Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Remembering Richey, and The Holy Bible

Richey, with friend and fellow lyricist, Nicky WireOn the 1st February 1995, I would have been six years old, in my second year of primary school, not even aware of who the Manic Street Preachers were, or what happened to their guitarist and lyricist, Richey James Edwards. 10 years later, and an event I cannot even remember still manages to mean a lot. It's in the newspapers, it's on the Internet, it's on the radio and in the magazines. It's a whole decade since Richey vanished, leaving a legacy behind him, and an event that resulted in the Manics being propelled into the musical spotlight. It's almost impossible to imagine what would have happened if he'd have stayed. There's an irony in the fact that the commercial success of the Manic Street Preachers may have never occurred if it wasn't for Richey's mysterious disappearance. What he left behind, however, was one hell of a record. Raw, daring, political and often disturbing, almost like the man himself, The Holy Bible is something that will never be forgotten.

The Holy Bible
(yes, I love it more than OK Computer)

The Holy Bible is an uncomfortable listen. The music is often either harsh or haunting and the lyrics are frightening, usually in their brutal honesty. Richey was responsible for approximately 70% of the lyrical content of The Holy Bible and the troubled state of his mind is evident throughout. Anorexia and self-mutilation are expressed through song as a result of personal experience. It's disturbing, and even depressing, especially if you're in the wrong mood.

The Holy BibleIt's my favourite record of all time, and I don't feel qualified to review it. This is partially because there's a large proportion of it I don't understand, but also because I love it too much to be fair, and it's impossible to expect anything more than rambling in my writing about it.

The record begins with 'Yes', easily one of the album's highlights and, yes, the one with the 'c word' and some of the hardest-hitting lyrics on the record, referring to self-abuse and solitude. It's the kind of thing you can't play loud because you don't want your mother to hear it. Does this mean I like it? Of course. Does this mean the rest of the record is more of the same. Well, yes...

'IfWhiteAmericaToldTheTruthForOneDayItsWorldWouldFallApart' is one of my favourite songs by the Manics, both lyrically and musically, while the darker 'Of Walking Abortion' is a much harder listen. Compared to what has come before it, 'She is Suffering', is a little dull to listen to, and doesn't quite fit with the other content of the album. It's not necessarily a bad song, but it doesn't belong here. If I remember rightly, it's one of Nicky Wire's, and maybe that's why. He's a stranger on the record referred to as 'Richey's suicide note'.

The sinister tone of 'Archives of Pain' is more interesting, musically, and a return to form, especially with its guitar solo and general melody, even if the lyrics are difficult for many to relate to. 'Revol', once again, is a great song, yet filled with names of political or influencial figures who may mean nothing to the masses. I loathe reviewing things I really love, because I fail to be able to criticise the music and enjoy just letting it flow into my ears, listening like a fan, not a critic.

'4st 7lb' is a tale of anorexia sung from the point of view of a young woman, and follows her as she loses weight, and her health, while maintaining a strange view of the world around her. 'Mausoleum' is fabulous, while 'Faster' is one of the best singles the Manics have ever released, and certainly the best one with Richey.
Dressed in mismatched military gear, the Manics maintained an image whilst still producing great music

'This is Yesterday' is mellow and far calmer, without being bland in the same way as 'She is Suffering' and is a welcome contrast to the majority of the record. 'Die in the Summertime' is depressing but beautiful, and has a longing of going back to childhood innocence. 'The Intense Humming of Evil' is painful on the ears, and not only because it covers the issue of the holocaust - the harsh 'screeching' sounds on this track means it is another I'm not so keen on. 'P.C.P.' is an amazing song about political correctness - still astonishingly relevant a decade later. In fact, the whole album is still relevant, and fresh, possibly moreso than 'Lifeblood', the Manics' latest effort, ten years later.

The re-release of The Holy Bible, complete with re-mastered sound, US mix and DVD is worth buying, even if you already have the first pressing. The original, obviously, is better quality, the US mix adds some classy production (even if a percentage of songs sound better left untampered with), there's extra artwork and a special, fold out case. The DVD gave me a chance to really 'see' the Holy Bible era, in all its visual military glory, along with an informative interview from the band as they are in 2004. The highlights, however, are the black and white, acoustic numbers from James and Nicky as recorded for MTV. No costume, no crazed antics, just something pure and image-free. There's 80 minutes of footage in total, which will either bring back memories, or create new ones for years to come.

The Holy Bible supposedly sells 10,000 to 15,000 per year without fail. The memory of Richey, and the Manics at their personal best, clearly hasn't faded yet. Richey may have done some stupid, illogical things, but this wasn't one of them.