Memories from the Holy Bible (Rust) Belt

From Planet 227

by Rachel Trezise

Rachel Trezise reviews Triptych: Three Studies of Manic Street Preachers’ The Holy Bible, drawing on her memories of first listening to the album as a Valleys teenager. While the book evokes a long-gone era of Blairism and bootleg cassettes, she argues that the album now seems prescient in light of resurgent right-wing extremism across the Western world.

While the Manic Street Preachers’ thirty-year career has spawned twelve studio albums as well as countless singles and EPs, it is the band’s third album, The Holy Bible, that continues to attract the most impassioned attention: books, academic studies, festival events and a re-mastered re-issue and tour in 2014 to celebrate the album’s 20th anniversary. The lyrics, penned chiefly by guitarist Richey Edwards (then severely depressed and soon to be missing, now officially presumed dead), offer unflinching reflections on, among other issues, the Holocaust, right-wing totalitarianism, British imperialism, American capitalism, anorexia and self-harm. As Q Magazine noted on its release, ‘even a cursory glance at the [song] titles will confirm that this is not the new Gloria Estefan album’. The forbidding subject matter, along with the band’s unapologetic intellectualism fashioned the album into a razor-witted colossus, whic­­­h was particularly incongruous alongside Britpop and the Gallagher brothers. A fascination with every facet of the work, from its influences to its liner notes, endures to this day, not least for me.

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