❉ An appreciation of the Manics’ dark classic, released 25 years ago today.
At a time when Oasis sang of Cigarettes and Alcohol, Suede of a New Generation‘ and Blur had a jovial Phil Daniels talking about London suburbs, Manic Street Preachers unveiled an album so horribly downbeat even Robert Smith would have cried listening to it, releasing it one year before Radiohead released their miserable masterpiece, The Bends.
Where their previous two records had failed in their attempts to produce gigantic sounding albums, The Holy Bible stripped everything but the basics away; Nicky Wire, their bassist and most vocal member, himself stated that the band didn’t need to use everything at their disposal, favouring a low rent studio in Cardiff, in their home country. Rhythm guitarist Richie Edwards presided the recordings, but alcoholic priorities meant that he didn’t play on the album, leaving James Dean Bradfield to record the spiralling riffs. Never the greatest musician (he only ever played on a handful of Manic tracks), he proved to be an invaluable member in another area.
Where Gold Against The Soul featured the joint lyrical partnership of Wire and Richie Edwards (Edwards the Lennon to Wire’s McCartney, if you will), Bible turned out to be Edwards’ work primarily, as he attacked everything worthy of attack. Wire’s songs ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayit’sworldwouldfallapart and This Is Yesterday proved, however, that quality was more than a match for quantity.
The other lyrics were pure Edwards. “Scratch my leg with a rusty nail/sadly it heals” opened Die In The Summertime, a phrase that shocked the other members and gave an insight into the tormented mind of its author. Faster proved more scathing still,as singer James Dean Bradfield spoke of art seen as butchery. A controversial appearance on Top of The Pops, with Bradfield sporting a balaclava, led to the show’s largest number of complaints and placated the song as Edwards’ masterpiece.
Quick on guitar play, loud in its shouting, Bible was anything but subtle. No album since The Sex Pistols’ debut sounded so scary and so loud, particularly Revol, where its guitars sounded more like sirens than melodies. Yes lured listeners into a pop structure, before scaring them with lyrics of prostitution and Bradfield’s sincerity on the topic. Of Walking Abortion proved even nastier, a monster of profanities and guitar riffs. The title of The Intense Humming Of Evil said it all.
She Is Suffering proved the album’s sole respite, a tender song for the pop masses, albeit one written from the perspective of a victimised love. An earnest piece of Beatlesque pop, the song gave the Welsh rockers an unlikely number 25 U.K. hit.
The album’s themes may have seemed daring and artistic, but for Edwwards’, many proved a reality he could hardly cope with. Hospitalised in August 1994, the band announced his disappearance in February 1995. Though physically absent, his shadow never truly left them. The other three soldiered on without him for fifteen years, before finding themselves in artistic withdrawal. Retreating to a scrapbook of unused Edwards’ lyrics, the band released Journal for Plague Lovers in 2009, a record which reclaimed ‘Bible‘s glory and their most satisfying record in a decade.
❉ Manic Street Preachers – ‘The Holy Bible’ was originally released 30 August 1994 by Epic Records. A 20th Anniversary boxset edition of ‘The Holy Bible’ was released on 8 December 2014.
❉ A regular contributor to We Are Cult, Eoghan Lyng is a massive fan of the Manic Street Preachers. His writing has also appeared in New Sounds, Record Collector, CultureSonar, Punk Noir Magazine, DMovies, Phacemag and other titles. Follow him on Twitter. Visit his homepage.
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