+manics albums: no. 1+

“I wanted to rub the human face in its own vomit and force it to look in the mirror.” J. G. Ballard

NUMBER ONE: THE HOLY BIBLE (August 29, 1994)
Favorite tracks: Die in the Summertime; Mausoleum; Archives of Pain; Of Walking Abortion; Ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedaysit’sworldwouldfallapart; Revol; Faster

As I finally sit down to write my thoughts about The Holy Bible, I feel more than intimidated. It’s not just that this is my favorite Manics album. It is that The Holy Bible is possibly one of the finest rock albums ever recorded, and I do not write that statement lightly.

When I first became a Manic Street Preachers fan, I began to hear tales of The Holy Bible, how it was the one Manics album every person should own, how it put all their other albums to shame, and how brutal of an album it was. When the album was finally released in the United States in the form of the 10th Anniversary Edition, I greedily snatched up a copy at my local shop and listened to it with much anticipation. And as it turns out, everything I had heard about the album was true. It was vicious. It was unapologetic. And it was absolutely brilliant.

The task falls to me now to describe to you why I and so many others hold this record in such high esteem. More than anything, this is one of those rare records where, even though each individual song is fantastic, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Thematically, this record stays on course, with each song leading seamlessly into the next so that the listener, once absorbed into the opening track, never becomes distracted from the message until they are spit out at the other end of the record, wondering what just happened. It is also a record where the music absolutely matches the lyrics, word for word, note for note. The lyrical content of this album is so intelligent and unabashed, equal parts poetry and stream of consciousness. James Dean Bradfield’s attempts to match his guitar playing to Richey James’s incredible words yields some of the most incredible, impressive music and singing I’ve ever heard. And speaking of the lyrical content, between the message and the music of this album, the Manics managed to create a piece of art that encapsulates rock music to its core: rebellious, accusatory, and fierce. You can’t listen to this album without cranking it up and feeling both empowered and scared to death of what the future holds.

The Holy Bible has so many amazing tracks on it, and there’s no way I can talk about each one. The only one I rarely listen to is The Intense Humming of Evil, mostly because it disturbs me so much to listen to the news reporter at the beginning of it speaking about the Nuremberg Trials. But the rest of the album is one I listen to as a whole. Bear with me while I mention a few of my favorite moments, accompanied by Richey’s words.

Scratch my leg with a rusty nail, sadly it heals
Colour my hair but the dye grows out
I can’t seem to stay a fixed ideal

The hole in my life even stains the soil
My heart shrinks to barely a pulse
A tiny animal curled into a quarter circle
If you really care wash the feet of a beggar

Die in the Summertime is probably my favorite song on the entire record, and I’ve posted its lyrics in their entirety on my blog before. Nearly three-fourths of the lyrics on the album were written by Richey Edwards (with the other quarter coming from Nicky Wire) only a short time before his disappearance, and when I listen to the lyrics of Die in the Summertime, I feel his desperation and frustration with the world’s hypocrisy. I don’t think it’s just living in Phoenix, where summer temperatures easily top 115 degrees, that makes me love this song. Any time I’m feeling frustration and despair, I can listen to it, and I feel understood for a few moments.

Humanity recovered glittering etiquette
Answers her crime with mausoleum rent

Oh, Mausoleum. Such a powerful little song, packed with brutal guitars and a nasty groove. I’ve listened to it countless times, and I still can’t make out many of the lyrics without looking at the lyrics sheet. A perfect example of James managing to squeeze Richey’s urgent lyrics into a space so tiny, I’m not sure when he has time to breathe. Also, one of the few songs I like on the album nearly more for it’s music than for its lyrics.

I know I believe in nothing but it is my nothing

The only song from The Holy Bible to make it onto the Greatest Hits collection, Faster was my least favorite song for a long time. But as it were, I would often listen to The Holy Bible on my commute, and always by the time I was arriving home in the afternoon, Faster would come on. And something about listening to that song after a long day of being screwed over and disrespected and overworked was so stunningly refreshing. Richey’s bold proclamations seemed to indicate that he was simply misunderstood, that he was far more intelligent than even the most respected scholars, and that he should damn well lament and celebrate life in his own way, according to his own standards. By the time I was pulling into the drive, I would be screaming along with James: So damn easy to cave in, Man kills everything.

Honestly, I could go on and on, quoting brilliant lines from this album and saying what they mean to me. The Holy Bible leaves no important issue ignored. Ifwhiteamerica and its invectives against racism fire me up every time, whereas 4st 7lb simply makes me sad as I listen to lyrics that document Richey’s own battle with anorexia. Yes talks about the complicated world of prostitutes and pimps, and Of Walking Abortion speaks to the hopelessness and insecurity that often comes with being a man. Clearly this is not your average rock record.

The last thing I will say about The Holy Bible is that it is an extremely intelligent piece of work that exposes humanity’s flaws while expressing both outrage and shameless despair on a personal, individual level. The Holy Bible is so filled with famous quotations and literary allusions, one could spend hours tracking them all down in an attempt to better understand what the Manics were going through and what Richey was feeling when this powerful album was recorded for posterity. It is a record that rages against all of the injustices in the world, and yet acknowledges how it feels to be one of the few people who is outraged enough to say something. While it can be empowering to stand up and fight, it can also be lonely, debilitating, and hopeless. Somehow in the music, the Manic Street Preachers managed to capture all of that and condense it into an amazing work of art, and there can be no doubt as to why many critics consider it to be one of the most important, heaviest records ever made. Like its namesake, The Holy Bible is filled with eternal truths and reflections on the human experience. I have a feeling that it will remain the magnum opus of the Manic Street Preachers for a very long time.

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~ by Jennifer Cunningham on October 5, 2008.

One Response to “+manics albums: no. 1+”

  1. Alright, just for fun I’ll now tell you what order I would rank them in.

    8. Know Your Enemy
    7. Send Away the Tigers
    6. Gold Against the Soul
    5. Generation Terrorists
    4. Lifeblood
    3. The Holy Bible
    2. This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours
    1. Everything Must Go

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