People wouldn’t usually associate me with metal or screamo bands. But I was a huge fan of Funeral For a Friend when they released their debut album back in 2003, and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see them in a local venue.
The ticket had been pinned to my noticeboard for weeks prior to the gig, my favoured tracks playing on loop so that I’d be able to sing along with confidence. I was excited. More excited than I’ve been for an out-of-town band in a long time. Fact is, Funeral For a Friend take me back to my teenage years, spent hanging around either side of the Welsh border in the time before I knew there was anything above the River Humber (it does hurt a little to admit that I was once part of this southern stereotype). And as the gig was on the eve of my birthday, this was a glorious feeling of recaptured youth.
The night started with punk-rock band Less Deceived. My first encounter with these guys; I was quickly swept up by their sound. Lead singer Adam Harraway stormed the stage, smiles a-plenty as they performed songs which create a lot of sound and contain catchy bridges even new fans can sing along to. It was good to see a band who so evidently love performing – a theme which flowed throughout the evening – and I quickly made the decision to get my hands on their music and merchandise.
I’ve had their track ‘20.04.13’ playing repeatedly since, now able to sing along to every word.
Liberatae Mae were up next. It was proposed, via social media, that the public select the support band, and this band’s name came up in droves. It is a name I’d heard of, one which is often mentioned when discussing the local metal scene. They’ve got a sizable following, and one which helped fill Welly that evening.
With six members, they fill a stage, even a decent sized one as they had, in body and in sound. Vocalist Luke Slade and bassist Glenn Allison stepped to the front where they could easily engage with the audience, gripping the crowd with their ferocious performance and heavy vocals. The guitarists seemed to move in
circles, each taking their moment alongside these two clear frontmen: an act I felt deserving of these talented musicians, but also solidifying my compassion for the drummers who don’t benefit from this privilege. Eddie Newsome was barely visible even to those like myself stood at the very edge of the stage, and his personal performance was one worth seeing.
I didn’t, at the end of the gig, rush to their merchandise table. They were fantastic at performing for their fans in their chosen genre, but this is not a sound which excites me. I wouldn’t choose to attend a gig just simply because their name was listed.
It was headliners Funeral For a Friend whose performance I was most enthusiastic about. Theirs was the only name listed when I’d purchased my ticket, and the name which had me in anticipation right up until the point they were on stage.
Playing popular tracks from across their albums, the room was in constant movement. Rather frustratingly for those of us on the front row, a few members of the audience chose later in their set to start crowd surfing. Don’t get me wrong, I have no issue with people crowd surfing, but the same guy doing it four or five times and having to move in order to let him out got repetitive and dull. Having worked as a security officer at music venues and festivals, I know how difficult it can be to keep your cool with drunken guys trying to get their 15 seconds of fame. The staff working that night were fantastic, manoeuvring them out of the way of photographers.
Matt Davies-Kreye did, even with these distractions, take on a central role in the show. Not just as frontman of the band, but as a conductor of the night. He informed us that he was suffering with a chest infection – something which was clearly causing him pain, as he crouched down for gulps of water, banging his fist on his chest, between songs – but that this would not stop him from giving us his all. With a grin, he gave the hand gesture to start a circle pit, twisting with those of the audience who chose to join in. Within the final song, he was leaping across the stage.
Indeed all members of the band performed in the most joyful manner, expressing their pleasure throughout. Smiling, chatting with the crowd and each other, they moved around the stage. There were clear concerns about Matt’s health, with looks into the wings of the stage. For one song they were joined by a friend touring with them (possibly their stage manager; certainly someone who knew all the lyrics), joining in the frivolity and adding his own sound to the stage. In conclusion to their set, the guitarists circled Matt, demonstrating the tight-knit unit that they are.
It was a gig I wouldn’t have missed. It brought a bit of home to Hull; nostalgic moments captured as I enjoyed their older, classic tracks.
In addition to rooting in me a passion for another fantastic Hull band – I can’t love them all, but there’s always room for a couple more.
La Bête Blooms have a sound which is propelled by the raw energy the band expel on stage. A review in NME compared their single ‘Stay Away’ to the “feral ferocity of Nirvana’s ‘Territorial Pissings’”.
