‘I knew that someday I was gonna die, and I knew before I died two things would happen to me; that number one I would regret my entire life, and number two I would want to live my life over again‘.
The first song from The Holy Bible to offer an industrial tone, the savage guitars crunch and throb, drums smash down like hammers on steel, all manner of filters make the instruments sound mechanical and condensed while Bradfield sounds like a cyborg spinning out of control. This is heavy, dark stuff, unsurprisingly, with a chaotic mixture of lyrical brilliance with lyrical weirdness. It’s the first song that sounds evil on the album, as if it has taken on a life of its own and is coming after you, stalking, hunting. Opening with the above haunting quote (Hubert Selby Jr) about life, death, and regret, futility, apathy, the lyrics and music follow without looking back. The finger-pointing ending, which I believe was added by Nicky, has become a Manics moment – meme -mement? The band seemingly taking aim at, well, all of us, the monstrous humans we are, being responsible for all of the terrible shit in the world. Again Bradfield pulls every once of hatred and despair from the words, pumps them back through the music and unleashes a terrifying vocal performance, screaming to the pit of his soul with unfettered anguish and rage.
- Obsidian’s blackest hole/a city is blackest hole/a city’s blackest hole
- The nation’s mouth wraps you inside
- Fucked up don’t know why you put it away
- Shut up! Shut up!
- Open black ground with tomorrow’s compass (?)
- So watch out girl and you expect your chores/so watch our car and you’ll expect no choice
- Acedia’s blackest hole
- The nation’s moral suicide
- Fucked up don’t know why you poor little boy
- Shalom! Shalom!
- Open black ruins a moral conscience
- So wash your car in your ‘x’ baseball shoes
Of Walking Abortion: 4/Great
Generic Ratings: 1: Crap. 2: Okay. 3: Good. 4: Great
Continuing throughout the caustic middle berth of The Holy Bible, this is one of the heaviest and most violent songs, and is certainly the most dense when the lyrics and music are bunched together. The structure isn’t complex, but it definitely appears that way given how breathlessly, impossibly the lyrics are spat out. There’s a creepy, incessant throng of insidious malevolence, the chorus is a guttural expulsion of anguish and disgust, the whole song feels like an exorcism, a cleansing of the blackest oil, but the sudden end suggests that nothing is resolved, nothing is better, and no amount of primal rage will diffuse the malignant vileness brooding inside.
Mausoleum – 4/Great
Misheard Lyrics: 1. Your mother’s tea is rotten/Humanity’s another
2. Answers her cries
3. Life bleeds the signs of all the victims
Actual Lyrics: 1. Humanity’s recovered
2. Answers her crimes
3. Life is so silent for the victims
Generic Ratings: 1. Crap. 2: Ok. 3: Good. 4: Great
A truly brutal, horrific song which causes revulsion and has an atmosphere which any number of metal bands try their entire careers to generate and almost always fail. We know the state of Richey’s mind at this point, but the band’s creative powers were at their peak so the blending of music, lyrics, visuals, and atmosphere all comes together to make something charred and ugly, and yet, absolutely flawless. The guitars are particularly crushing, Bradfield’s vocals are those of a hundred widows, while Wire’s bass line may be the most sinister ever committed to tape. Lyrically it’s as you would expect – in that it’s nothing like you would ever expect, the chorus simply a cascading list of the names of serial killers. It also closes with one of the greatest guitar solos ever recorded.
Misheard Lyrics: 1. Kill Yeltsin, Hussain.
2. Not punish us with champagne.
Actual Lyrics: 1. Kill Yeltsin, who’s saying?
2. Not punish less, rise the pain.
Archives Of Pain: 4/Great
Obviously my feeble words and thoughts won’t add anything new to everything which has already been said about this album. For my part it is still my favourite Manics album, possibly my favourite album of the nineties, and undoubtedly one of the greatest albums of all time. From the cover art to the artwork between the out of sequence lyrics in the book, from the terrifying lyrics themselves to the almost overpowering brutality, pain, and love of the music it is flawless. If you want bleak, go for the original British version; if you want somthing with a bit more oomph, go for the re-released American version. Buy the 10th anniversary and get both. A simple glance at the song titles is enough to create unease, and from start to finish it portrays a mind, a human at breaking point, stretched sinuous until there is almost nothing left. Angry, fierce, quietly tender, overflowing with despair, regret, humour, and a final yearning for hope it nevertheless ends on a high for me with PCP; one last fuck you to the world, to the self, and a backs against the wall defiant cry of triumph.
Songs coming soon…