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Manic Street Preachers | The Holy Bible (10th Anniversary 2 disc + DVD Edition)
a radio bobo-k music review

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Manic Street Preachers is an interesting, albeit obscure group, with an even more interesting story. The 1994 release of The Holy Bible should have put this group on the map in the US. But as soon as promotional copies were sent to journalists stateside, the CD release was scrapped. The rhythm guitarist and primary lyricist of the group, Richey James went missing. James, who suffered from depression and anorexia, has never been seen since.

Flash back even earlier in the 1990s. At the tail end of a wave of Britpop, MSP released Generation Terrorist. They looked Echo and the Bunnymen, sang leftist-leaning lyrics, sounded hard rock, and had a punk aesthetic.

MSP became an overnight sensation across the Atlantic when Richey carved 4Real into his forearm with a razor blade during an interview when the band's authenticity was challenged (how Iggy Pop of him!). In the US, MSP were little more than a blip on the radar screen. A cover of "Suicide is Painless", otherwise known as the theme from M*A*S*H, gained them some recognition, but when their second US release Gold Against the Soul fell in the forest, it barely made a sound.

In 1994, The Holy Bible came out in the UK and sales went through the roof. All indications were they were finally going to break the US. Until Richey went missing and the release was pulled. In hindsight, Richey's lyrics about pain and politics could have indicated the tragedy to come, for example "4st 7lb" talks about battling anorexia ("I wanna be so skinny that I rot from view") and "Die in the Summertime" is self-explanatory. The group continued as a three-piece after James' disappearance--their follow-up Everything Must Go was their biggest smash in the UK. But the band never did break big stateside.

Which leads us to the American release of the The Holy Bible 10th Anniversary Edition - 2 CD/1 DVD retailing for around $30. The first CD contains the UK mix plus 4 bonus tracks. And it's practically unlistenable. The vocals are mixed so low you can barely understand what's being said, even if you could understand what is being said (I read the lyrics along with the songs and still don't get most of it-it's not a result of a British accent, it's an odd pairing of weird lyrics and bad phrasing by the vocalist. For example "PCP - a police victory/PCP a P.C. pyrrhic victory/When I was young PC meant Police Constable/Nowadays I can't seem to tell the difference" - huh? I speak English and American and I can't figure it out). The second CD is the US mix, also contain some bonus cuts, and while the mix is better, it's still not right.

It wasn't until I saw the live footage on the DVD that I finally understood what was special about this band. Despite the incredibly dark lyrics (on Holy Bible about 75% of which were by James), the awful phrasing, and the terrible mixes of both CDs, it's only through the live footage that something resonated.

So why then would I spend several days listening to both Holy Bible and my old autographed copy of Generation Terrorist (from my radio DJ days) trying to figure out this group? It always bothered me that I couldn't understand why so many British writers that I respected would talk about MSP like they were gods, how they could see something that I totally missed.

After listening to The Holy Bible I can understand a bit more the appeal of the Manic Street Preachers, but I'm afraid the 2CDs don't come close to capturing the spirit of the band that the live footage on the DVD does. And, for a band with a tragic history, I think that's the real tragedy.Buy it

Track listing:

Disc 1
The Holy Bible (Digitally Remastered) + Live tracks

1. Yes
2. Ifwhiteamericacouldtellthetruthforonedayit'sworldwouldfallapart
3. Of Walking Abortion
4. She Is Suffering
5. Archives of Pain
6. Revol
7. 4st 7lb
8. Mausoleum
9. Faster
10. This Is Yesterday
11. Die in the Summertime
12. Intense Humming of Evil
13. P.C.P.
14. Intense Humming of Evil [Live]
15. 4st 7lb [Live]
16. Yes [Live]
17. Of Walking Abortion [Live]

Disc 2
The Holy Bible (US Mix) + Demos & Radio 1 Session
1. Yes
2. Ifwhiteamericacouldtellthetruthforonedayit'sworldwouldfallapart
3. Of Walking Abortion
4. She Is Suffering
5. Archives of Pain
6. Revol
7. 4st 7lb
8. Mausoleum
9. Faster
10. This Is Yesterday


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