Nearly Perfect Albums – #21

The Holy Bible – Manic Street Preachers

For a band that once stated that they wanted to become the Welsh Guns ‘N’ Roses, ‘The Holy Bible’ is a world away from that.  In fact its two worlds away.  Its an album that is absolutely shaking with fury and rage at just about everything.  It’s also a record that the band could only make once, and in fact very little that the band recorded after this went anywhere close to it, both musically and lyrically.   It is a work of genius, albeit, a bleak and claustrophobic work of genius. 

Musically, ‘The Holy Bible’ is an incredible listen, it took the stadium dynamics of ‘Gold Against The Soul’ and hissy fit mock punk histrionics of ‘Generation Terrorists’ and ceremoniously chucked them in the nearest dustbin.   After doing that the band embraced, new wave, avantgarde art rock, industrial soundscapes, and most surprisingly, goth.  What they created bristled with energy, anger, and ferocity.

Faster – Manic Street Preachers (1994, Epic Records)

Yes – Manic Street Preachers (1994, Epic Records)

Of course, the dark heart that runs through this record is that of Richey Edwards.  Edwards was at the time, alongside Kurt Cobain, probably the most brilliant lyricist of his generation.  In 1994, whilst this record was being written and recorded Edwards was ravaged by depression, alcoholism, anorexia and self harm and ‘The Holy Bible’ is in some way his method of documenting his final breakdown. 

A key example of this is ‘Archives of Pain’, a song that is intended as a tribute to the victims of murder, which appears to request the return of the death penalty, lyrics are choked out about “redemption” and “regret”.  Elsewhere in the aforementioned ‘Faster’ James Dean Bradfield venomously spits out “I am an architect; they call me a butcher” as self harm is tackled amazingly.

Archives of Pain – Manic Street Preachers (1994, Epic Records)

Knowing what happened after this record was released, it seems almost ghoulish to revel in its brilliance, effectively we are applauding the misery of a breakdown.  It also feels weird to heap praise on a record that seems so intent to wallow it such bleakness, but its impossible to not do so. 

I sometimes find it difficult to talk about something that comes from genuine anguish, its easier, perhaps, to just leave it.  But, on occasion that anguish is so vividly described that portraying it as anything other than beautiful feels just wrong, but conversely saying its beautiful also feels wrong.  ‘4st 7lbs’, Richey Edwards’ own personal struggle with anorexic is exactly this. A song that is so harrowing and complex that it almost feels superior in its stark beauty, particularly when James Dean Bradfield sings “I want to walk in the snow and leave no footprint”.  I mean its such a beautiful line, but just so tragically sad at the time.

4st 7lbs – Manic Street Preachers (1994, Epic Records)

1 Comment

  1. JC says:

    I’ve tried, more than once, to find a way to appreciate and maybe later on, like this album. Just hasn’t ever clicked……..


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