The Holy Bible
Whatever happens in the next 45 minutes, the Manic Street Preachers have written themselves into Rock history, thanks to an arch combination of daft pretension, brash sloganeering and a brilliant but spurious image. However, any accusations that their music has often trailed behind the smeared mascara and Joe Strummer scissor-kicks should finally be laid to rest with this, their third album. The Manics’ searing debut, “Generation Terrorists”, blazed some three-minute comets of perfect Pop Rock. Its follow-up, “Gold Against The Soul”, was a suspiciously grown-up record, but with a boys-own quality that naturally scored points in Metal circles.
Forget all that, because with tortured artiste/guitarist Richey James currently holed up in a private clinic, reportedly anorexic and alcoholic, “The Holy Bible” is the sound of the Manics banging their heads against every wall in sight. It’s all very bloody, very despondent, with the vitriol that allegedly powers most modern Hard Rock but without the hollow gesturing that usually turns up in its place. It’s also an uplifting record with enough shining moments to remind you that “Motorcycle Emptiness” and “La Tristesse Durera” were no mere flukes.
The already familiar “Faster” and “PCP” set the energy levels. Alongside “Revol” and the painfully topical “4st 7lbs”, the Manics return to the kind of white riot Punk and power Pop that they do so well. Meanwhile, buzzsaw guitars cut through the ether on bouncing opener “Yes”, before dropping down for a military shuffle on “ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayitsworldwouldfallapart”, a diatribe against world powers that skitters around James Dean Bradfield’s guitar lines, nervous, tricky, unsure of itself. “Of Walking Abortion” and “She Is Suffering” are as bleak as their titles suggest, the cramped lyrics coming on stronger than ever.
But where “The Holy Bible” excels is with its ability to worm its way under the skin, playing on natural doubts and gut reactions. Fear and revenge is poured into the mould of “Archives Of Pain” like pure cyanide. Raging against child-murderers, serial killers and political tyrants, it quickly mutates into the nastiest sludge Rock; the heaviest of Heavy Metal. It’s a flavour that comes back, bile-like, on “Mausoleum”, rolling around in its own cold sweat before backing down for the mellower “This Is Yesterday” and the album’s most overpowering moment, “Die In The Summertime”.
No pleasure cruise, “The Holy Bible” comes without the bloated big Rock overtones of the band’s last offering or the more disposable fillers of the first. It’s the most complete album the Manics have made so far. Don’t go fucking up on us now.