Vinyl Vlog 070

Vinyl Vlog 070

Tuesday, 14 April 2015
Vinyl Vlog

A deeper look at the grooves pressed into the deluxe reissue LP portion of the Manic Street Preachers’ Holy Bible box set.

The problem with the Brit-Pop explosion that happened in the 1990s (well, it was a problem for some people – others ate it up with a spoon) is that it was a really pretty, really clean and really sterile-looking solution to the void left in pop when grunge suddenly lost Kurt Cobain in 1994. Everything just seemed to do a complete aboutface, in many ways; Grunge had been raw and energetic while bands like Oasis and Blur represented the polar opposite of that aesthetic and made no apology for it. Such a turn was really frustrating for many rock fans but, happily, there was ONE loose cannon aboard the HMS Brit-pop which kept the alt-rockers and punks entertained: the Manic Street Preachers.

From the moment the Manics cut into the mainstream in 1992, they were a little different from their peers; they were incredibly tight instrumentally, but also a little wild and unhinged in demeanor. That little bit of madness generated notice and fanfare as the band began getting compared to their peers at the time (Oasis drew comparisons to the Beatles, but Blur, The Verve and Pulp were just bands unto themselves), and ensured that they stood out from the pack. Equally “different” (and what helped MSP stand out still further was the character of guitarist Ritchey Edwards. While Edwards was an instrumental notice when the band first started (as the story goes, he mimed playing guitar in the band’s earliest days), he quickly became the band’s chief songwriter as well as the “big draw” personality; the guitarist’s behavior (cutting, self-mutilation, substance abuse) quickly made ihm a press and photo pool darling and, as his songwriting improved from album to album, the more work bearing his name appeared. By the time The Holy Bible was released, in fact, Edwards was credited with having done about eighty percent of the songwriting for the album – and one listen illustrated a pretty impressive departure from the band’s previous sound. A little less poppy and a little more confrontational, listeners were well and truly baited by the band’s third album.

Twenty years on, The Holy Bible still has the capacity to utterly captivate listeners, and the vinyl reissue does a fantastic job of that. After “Yes” sets the stage with some surprisingly critical, sexist grumbling spit through gritted teeth, “Ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforadayitsworldwouldfallapart” quickly changes gears and focuses on a more social critical point. There, even though some of the personalities and images which appear within the song (like Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Grenada) belong to a particular time long gone, the heat, anger and social commentary remain accessible and contemporary today (check out lines line “There ain’t no black in the Union Jack” and “Was Buddha the first to masterbate?”) as well as coming off as intentionally incendiary.

The come-on calling which characterizes “Ifamerica…” carries over into the obviously churlish “Of Walking Abortions,” there’s just no other way to say it. There, that singer James Bradfield has climbed upon a very precariously balanced soapbox remains undisputed – even twenty years later – but he makes the most of that position by bullying in as hard and deeply as he can, and the band covers him by supplying the most caustic post-punk backdrop on the album. While there are certainly other glittering gems on the A-side of The Holy Bible, “Of Walking Abortions” is the peak of the band’s powers for that particular time period.

On a comparative scale, the B-side of The Holy Bible plays harder and more aggressively from front-to-back, but it’s hard not to feel as though there’s a satirical bent weaved in as well. Particular standout tracks in that regard – “4st 7lb,” “Mausoleum” and “Faster” – all make no bones about the fact that they have teeth and are baring them, but the beauty of each but they don’t just fall back on playing overly distorted changes or blurring their way through; they all have some fantastic bile to spit in the lyrics and the music compliments that acerbic wit. As the running finally finally spirals down to the terrifying alt-rock frenzy which is “Die In The Summertime,” listeners will find that they just don’t have any more fuel; the intoxicating power of the song will leave them seeing vapor trails without the benefit of hallucinogenic drugs and the band comes close to the point of a total meltdown, but no one could ask for more.

All of that said and one has to realize that the above is just a review of the vinyl in deluxe reissue of The Holy Bible – there is more here. Not surprisingly, there is a CD included which plays through the same material as well as a remixed and remastered version as well. The run-of-the-mill CD included in the box is really only worthwhile for those who don’t have a turntable (and, if they don’t one must wonder why they’d buy this set in the first place) and, while an interesting listen for completists, the remixed/remastered/re-imagined disc is the epitome of a Beatles-esque “what if”frill which compliments – but in no way comes close to casting a shadow on – the vinyl. The same is true of the forty-page, large-scale book of photos and dialogue about The Holy Bible included; it’s great for context OF the vinyl, but does not steal attention from it.

In summation, the vinyl record in the super deluxe edition of The Holy Bible is the big ticket draw; absolutely worth the asking price for fans and historians alike.


The Deluxe, Collector’s Edition of The Holy Bible is out now, buy it here on Amazon. There is also a limited edition, picture disc version of the album coming out on Record Store Day – find it at your local independent record store on April 18, 2015!

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