Friday, 18 March 2016

50 albums to take to my grave #34: The Holy Bible

I'm not sure what it is, but I find the darker side of life far more interesting than the brighter side. Perhaps that's why I want to take the Manic Street Preachers' 'The Holy Bible' - one of the most genuinely disturbing records ever released - with me to my grave. If there was a colour darker than black, 'The Holy Bible' would be that colour.

When it was released back in August 1994, I thought the Manics were pricks. I'd seen them live a year or so before and they were so bad I left before they'd finished their set. I hated Nicky Wire with a passion. Every time he opened his mouth in an interview, complete horseshit would escape. At least that's the way I read it. My old mate Midget (RIP), was a Manics fan, however. I managed to wrangle a couple of free tickets for him to see the band on the Holy Bible Tour in Exeter. He came back disappointed, saying it never really got going. The mood was too dark and the songs too slow.

I now rate the Manics as one of my favourite bands. 'The Holy Bible' has long been hailed as their masterpiece, and I can't argue with that. It's no secret the band was struggling internally with Richie's mental and physical health, but the intensity of the situation probably shaped the way 'The Holy Bible' sounds. There's an excellent Wikipedia entry for the album, so I'm going to point you there if you want the full lowdown. It's not a pretty tale, but utterly absorbing nonetheless.

You kind of get an idea what you're getting into just by looking at the song titles: Of Walking Abortion, Archives Of Pain, The Intense Humming Of Evil... The subject matter of the songs offer no relief: prostitution, American consumerism, British imperialism, freedom of speech, the Holocaust, self-starvation, serial killers, the death penalty, political revolution, fascism and suicide. Musically, it's rife with minor chords, ominous droning and unnerving noises. Chart material it most certainly ain't.

When I first heard 'The Holy Bible' properly (as in I actually listened to it and gave it a chance), I felt very uneasy, but got lost within it. It did take a little while to take it to my heart though. It is an album you need to get to grips with and you can't do that on a single hearing. It's also something you need to listen to as a whole. Sure, I have my favourite tracks, but it works better as an entire album from beginning to end. Maybe it's because I actually find it very difficult to write about the songs on the album. I can't even pretend to get into the heads of the writers, and in all honesty I'm not sure I'd ever want to; we all know what happened in the months following the album's release. If the album wasn't dark enough already, it would soon become blacker than black in the aftermath of Richie's disappearance.

'The Holy Bible' has a foreboding sense of doom running throughout. Even when it looks back, it judges the human condition in the most damning way possible. That 'The Holy Bible' has become one of the most revered British albums of all time is just nuts, yet I can't argue against it. It is as intense and challenging a record as you can get. If only more people would make records like this. The easy option is rarely the best. 'The Holy Bible' wasn't easy for the band, it's not easy for the listener. It's a wonder it exists in the first place, but thank god it does.


Incredibly, the band bagged a Top of the Pops appearance with one of the album's singles Faster. It became the show's most complained-about performances, solely down to James wearing a balaclava which some pillocks (more than 25,000 of them, apparently) interpreted as showing support for the IRA! Meanwhile, happy, smiling teenagers jump about merrily to a song about self-abuse...


  1. I own nothing by this band. After your post and the wiki entry, I'm both attracted and repelled. Is this where I want to start?

    1. Hmm, the Manics do that to people. I'd probably start with their most recent singles collection 'National Treasures'. Album-wise, and in terms of accessibility, probably 'Everything Must Go' and 'Futurology' would also be good starting points. 'The Holy Bible' might put some people off the band for life, but you have to understand its story to accept it, I reckon.

  2. Having given Manic Street Preachers endless attempts at getting to terms with their music - basically attempting to see if I liked any of it, I am still at a loss. I will give that they're music can cause lots of reaction, but none of it has been positive and lasting for me.

  3. I'm sort of with Echorich here.

    I have tried on a number of occasions to listen to and appreciate The Holy Bible and failed miserably. It's my musical equivalent of a James Joyce novel....I know I should keep going until I crack it, but It just doesn't happen.

    I do however, like some of their Britpop-era material.