Manic Street Preachers: “Mausoleum” (The Holy Bible, 1994)

I was looking over the various lists generated by the analysis tools in Pitchfork’s People’s List today, and I noticed something peculiar when looking at the distinction lists for the top 20 voting countries: three countries voted in large numbers for The Holy Bible, a Manic Street Preachers album that was released in 1994, two years before the scope of the list (1996-2011). 

The countries were the U.K. (#7 on the distinction index), New Zealand (#6 on the the distinction index), and Ireland (#1 on the distinction index!). This is fascinating to me—what is it about this particular album that causes so many people to associate it with a period so much later than its actual release? The Manic Street Preachers, after all, did release an album in 1996. It was called Everything Must Go, and I nearly voted for it myself, but it landed just outside my top 100. 

I tried to find another record that appeared this often in spite of falling outside the scope of the poll, and there isn’t one. I suspect that one of the reasons it was voted for so often is that people don’t actually know when it came out, and because I reviewed the reissue for Pitchfork, it showed up in the site’s database.

So anyone thinking of voting for, say, Postcards from a Young Man searched for the Manics and then there was the cover of The Holy Bible. Not realizing that the People’s List interface accidentally included a lot of reissued albums from prior to 1996, these people said “oh, well, duh, of course that’s the MSP album to vote for, that album’s fantastic.” And there it is, on three countries’ distinction lists (also, it’s worth noting that the U.K. list includes 2009’s Journal for Plague Lovers at #3). 

I get why people would have gravitated that way. The album really is a tremendous work, a truly harrowing and intense experience that, in hindsight, appears to essentially be the farewell manifesto of troubled Richey Edwards, who, with his 1995 disappearance cemented his position as a rock and roll cult figure. People are emotionally attached to this album in ways they aren’t to other albums, even albums by the same group. 

I started listening to the band between Everything Must Go and This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours, so Edwards’ disappearance was already old news. The Holy Bible was unavailable in the U.S.—I tracked down a copy in 1999 at a record fair held in a ballroom at the Boston Radisson. I paid $9.99 for it. 

Even though I hadn’t lived through the album’s release and the ensuing drama, it still became my favorite Manics LP. It’s so distinctive. There isn’t another album, by anyone, that quite sounds like it. “Mausoleum” is probably my favorite song from it at the moment (it changes all the time). I like that the fact that it’s nearly impossible to understand a word James Dean Bradfield is singing doesn’t diminish the song’s power at all.