Manic Street Preachers - The Holy Bible

"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 monthe of his bizarre life. And the Manics - again, more than anyone else - will be aware of the frieghtening 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 Manics' 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' shamelsessly 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 cared '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 per cent 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 creams "Who's responsible - YOU F----ING ARE!". In 'Mausolleum', the key refrain is "No birds, the sky is swollen black". And, of course, since 'New Art Riot' the Manics have hardly been flauntin their comic talents, yet it's damningly significant that the moast 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 anorexia saga that is '4st 7lb'.

Musically, 'The Holy Bible' isn't elegant, but it is bloddy effective. When it comes to stripped-down surges of punkoid 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 produciton. F--- being radio-friendly, 'The Holy Bible' isn't even people-friendly, virtually designed as it is for distressed, dysfunctional f--- ups crouced 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 , yeah, 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 smples ("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...


Simon Williams