Manic Street Preachers: The Holy Bible
albums whose sound would come to define British music for the next three years and bring the rise of cool Britannia. It was a period of wild excess and effortless cool, music was making us dream of the impossible in the drabness and boredom of modern life. And then came the Manic Street Preachers and The Holy Bible.
The group, made up of singer James Dean Bradfield, guitarist Richey Edwards, bassist Nicky Wire and drummer Sean Moore, have always been profoundly and proudly against the current trends beginning in the midst of shoegaze as a powerchord, guitar solo driven arrogant monster and advert for graceless rebellion with their debut LP Generation Terrorists.
With this, their third album, the Manics have become leaner, meaner, more intelligent and more controversial and ambitious. Only they have the audacity to write songs about serial killers, American hypocrisy and teenage anorexia with an almost tremendous power to engage the listener. Clad in army fatigues and balaclavas the Manics, like JG Ballard who appears in Mausoleum, want the British public to look at themselves in the mirror and rub vomit in everyone’s face (ugh!). In doing this they embody the idea of the band as a gang which fondly recalls the heady days of punk.
But what about the music itself. Beginning with the storming opening Yes, which itself begins with a sample of Beebon Kidron about prostitution, a powerful message as they are almost hoaring their worldview on a public that may not be ready for them. Indeed the entire album can be seen as a special type of concept album with the band taking shots at anorexia in 4st 7lbs, the homoerotic rumour amidst the Russian revolution, and American xenophobia and foreign policy in ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayitsworldwouldfallapart.
The greatest feat, however is not the topicality or savage content of The Holy Bible, but it’s execution. The credit for this lies with frontman and lion voiced James Dean Bradfield who manages to weave punk rock structure and timing with riffs that bring to mind a serrated blade around Richey Edwards and Nicky Wires dense manifestos, it is Bradfield that holds this battalion together. You would think with this much musical and lyrical bile being thrown about the album would become overindulgent, which the Manics have been known for in the past, but this isn’t the case as this album showcases a new sense of, if only slightly, vulnerability. On songs like This is Yesterday in which they reveal that as arrogant they usually are, they don’t have all the answers. While this is a welcome change of pace, it s thankfully short lived with the inclusion of the Intense Humming of Evil about the “six million screaming souls” of the holocaust and musically owes a debt to Joy Divisions Closer.
Of course, we all know what happened next .Richey Edwards, who mental and physical health were deteriorating rapidly, went missing in 1995 and has never been found. The band themselves have carried on and to great success but The Holy Bible is the Manics at their most creative, most confrontational and most importantly most together.
By Kevin Boyle