Manic Street Preachers
The Holy Bible


5.0
classic

Review

by Christopher Y. USER (42 Reviews)
August 8th, 2019 | 31 replies


Release Date: 1994 | Tracklist

Review Summary: …of everything not nice.

Old Times Series: (Part 4)

(Note: This review only study the original UK mix version of the album, instead of the US mix that came with the 20th anniversary box set of the record)

When I was writing my debut review in this site about Slowdive’s Souvlaki, I (sort of) wrote off Manic Street Preachers for failing to achieve the same degree of American success as the one of the shoegazing big three nowadays, especially when guitarist/lyricist Richey Edwards made a despising comment about them (try typing “I hate Slowdive more than Hitler” on any social media without provoking anyone nowadays) and later disappeared, not to mention Slowdive earned a Top 50 album in the Billboard 200, where the Manics had none on the chart at all. At the time I first made such comment, I felt sense of joyful relief, as I thought I should mention how Slowdive finally triumph over the notorious rockers who was then best-known for their public antics and political lyrics back in 1993, as I thought the reason why Preachers were able to maintain a vast longevity was simply because of what I thought was their brainless fans in the UK. However, when I plugged my earphone to listen to the Preachers’ 1994 album The Holy Bible, it finally clarified many things about the troubled Richards, as it sounds he was struggling from his personal demons and the band’s distaste for the then-current politics at the time, which affect the band in some degree, not unlike Brit-pop’s godfather Suede did in Dog Man Star. Unlike the grandiose darkness of Dog Man Star, The Holy Bible is a bleak, isolated portrait that some might not understand fully, but would feel a profound sense of catharsis and triumph for those who are able to, and an breathtaking astonishment for their stunning musical prowess that solidifies them as British rock legends.

The opening tracks “Yes” and “Ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayit'sworldwou ldfallapart” alone made a remarkable opening for the journey towards the dark side of human’s psyche: the hard-edged former is an anguished diary of a prostitute, as singer/guitarist James Dean Bradfield sang the emptiness the sex worker experienced(“And I don't know what I'm scared of or what I even enjoy/Dulling, get money, but nothing turns out like you want it to”), while acknowledging that the dangerous job is not the solution to resolve poverty(“Just an ambulance at the bottom of a cliff”), and lamenting that he/she is no longer clean as it used to be(“The only certain thing that is left about me/There is no part of my body that has not been used”), and ultimately scorning the depravity of the modern society in the chorus(“He's a boy, you want a girl so tear off his c**k”), with the band performed a post-punk-driven music section, a sound that would not only set the icy yet rocking tone for the rest of the album, but would be one that would lay the groundwork for the acts of the 2000s post-punk revival such as Interpol; Began with a GOP TV show’s sample, the punky, bassist Nicky Wire-penned latter is a funnily lacerating satire against the growing americanism and conservative politics in Britain at the time, whether Wire is jokingly claimed explicit label advocate Tipper Gore is a friend of his in the chorus, while ranting against the surging racism in America(“Vital stats - how white was their skin/Unimportant - just another inner-city drive-by thing”) and the hypocrisy within them(“Your idols speak so much of the abyss/Yet your morals only run as deep as the surface”), constructing a tune that is heartbreaking and evermore relatable in this tumultuous era. They would not be the only songs in this album that captures the more sociopolitical sides of the Manics themselves, as they would tackle various corner of the abyss itself, such as the repression of freedom of speech as a result of overt political correctness (The Clash-recalled caricature “P.C.P.”), the rise of fascism and totalitarianism (the twisted “Of Walking Abortion”), media’s glorification of serial killers and capital punishments (the heavy metal-infused “Archives of Pain”), the emptiness caused by overt amount of desires (the brooding highlight “She Is Suffering”), the anger towards the judgemental society (the adrenaline-driving “Faster”) and the horrors of the holocaust (the groove-laden “Mausoleum” and the industrial rock-infused “The Intense Humming of Evil”), which perfectly mirrored the darker post-punk sound that the band never experimented prior or ever since. With The Holy Bible, the Manics proved they could make a great leap forward musically instead of repeating the same pattern of American rock like Gold Against the Soul, and the fact that the lyrics team of Wire and Edwards finally penned something political without disposing the depth and expansiveness of the theme itself.

