Revelations Terrorists

Review: The Holy Bible

(NME, 27 Aug 1994)

"He's a boy, you want a girl so tear off his cock/Tie his hair in bunches, f--- him, call him Rita if you want.." Oh Christ. Remember "In Utero"? Remember the demands, the questions, the theorising as an expectant world was plunged headfirst into Kurt's brutal abyss? Remember what happened next?

If the faculties of the Manic Street Preachers remain in any way unimpaired, they will be more horribly aware of Cobain's demise than most other music obsessives on the planet. They would have imagined the suffering, pictured the pain, taken stock of every sad, stupid, stunning movement in the last months of his bizarre life. And the Manic's - again, more than anyone else - will be aware of the frightening parallels between that monumental f--- up and their own paranoia-riddled position.

It's not just the fact that "The Holy Bible" is, like "In Utero", the Manic's third album. Nor is it the fact that, after the slick rawk of "Gold Against the Soul", this is their stubborn attempt to get back to their punky, militant roots. Nor indeed is it the fact that "Archives of Pain" shameless rips off Nirvana's staple death fuzz guitars and kinetic hooklines. Nope, what really bonds these two bands together is the fact that "The Holy Bible" is a vile record.

True, it's wretchedly predictable that the Manics should currently be in a position of such utter disarray, having reached a plateau of critical comforts and transformed themselves into arguably the best live British rock band of the '90s. When Richey took a razor blade and carved "4 Real" into his pale flesh way back when, it was a prophecy that is distressingly close to being fulfilled, and his lyrical contribution (Nicky Wire claims that the guitarist has written 75 percent of these words) frankly suggests that the man should never be left on his own near a cutlery tray ever again.

The key points? Ooooh, self-loathing, death ,self-abuse, political idiocy, more death, the end of the world and a bit more death. As records go, "The Holy Bible", is a sneering, hateful, merciless, intelligent, articulate, nasty, raging assault of scattershot soundbites. In "Walking Abortion" James Dean Bradfield screams, "Who's responsible - YOU F-ING ARE!". In "Mausoleum", the key refrain is "No birds, the sky is swollen black". And, of course, since "New Art Riot" the Manics have hardly been flaunting their comic talents, yet it's damningly significant that the most beautiful line on the album is "I want to walk in the snow and not leave a footprint," and even that is placed within the context of the horrific anorexic saga that is "4st 7lb".

Musically, "The Holy Bible" isn't elegant, but it is bloody effective. When it comes down to stripped-down surges of punky fury, this is Bradfield's baby and he isn't going to water down his curious rottweiller growls and yelps for any financial gain. Hell, in corporate rock terms this album is commercial suicide anyway, as even the wildly catchy likes of "Yes" are splattered with expletives and soiled by a stroppy production. F--- being radio friendly. "The Holy Bible" isn't even people-friendly, virtually designed as it is for distressed, dysfunctional f--- ups, crouched in the corners of blank white rooms.

In fact, this is almost a case of savagery over content; strip away the mutilation, the hospitalisation, the "prostitution", the sneers, the rumours, and, year, Richey himself, and you're left with an exhausting, aggressive stab at the kind of crunching spittle-a-rama perfected by, say, Compulsion. Conversely take "The Holy Bible" and its twisted poetry, its alienating sample ("I hate purity. I hate goodness") as one whopping despairing, deep dark (w)hole and you too will end up sitting slumped, staring at the wall, remembering Kurt Cobain and his bilious, acid-scarred guts.

The Holy Bible? Oh Christ indeed ... (9)

Simon Williams