Off stage, you find a very different group of individuals. They are lead singer and guitarist Daniel Mawer, Jack Gallagher on bass, John Copley on lead guitar, Louisa Robinson on keys and James Coggin behind the drumkit. With the exception of spritely James, who breaks all stereotypes associated with drummers, they all appear to be serene, even timid, souls. They admit to being rather camera-shy, having one of their most iconic music videos using animation by Jake Machen to express their personality in a potent and colourful manner.
But this is the power of their music, which brings forth the beast within and offers a way to express that sense of freedom and enthusiasm.
A La Bête Blooms set is difficult to describe without sounding a little over-dramatic. Mawer’s lyrics are laced with heart-felt emotion, drawing the audience into their grasp. Once there, the thrashing guitar-fuelled sound captures you and refuses to let you loose again. I’ve never seen Mawer remain on stage for an entire set, needing to sit, or even lie down in the crowd, as a means of cooling off during one of their more heavy songs. They perform with a natural ease, taking it in their way, and leading the audience down the path in which they build.
Photographs by Luke Hallett.
This is the interview I conducted with La Bête Blooms back in October, when they released their EP:
And here is the interview I conducted more recently for their cover feature in Browse Magazine:
Nix: Last time we interviewed you guys, you’d just released your debut EP. What’s been going on since then?
Daniel Mawer: We’ve recorded two singles. We did that… like a month ago.
John Copley: It was a bit more than that. Was it February? The start of February.
Daniel: Yeah, so we recorded two singles with the same guy who did the EP – Matt Peel, in Leeds. He’s moved places, into in like a converted church. And then we’ve just finished a run of four days [of their April tour] with London, Nottingham, Coventry and Liverpool.
Nix: How have you found this tour?
Daniel: The last time we spoke to you, we’d just done the October one with six dates over the course of a month. This was… we have seven dates, but four of them were like Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. That was different, coz we stayed over for a couple of them – we’ve not done that before, have we?
James Coggin: No. It was good.
Daniel: It felt better doing that as well. It felt good doing like a little batch all together.
Nix: Did it feel more like a proper tour?
Daniel: Yeah, exactly, yeah. Rather than coming home and having a few days, we straight to a hotel and then back to it the next day. It was more like a holiday really though, wasn’t it?
John: We forgot we had gigs sometimes.
Daniel: Spent too much money as well. Went to a Monkey Forest. John’s idea, wasn’t it John?
John: It was.
James: I enjoyed that!
John: It wasn’t that good.
Louisa Robinson: Everyone enjoyed that.
Daniel: It was kind of like East Park but worse… there’s more to see at East Park.
Louisa: Yeah, different varieties.
Daniel: Once you’ve seen one monkey, you’ve…
James: Don’t say you’ve seen them all. Coz you haven’t. There were 140 monkeys there, and you didn’t see them all.
John: Anyway, enough about monkeys…
Nix: Were there any venues which you particularly enjoyed?
Daniel: Well, we’ve played Nottingham before, so we knew what we were expecting with that. It was a Friday night; it does really well on a Friday.
James: I think every venue seemed to have its own…
John: It was all very different, wasn’t it?
James: Yeah, everything was so distinct. It was really nice, actually.
John: Yeah. Some were really big, and one was literally a tiny, little…
(Here, John was asked why he was wearing his sunglasses indoors by a member of staff. James pointed out that this is because John is “cool”.)
Daniel: Coventry was nice: the Tin. It was next to a canal, and it felt the middle of nowhere to be honest. It kinda was. Maybe ten minutes before we played, a lot… like twenty, thirty people were stood up, ready to watch us play. So that felt like a gig, a proper gig. Not like a night where we’d just jumped in…
John: Yeah, and people had paid for that one.
Daniel: Yeah, people had paid to come and see us. They looked after us as well.
James: Yeah, yeah, very hospitable.
John: Good food.
Nix: So, where else features on this tour?
Daniel: Wakefield, Leeds and the Sesh. We’re playing The Hop in Wakefield, Wharf Chambers in Leeds, and then we’ve got the Sesh. But they’re like the other tour; it’s really over the next month.
