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A Refusal of Britpop and Blairism

From Planet 215

On the twentieth anniversary of the release of the Manic Street Preachers’ The Holy Bible, Rhian E. Jones recalls the summer of 1994 and argues that despite an embarrassing association with adolescent angst, the album also powerfully and presciently articulates the crisis facing society today.

In 1994 I was thirteen. Unlucky for some. In the moribund middle of the 1990s, the only place in my town which sold records was Woolworths. In August of 1994, I tried to preorder a copy of The Holy Bible there. My enquiry was met with the same look of horror-struck uncertainty with which my mother, that same year, asked whether I’d been in a punch-up (I hadn’t, my Rimmel eyeshadow palette and I were in our ill-advised experimental period, but the mistake was understandable). A few weeks later, I returned to Woolworths and left in triumph, the album clutched under my coat like a samizdat publication.

The album taught me words I didn’t know, mostly in order to describe it adequately. I needed words like ‘scabrous’ and ‘abrasive’ to express its magnificently tense and claustrophobic atmosphere, to do justice to James Dean Bradfield’s furniture-chewing Rottweiler growl. The music felt frantic, jagged, viciously melodic. Guitars prowled and skittered, lashing like the tail of a cornered animal or buzzing like a trapped cloud of flies. And the lyrics! A Burroughsian cut-up, as with previous albums, still a plethora of names, references, politics and history, illuminating a world beyond my own – but somehow concentrated and distilled, individually focused rather than their early scattergun sloganeering spread interchangeably over several songs…



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