BY JOHN B. MOORE
It’s hard to listen to this third effort from the Welsh band Manic Street Preachers, 20 years after its initial release and not think about how huge this band could have been.
Initially released at a time when U.S. radio actually took a chance on rock music, especially if it was from the UK (see Blur, Oasis, Pulp, and on and on…), The Holy Bible was catchy without being inane; with irresistible choruses, lyrics that unlike the aforementioned embarrassing poetry from Oasis (“slowly walking down the hall/faster than a bowling ball”) were actually saying something. It also came out at an ideal time, with a void in original music, with American bands trying to (badly) crib the sound from the Seattle scene, generating years’ worth of weak Nirvana/Pearl Jam/Soundgarden carbon copies.
So why didn’t the album make this band justifiable rock starts in the U.S. rather than just cult heroes? The group’s lyricist, rhythm guitarist and go-to spokesperson Richey Edwards disappeared the day he was supposed to fly to the U.S. for a promotional tour (and yes, the Joy Division similarities are warranted). His body was never found. Looking back on the lyrics to this record, Edwards’ battle with depression and anorexia were clearly all over these songs.
Two decades after the album’s initial release, Legacy put out a special limited run picture disc vinyl copy specifically for Record Store Day. The Holy Bible 2.0 holds up remarkably well. Aside from the fact that a major label (Epic when the record first came out) probably wouldn’t have signed a straight ahead guitar/bass/drums rock band in 2015, there is little that is dated about the songs here. The struggles Edwards was going through on a song like “4st 7 lb” or “Mausoleum” are still relatable to many two decades later. Sadly the album is marred only by the fact that many of the songs, utterly fantastic as they may be, read almost like a suicide letter so many years later. Brilliant and harrowing at the same time.
DOWNLOAD: “Yes,” “4st 7 lb” and “She is Suffering”