Even there are numerous political-oriented songs within this record, it doesn’t mean the band would shy away from more personal songs as well: “4st 7lb” is a harrowing, semi-autobiographical portrait of Edwards’ own struggle with anorexia, where the title refers to the weight (about 29kg) where death is medically unavoidable for anorexics, as Edwards penned as a girl who is obsessed with “perfect body” model being fascinated at her increasingly slim body while risking her own health(“Stretch taut, cling-film on bone/I’m getting better”), yet she is not satisfied with her already low weight(“Problem is diet's not a big enough word/I wanna be so skinny that I rot from view”), and ultimately, when the song enters the arpeggio-driven minimalist sonics, she finally succumbed to her obsession(“Self-worth scatters, self-esteem's a bore/I long since moved to a higher plateau”); ”This Is Yesterday” and “Die in the Summertime” are melancholic, suicidal tunes where the band lamented about aging and dying in an early age, with the New Wave-infused former finds Bradfield’s gently distorted vocals and flanged guitars flourishing the lyrics regarding to humans being increasingly frail due to aging and remembering the glorious past, and the Pornography-like latter finds the quartet embrace death at a young age. Even the designated single “Revol” also captures the dreary mood of Richards in this record, as the guitar-fuelled pseudo-anthem utilised the chock full of political references and created a dark lament about the rise and fall of a romantic relationship, as Bradfield bitterly compares various political figures with stages of a love life, from the comparison of Soviet Union founder Lenin’s rise and his own sexual awakening, Trotsky’s political exile as his own romantic one and Louis Farrakhan’s support for the reparation of various oppressions in the US as the couple’s divorce (“Farrakhan - alimony alimony”), among many imageries and comparisons. With these poignant moments, it is clear that Edwards’ mental health was extremely frail, and thus affecting both his physical health and the band’s longevity, yet it also clarifies him and Wire as a stunning songwriter and the band as an astounding musicians to begin with, as they no longer the primitive punk-rockers who proclaimed to be the so-called Generation Terrorist.

With The Holy Bible, the Welsh rockers leaned towards the darker, heavier post-punk/goth rock instead pf their previous American-sounding, punk-rock-oriented efforts, or even all their future albums, and created a singular masterpiece that they would never surpass ever since. Heavy, morbidly bleak, blood-chilling, yet ultimately captivating, it is the British equivalent to Nirvana’s In Utero. Even though it became their highest-charting album in the UK upon its release (peaking at number six), and all the three singles of this record reached the Top 30, it nonetheless became a commercial disappointment, which is not too surprising given to the record’s overtly difficult nature, and the fact that it was released on the very same day when Oasis’ Definitely Maybe was released. If Souvlaki is a melancholic catharsis as a result of heartbreak, and Dog Man Star is a ragged portrait that paints the disillusionment of social contacts, then The Holy Bible is an underground archive that documents every human atrocities and sufferings, as the Manics sculpture their journey to the bottomless abyss of human psyche and Edwards’ epic personal struggles that very few would dare to replicate with their own pens and ink. This album might not convince the naysayers that the Preachers is a legitimate rock act, even after 25 years since its initial release, since it’s rather inaccessible and remained heavily on political themes and references, but for some, it clarifies how mentally tortured Edwards was before his disappearance that led to his troublesome behavior, and for me, perhaps that Slowdive insulting comment is more than just his personal disgust on the now shoegazing legends, and more importantly, it captures Manic Street Preachers’ lightning in a bottle like no other Manics albums and very few other acts did, while making their infamous career upstart virtually non-existent.

