The Manic Street Preachers – The Holy Bible 20 (reissue): (Sony / Columbia)

LP | CD | DL

Out Now!

8/10

Manic Street Preachers released a 20th Anniversary edition of their classic album ‘The Holy Bible’ on Monday. Read on for Simon Tucker’s review.

Twenty years old. Twenty years where myths have been created and then debunked. Twenty years for teenage fans to grow up, move on, and leave their troubles in the past. Twenty years for (three of) the main protagonists to distance themselves, alter their inner and outer selves and move away into adulthood. Twenty years. A long time but maybe not long enough.

What is vital to know about the Holy Bible is that its insidious and oppressive nature still holds to this very day. Twenty years still not dampening its impact. The album can still alter a listener’s state of mind, bringing to life memories that many would want to keep suppressed. The 36 year old council worker transported back to their 16 year old tormented self. Memories of bad relationships, narcotic experimentation gone wrong, gulley guzzling in Valleys lanes. Reaching out for human connections. Friends now gone, either drifted away on life’s current or taking too soon. A 34 year old head-mistress, now happy in family and career can swirl back in time to moments of self-harm, parental mistrust and ambivalence. A time where the world only existed between yellow stained, bent/torn soft-back books and mentors were not found preaching in front of ashen chalk-boards but in the contents of music publications, dangerous pub basements, and reaching out through M(ucus)TV.

The creators have also struggled to deal with its legacy. They have gone on to bigger stadiums, bigger sales, and bigger sounds but the ghost of The Holy Bible has lingered throughout. It’s the album a lot of people cite as their favorite (though I doubt many still listen to it regularly) and often appears in best-albums lists. They’ve even dipped back into its world with the excellent Journal For Plague Lovers LP but nothing has matched the intensity of THB. This is not to do the band a disservice. After the trauma surrounding the aftermath of THB’s release and the disappearance of Richie Edwards you can fully understand their desire to move on and become something new. Even from the off they proclaimed their desire to be a big and important band and in that regards they have succeeded. Re-visiting this album now through the reissue and tour must be quite a daunting experience but, one imagines, an extremely cathartic one. Coming in a year which has seen them release two hugely differing but highly regarded works, this feels like a band that are finally able to look back and embrace this, their defining masterwork.

The Holy Bible is unsettling, that is undeniable, but what strikes you again when listening to the reissue is how sonically it still remains a straight-up rock album (this is not Throbbing Gristle after all). Yes, the band were looking to return to a more British-centric sound, taking in P.I.L, Magazine, and The Fall, but they didn’t fully dial down their American influences. This is most apparent on the album’s weaker moments such as the snotty P.C.P and the thrashing noise of Revol. It’s when the band fully engage with their British heritage that the album truly ignites. Die In The Summertime rolls in like a transgressive, 90s version of P.I.L’s Flowers Of Romance , whilst songs such as Faster and Archives Of Pain invoke Sabbath and Buzzcocks in their hook-laden heaviness.

 

The use of vocal and sound samples that are scattered throughout were nothing new (Public Enemy, Pink Floyd) but it was the choice of samples that were vital ranging as they did from interviews with one of serial killer Peter Sutcliffe’s victims mothers and Hubert Selby, Jr. to snippets from documentaries on anorexia and news reports taken during the Nuremberg Trials. All of these heightened the black atmosphere and framed the lyrical content.

Twenty years. Twenty years and these lyrics still smack their lips and sink their teeth. Lyrics that are once repulsive yet empathetic. The main author of these words, Richie (Nicky Wire co-writing about 30% of the final draft) was having well documented personal issues which have been covered better elsewhere by people who knew him better than I ever will (if you want the full in-depth story I strongly recommend you reading Simon Price’s exceptional biography of the band, Everything) but reading through them again you get a sense of contradiction between right-wing sentiment and human concern. The (seemingly) approval of corporal punishment on Archives of Pain is somewhat clumsy in places but with its flirtation with fascism was written by a young man who was angry and at pain with what he deemed to be wrong with us as a species. It’s worth pointing out that he was not the first musician who had found celebrity to start voicing such opinions. Bowie, Pink Floyd, and Warsaw/Joy Division had all used the imagery and philosophical slant of the right as a base for shock wake-up tactics. This does not make them Nazi or fascist sympathisers, more like people who were just tired of victims being squashed by oppressive forces such as media and governments.