Nix: And, then, what’s next for La Bête Blooms?
Daniel: I suppose when we’ve done these dates, we’ve got the first single coming out in July, which we’ve recorded.
James: Got to do a video.
Daniel: Yeah, video and a few dates will go with that as well. It all kicks into summer after we release the single. The usual… same kind of summer we always have.
John: Yeah, Wembley Festival…
Daniel: Yeah, no. Obviously, we’ve been doing them [Hull festivals] for three or four years. Everybody looks after you, everybody knows each other. So, yeah…
Halfway through Independent Venue Week, Thursday was my first chance to get out and taste something from the diverse menu offered. Arriving a little later than I usually do, I dived into a crowded room, just as the live music was about to start.
Hull’s own, Young Jack were a wonderful warm up act to support the visiting bands. Always charismatic, always full of energy, their music gets any crowd moving. And the crowd were on their feet from the very first song, spilling forward quickly.
Their sound is funky rock, mixing in the up-beat soul rhythms with classic guitar-lead rock. I’ve described the band previously as Rolling Stones meets James Brown. And indeed, the one cover they played was one of his. Their own songs are equally catchy, with a chorus which is easy enough to pick up and sing along to, intermixing powerful instrumentals. They’ve mastered a fantastic sound, though at times it is a sound which seems too old for the young lads: the aural demonstration not quite matching what you see on stage.
Lead vocalist Luke Bowe engaged with the audience at times, suggesting that we “clap along a little bit” to a couple of songs. But overall, a hometown crowd will do this out of loyalty rather than because they are entranced by the music or performance. The bands who followed, both hailing from over the waters, had mastered these showman tricks, taking the stage entirely.
Not the headline band, but sandwiched into the central slot, The Apache Relay were the highlight of the night, for me at least. From Nashville, Tennessee, they describe their sound as indie roots. As with Young Jack, you heard the clear rock sound with the undercurrent of other influences: country, folk and blues. Harmonies sweeping you off your feet, a bass beat getting those feet tapping again, and the stunningly soft and charming voice of Michael Ford Jr.
Ford’s hips were swaying with the music, hypnotising you further as the music drew you forward. A softer sound than the other two bands, I felt the last of the shivering cold from outside warming, as though I were sat before a homely hearth. Starting with a mellow sound, this grew in volume and intensity, demonstrating a range of musical comforts. Though I’d not heard much of their music before the gig, I found I was swaying quite naturally to the sound. It was instantly enjoyable, with my favourite track being the one which concluded the set.
Throughout, Ford was engaging with the audience. He introduced members of his band, announcing that it was drummer Steve Smith’s birthday. Leaning into the crowd, there was conversation which filled the short intervals between songs, complimenting the crowd and venue as he stated that it was an “honour to be playing this legendary venue … you’re beautiful Hull”. And the crowd responded well by shuffling even closer to the stage.
For a Thursday night, the Adelphi was packed – the few yards in front of the stage rammed with feet. Space was tight, making any dance moves minimal. But this is a testament to The New Adelphi Club, an iconic venue in the city.
Headlining band The Weeks took to the stage as everyone shuffled forward yet again. Between bands, people filtered from the front, only to eagerly return to their places. All the way from Jackson, Mississippi, they brought a very classic rock and roll sound.
Again, lead vocalist Cyle Barnes, demonstrated a variety of skills whereby the frontman becomes middleman between the musicians and their listeners. He was also complimentary, announcing at the start of their set that “we’ve been looking forward to this gig”, again calling the people of Hull beautiful (which, of course, we are). There was energy from all members of the band. Due to the increasing surge of the crowd, who seemed to find space which hadn’t been there during the previous acts, I was unable to see much of the stage. However, you could feel the energy flowing back over you, and every now and again Barnes’ would appear as he bounced across the stage. With no instrument, he displayed his enthusiasm for their music by moving around throughout the instrumentals, and leaning into the crowd when at the mic.
The audience didn’t need to be asked to clap along for this band, who are well established on the stage, taking control of the entire room through their natural rapture.
