Gather ’round, kids, it’s time for the single saddest album I’ve ever heard. See, this album is the rantings of an articulate suicidally depressed man a few months before he committed suicide, set to music that almost captures the same amount of bleakness and hopelessness. There is no hope in the world of this album; everything is ugly and everything is sad and everything is wrong. Over the top? Nope, this is a view of the world not worth living in. It’s bleak, bleak, bleak, and for once in the Manics’ career they can’t narm their way out of authenticity because this is real. It’s a real life call for help for someone a step beyond it. God fuck, it’s awful. AAAAH.
Richey had always been a good lyricist, but he steps it the fuck up when he’s a matter of days away from taking his own life. For once the words amount to poetry without sounding like they were written in tenth grade. It’s like they were beating against a wall of maturity and instead of breaking through it they climbed the fuck over it with sheer misery and bleakness as handholds. Who needs maturity when you’ve got “stretching taut, cling-film on bone” to describe your anorexia, then follow it up with “I wanna be so skinny that I rot from view” and “Self worth scatters / Self-esteem’s a bore / I long since moved to a higher plateau / This discipline’s rare so please applaud” and end it with “I’ve finally come to understand life / Through staring blankly at my navel.”
But that’s an easy example. A grown man starving himself nearly to death is a bit silly, maybe. See that vague attempt at self-respect in the second last quote? That’s normal here, too. It’s pathetic, of course, but its normal for this album ,and usually followed with an even meaner allowance of self-loathing. There is nothing positive here. Nothing. Not a second, not a line, not an acknowledgement of a thought outside of sadness and sorrow and disgust.
The little touches help, too. The cover is three angles of a morbidly obese woman in underwear looking sadly at the camera. Why is this woman here? Just so I feel sad? Mission accomplished. Why is it called “The Holy Bible”? It means nothing lyrically. I’m not religious and it makes me feel a bit bad. Why do the liner notes include pictures of the band as smiling children next to the lyrics of the brutal “Die in the Summertime”? To show that they were once happy before now when they want to die, including the guy who, you know, did? Thanks for the voice intoning “I knew someday I was gonna die / And I knew before I died / Two things would happen to me: Number one I would regret my entire life / And number two I would want to live my life over again” – that’s not going to stay with me forever and ever!
But every line is horrifying. And half of them are delivered by JDB’s Homeric level of shouting at you in a tone that offers nothing of hope or warmth. There are politics, but they’re all about hatred of politics and hopelessness. There’s the holocaust, an overdone topic, but elucidated in lines about “worshipping malaria” that manage to make the sickening feeling fresh and new. Thanks. And there’s so much self-loathing and anger that I could quote nearly every line and it would appear to stand for the album.
How long can you even talk about the saddest thing you’ve ever heard? This is the rantings of a suicidal man channeled through a band that, for once, was dedicated to art instead of success. And good golly Miss Molly this is artistic. In death Richey James did what he never could otherwise: he created something worth living to talk about. This is a grunge album in theory, something where half the songs are tunes you can run to, but it’s the most intense music you can conjure, and I hope time doesn’t forget about it. Drama that plays out in distant countries or in bygone zeitgeists is easy to forget; this one is worth remembering.