The fact that THB also shows Richie at his most poetically caring and heartfelt, with songs such as the beautiful 4st. 7lbs (the weight in which the medical profession states that if under, results in unavoidable death for anorexics) and She Is Suffering which, even at its more mawkish, shows someone whose love for others is painful and sincere. This was music that was inclusive to both sexes which was a breathe of fresh air in the Britpop machismo climate at the time. The band were well-read, intelligent, androgynous men who were unafraid to display these qualities making them a Smiths / Cure / (early) R.E.M. for the 90s disenfranchised.

With this reissue we are a treated to an almighty slew of extras including the US remixes (beefed up to get more airplay in the States) live sessions, demos, handwritten lyrics, unseen photos, and a whole lot more besides which, even though they’re interesting and vital pieces in THB’s story only highlight the quality of the album itself.

A vital piece of guitar music, The Holy Bible follows in the footsteps of great epitaph records such as Closer and In Utero, sharing with them a sense of anguish, disappearing hope, internal pressure, and external pain.

As Ian Curtis once sang “here are the young men, the weight on their shoulders.”

An important statement by one of Britain’s most important bands, The Holy Bible will continue to speak to people for many years and with the tour now in full swing, it will also give many of us a chance to see this work live, fleshed out, noisier and more joyous than in the solitude of our own bedroom. They will act as communal catharsis for all those lucky enough to attend. Everyone in these crowds will at once be enjoying the atmosphere whilst internally reliving parts of their youth, maybe finally resolving some inner torment that needs shifting once and for all.

“Beauty she is scarred into man’s soul”

Full tracklisting:

The Holy Bible 20 Vinyl

The Holy Bible 20 Remastered:

  • Yes
  • Ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayit’sworldwouldfallapart
  • Of Walking Abortion
  • She Is Suffering
  • Archives Of Pain
  • Revol
  • 4st 7lb
  • Mausoleum
  • Faster
  • This Is Yesterday
  • Die In The Summertime
  • The Intense Humming Of Evil
  • P.C.P.

CD1

The Holy Bible (Remastered)

  • Yes
  • Ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayit’sworldwouldfallapart
  • Of Walking Abortion
  • She Is Suffering
  • Archives Of Pain
  • Revol
  • 4st 7lb
  • Mausoleum
  • Faster
  • This Is Yesterday
  • Die In The Summertime
  • The Intense Humming Of Evil
  • P.C.P.

CD2

The Holy Bible – Us Mix (Remastered)

  • Yes
  • ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayit’sworldwouldfallapart
  • Of Walking Abortion
  • She Is Suffering
  • Archives Of Pain
  • Revol
  • 4st 7lb
  • Mausoleum
  • Faster
  • This Is Yesterday
  • Die In The Summertime
  • The Intense Humming Of Evil
  • P.C.P.

CD3

B-Sides + Live

  • Sculpture Of Man (Album Version)
  • New Art Riot (In E Minor) (Live from the Clapham Grand)
  • Too Cold Here
  • You Love Us (Original ‘Heavenly’ Version)
  • Love’s Sweet Exile (Bangkok Live)
  • Drug Drug Druggy (Live at Glastonbury)
  • Roses In The Hospital (Live at Glastonbury)
  • You Love Us (Live at Glastonbury)
  • Love Torn Us Under
  • The Drowners (Live)
  • Stay With Me (Live)
  • La Tristesse Durera (Scream To A Sigh) (Vocal Mix)
  • La Tristesse Durera (Scream To A Sigh) (Dub Mix)
  • Faster (Dub Mix)
  • Faster (Vocal Mix)
  • Revol (Previously Unreleased)

CD 4

Live BBC In Concert, The Astoria, December 1994

  • P.C.P.
  • From Despair to Where
  • Yes
  • Faster
  • She Is Suffering
  • La Tristesse Durera (Scream to a Sigh)
  • Slash ‘n’ Burn
  • Motorcycle Emptiness
  • New Art Riot
  • Life Becoming a Landslide
  • Revol
  • 4st 7lb
  • This Is Yesterday

Radio 4 Mastertapes, Maida Vale, September 2014

  • 4st 7LB (Excerpt)
  • Faster
  • P.C.P
  • This Is Yesterday

~

Bag yourself a copy of the album here: theholybible20.manicstreetpreachers.com.

The Manic’s can also be found on Twitter as @Manics and on Facebook.

All words by Simon Tucker. More writing by Simon on Louder Than War can be found at his Louder Than War Author’s Archive. Simon can also be found on twitter as @simontucker1979.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here