Manic Street Preachers - The Holy Bible
It might come as a surprise to some but The Manic Street Preachers started out as ultra glam cross-dressing rockers with communist sentiments. Partly responsible for opening the door to Welsh musical talent, they were vigorously exciting, wild, and rebellious just like all great rock bands should be. Now much older, wiser, and wealthier The Manics can be considered a totally different band sounding far more comfortable with the establishment they built a career on detesting and knocking out generic self celebratory indie songs which fall far beneath the talent they have when they’re actually trying. Taking this criticism on board from an increasingly frustrated fan base The Manics opted for a more back to basics direction with their most recent studio effort Know Your Enemy.
The Holy Bible marks the transitional period between the bands wavering idealism’s of youth and the bloated over produced sound which took place after the disappearance of their own rock catalyst Richey James. Quite simply it seeks to reveal all what’s vile and vulgar in modern society and recent history written by a band at their creative peek. The album immediately steals your attention with its richly dark lyrical content - “For sale? Dumb c**ts same dumb questions” says James Dean Bradfield in his opening line from Yes, a song about prostitution and to a lesser extent a criticism of liberal free market economy. His unrelenting rants are at times difficult to pin down and even harder to build music around yet somehow it all just about holds together. The fact that it rightfully shouldn’t is credit to the height of the creativity of the band at the time of writing.
Merciless and articulate criticism with an occasional whiff of dark comedy is a running theme throughout the album, none more so than in Ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayit’sworldwouldfallapart (spelt exactly like that). As you might expect from such a title the band voice dissatisfaction at American ideology over the top of a taunting military themed sound scape. “Images of perfection, suntan and napalm - Grenada - Haiti - Poland - Nicaragua - who shall we choose for our morality” – Although written in the early 90’s it’s never seemed more appropriate than right now, practically a reinvented anthem for the anti-George Bush Jnr brigade. Of Walking Abortion sees the band skillfully creating music just as disturbing as the lyrical content, fueled by a doom ridden bass line beneath scratchy guitars with malicious vocals mocking the so-called moral majority for being too middle-class and complacent about Global issues. In hindsight I guess some would argue it’s almost ironic.
There are a wide number of emotions covered on The Holy Bible, be it the sympathetic hopelessness of She if Suffering or the sheer terror of what man is capable of when laying down the foundations of his own ideology in The Intense Humming of Evil. We do however get some light relief from the doom and gloom (musically speaking) like the appropriately titled Faster - with guitars at full pelt and a plentitude of dissonant words it shows the Manics have a sophisticated understanding of the pace changes required for an album as complex and multi-layered as this. Also worthy of note is the equally loud Revol in which Bradfield lists and berates the leaders of the USSR, even going as far as to knock the first democratically elected Russian leader, President Yeltsin – and that’s just the first verse. Avril Lavigne fans and wannabe sk8ter boi’s would have no trouble embracing the track if only the lyrical content was about loser boyfriends and shopping malls rather than historical references. But for me the real jewel in the crown is the short pop punk blast P.C.P. Again words are crammed into every nook and cranny. Even though the song is played at break neck speed the high standard of articulation never gets sacrificed – “Teacher starve your child, PC approved, as long as the right words are used. Systemised atrocity ignored as long as bi-lingual signs on view”, not the easiest lyrics to roll off the tongue.
If you really wanted to find fault with The Holy Bible you’d probably be able to quite easily. Musically speaking it’s either shambolic or superb depending on one’s perseverance and personal interpretation. Many of the songs have a loose unstructured feel which may well grate with those who are more used to the heavily polished sound of diluted power pop. A compelling chorus is often savagely pulled apart by a disjointed guitar riff leading back to the verse. Some might say they’re too many names, too many literacy references, too much negativity, and too much vulgarity. Being bombarded with rants about prostitution, anorexia, communist corruption, capitalist corruption, suicide, and the 1940’s holocaust can be both depressing and exhausting, but then whoever said works of art had to be entertaining?. The Holy Bible is as equally skillful, muddled, confused, and troubled musically as it is lyrically (or probably more accurately, how Richey James appears to be at the time of writing). Criminally ignored upon its release, you’re well advised to seek it out if you haven’t already. It may well be the bleakest and most terrifyingly honest album you’ll ever hear and certainly one of the most fascinating.