Personal Rating: 4.9/5

Personal Favourite:
Yes
Ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayit'sworldwouldf allapart
She Is Suffering
Archives of Pain
Revol



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Comments:Add a Comment 
SherlockChris9021
August 8th 2019


192 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Hi guys, this is the fourth installment of the Old Times Series. I fell in love with this album when I was traveling in Tokyo with my parents, and began to love the band's other work. I felt like I should write this, because there is the really fucked up situation in Hong Kong here, and this review somehow gave me the catharsis.

I also need to notify you guys that the following Modern Times and Mid-year reviews will also feature albums that are quite political and heavy, I hope you guys would understand my rather messy mood because of the turmoil here.

As always, constructive criticism is always welcomed.

dwightfryed
August 8th 2019


69 Comments


Good one. I've been wanting to check out MSP.

I usually enjoy bands that were big in UK but not rhe US.

All my Vertigo-label discs are living proof!!

Digging: James Gang - Yer' Album

TVC15
August 8th 2019


10169 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Greatest album of all time (which is saying alot considering I’m an American born a couple years after the Preachers’ prime). The US Mix isn’t too shabby either

Zorg
August 8th 2019


305 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Hypocritical posturing, sloganeering and adolescent politics. Wire is a moron and Edwards was legitimately batshit. Music is alright but not great compared to contemporaries. This album is a 2, 2.5 max.

GhandhiLion
August 8th 2019


5331 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Yeah, but the singer got lost m8

Digging: Art Zoyd - Generation sans futur

Artuma
August 8th 2019


30997 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

it wasn't the singer

GhandhiLion
August 8th 2019


5331 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

That's me presuming the lyricist was the singer.

GhandhiLion
August 8th 2019


5331 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

When the music is alright but you are a reactionary so you give it a 2.

BMDrummer
August 8th 2019


14638 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

like half of zorg's comments are on threads for this album



listened to this almost everyday last summer, bad times

fogza
August 8th 2019


276 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

"Music is alright but not great compared to contemporaries"



Like who? Oasis and Blur? And don't get me wrong, I really like the first Oasis record.

fogza
August 8th 2019


276 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Bradfield is unbelievable on this record. Setting the lyrics to "Yes" to music must have been nuts.

GhandhiLion
August 8th 2019


5331 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

"Like who? Oasis and Blur?"

No. Gang Of Four, Girls Against Boys, NIN.

fogza
August 8th 2019


276 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I'd hardly consider gang of four contemporaries of MSP.

TVC15
August 8th 2019


10169 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

NIN is really reaching for “contemporaries,” very different lane let alone scene and country, Gang of Four were way past their prime in the 90s (let alone relevant). Never heard of Girls Against Boys so I have no opinion on that choice.

GhandhiLion
August 8th 2019


5331 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

@Fogza

Why not? Despite the lack of good albums at the time, they were a great live band.



@TVC



" NIN - very different lane let alone scene and country"

Doesn't matter, they were still around at the same time. Also it isn't completely unrelated given the influence of the downward spiral on this album.

fogza
August 8th 2019


276 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

My understanding of contemporary is of the same time, not active at the same time - Suede is more of a contemporary of MSP. And THB is not musically inferior to Entertainment anyway.

EoinCofa
August 8th 2019


231 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great album! One of my faves

SherlockChris9021
August 8th 2019


192 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Welp, let's check the comment sections.

*Sees the comment sections.

Yikes, really guys? I mean this is not everyone's cup of tea, and that not everyone likes the band, but still, are we still going for this argument.

For the clarification, the singer here is not actually the lyricist. In fact, he is only in charge of composing the songs with the drummer, and the lyrics are handled by, as I said before, guitarist Richey Edwards (the one who struggled a lot and wrote the majority of the lyrics) and bassist Nicky Wire.

BMDrummer
August 9th 2019


14638 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

i guess commie post-punk just isn't for everyone



shame, really

Artuma
August 9th 2019


30997 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

go to bed brendan



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