music Box, April 2005, Volume 12, #4
Written by John Metzger
Formed in 1991 and fashioned after The Clash, the Manic Street Preachers had its heart set upon rescuing the British music scene from the acid-drenched dance grooves pouring forth from Manchester, and it quickly became a controversial force that was either loved or hated by the English press. A strange episode of public mutilation by guitarist Richey James during an early interview — he carved the words "4 Real" into his arm — alluded to the troubled times to come, and sure enough, just as the ensemble was poised to enter and potentially conquer the American market, James disappeared without a trace, never to be found. As a result, the collective’s third album The Holy Bible wasn’t released in the U.S., though that didn’t stop the Manic Street Preachers from developing a cult of fans that spanned the globe. Despite its initial belief that a band should dissolve after releasing a single outing, the group, having already surpassed that mark, remained together, and although it continued to record and tour, it never fully recovered from its loss.
Indeed, The Holy Bible was the Manic Street Preachers’ finest moment, and with its revolutionary slogans, angst-filled despair, and snarling punk rock attitude, it was a direct descendent of The Clash’s London Calling, the Sex Pistols' Never Mind the Bullocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, Nirvana’s Nevermind, and Jane’s Addiction’s Ritual de lo Habitual. Ten years after the fact, the collection has been given the sort of treatment that is customary for classic albums. Its official U.S. debut comes as a 2-CD, 1-DVD set that includes the original album; the band’s preferred bombastic re-mix of the outing that Tom Lord-Alge prepared for the American market, which surprisingly is an improvement; a handful of thunderous concert cuts; several unremarkable demo recordings and radio sessions; numerous television appearances; a 30-minute interview with the surviving members; and several promotional videos. It’s an overwhelming amount of material, especially since The Holy Bible will be unfamiliar to most. Yet, the attention also is much deserved, even if the entirety of the affair doesn’t achieve the magnificence for which its ambition obviously strives.
Musically, Manic Street Preachers bends punk, pop, and heavy metal into a distorted mass of twisted, violent mayhem, and the entirety of The Holy Bible unfolds while punishing waves of percussion, ominous rumbles of bass, and rampaging assaults of guitar scream in a menacing fashion behind the disturbed howl of front man James Dean Bradfield. Yet, it’s the lyrical content that makes the collection so challengingly difficult to embrace. Pitting Nicky Wire’s socio-political rants against James’ tormented musings, the collection is abrasive, confrontational, and, at times, downright shocking in its examination of human suffering. True, there are moments when the group’s anarchist diatribes go astray, such as on the apparent pro-death penalty posturing of Archives of Pain or via the anti-gun control cheering — which admittedly might be intended as an anti-Ronald Reagan mantra — that concludes IfWhiteAmericaToldtheTruthforOneDayIt’sWorldWouldFallApart. For a leftist band, these two songs rather ironically embody the passions of the current conservative-minded American government, and its supporters likely would adopt the tunes as their own, if only the Manic Street Preachers didn’t scare the bejesus out of them. Even so, it isn’t likely that they’d wander much further than the opening song Yes, which harshly criticizes Western imperialism. Not surprisingly, however, it’s James’ compositions that cut the deepest, if only because buried within his images of anorexia (4st. 7lb.) and self-loathing (Die in the Summertime), he offers glimpses of his own dark soul. Where the passage of time has removed some of the biting sting from outings by the Sex Pistols and Nirvana, Manic Street Preachers’ The Holy Bible is as harrowing, horrifying, and intense as ever. Not to be taken lightly, the album also shouldn’t be overlooked.
The Holy Bible [Original Album] —
Bonus Materials —
The Holy Bible: 10th Anniversary Edition —
The Holy Bible: 10th Anniversary Edition is available
from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box