I was comfortable with the sound of all three bands. Though performing different styles of rock, they were equally engaging and enthusiastic. And it was through their demonstration of this that I found I was joining in with the movement of the crowd, whose own excitement seemed to grow with each set.
If you haven’t yet heard of US bands Apache Relay or The Weeks, then I definitely advise you do so. Both bands have music available at the usual outlets, including Soundcloud and Spotify.
A long day of drizzle, I had almost been tempted to let the weather put me off. Nothing could lift the spirits on a day in which even the sun hadn’t wanted to grace the skies. Still, LIFE were playing, and I had yet to see new Hull band Vulgarians perform. And, if that wasn’t tempting enough, I was rather excited about seeing Frankie & The Heartstrings on the penultimate night of their IVW Tour.
The Adelphi was comfortably busy. Surrounded by friendly faces, the clinking of glasses and rumble of chatter defied any doubt that it was going to be a good night was quickly dashed.
Vulgarians started the proceedings. Their sound is more metal than rock, with Ryan Wilson-Preen’s deep vocals and powerful instrumentals lead by Tom Morrell’s guitar. I appreciated that you could hear the lyrics, as recently it’s bugged me that live gigs focus more on making noise than allowing the audience to concentrate on the words. That said, it was the instrumentals which held me with Vulgarians. As charismatic as Wilson-Preen is, his voice cannot compete with the lead singers of the bands set to follow him on stage, making them stand out even more as something different. Though stood on the opposite side of the room from him, it was Morrell who had me engaged.
I’m glad Vulgarians are getting the chance to share their music with varied crowds, and as a new band they will have a lot to learn about their own sound and the way in which to work those crowds. Wilson-Preen was on the edge of the stage almost throughout the set, but there still seemed to be something holding him back from directly connecting with the audience. This will come over time, and it is clear this band has what it takes to leap to the next step.
Anyone who’s ever read any of my other reviews of LIFE, knows that I am entirely hypnotised by the band. I can listen to and enjoy pretty much any genre of music, but the sound I really love is exactly which is on their menu: an upbeat, catchy rock sound which encompasses the punk attitude, and blends in an intellectual reflection of popular culture.
Mick Sanders started things off with a few chords on his guitar, before they introduced us to one of their new tracks, ‘Yeah’. Their set consisted of their most popular tracks, as well of some of the newer ones – some entirely new to their fans’ ears – as a taster for the album which they assure us is on the way.
During ‘All Your Friends’, lead vocalist Mez Green-Sanders was out into the crowd, demonstrating his usual passion for engaging directly with their audience. So busy was the venue that he couldn’t get far, but this never stops him from giving his all to the performance. The energy they excrete from the stage is what’s always drawn me to them. And every set contains an element of chaos. I’ve seen many live sets where microphones have fallen apart or fallen over, but never have I seen one accidentally hurled at the cameraman.
With Frankie and The Heartstrings, it’s easy to see where Mez has learned some of his showmanship from – having supported Frankie & The Heartstrings with former band The Neat. Equally upbeat and energetic, front-man Frankie Francis takes the stage by storm. He had the crowd so involved, that they became an additional instrument, clapping in time with the bass even without the need to be instructed.
The banter between band members was as joyful as that between band and audience. Drummer Dave Harper added hilarious jokes throughout the set, demonstrating his knowledge of the city when he asked who was heading to Spiders after the gig. Apparently he once had a ‘dalliance with a lady’ there. A courteous band, they thanked both the venue and supporting acts on more than one occasion; uplifting to hear such praise for our home-grown musicians.
Their songs are mostly upbeat, with such catchy tracks as their single ‘That Girl, That Scene’. The entire room was bouncing, and even though their final song ‘Fragile’ is a little more mellow, the room was a-buzz with discussion about where else to take the night – we were warmed up and, unable to stop the adrenalin from flooding our veins, we were ready for more of the same.
A fast-paced night of entertaining music where the only truly negative I could find was that it had to end so quickly.
Though with a performance that strong, whenever I listen to a song from their setlist, I am able to reignite the music with the visual. A week later, and I am still expecting the room to burst into a flaming chorus of “yep-yeah whoa!”
The second night of their November tour, LIFE performed their hometown gig metres away from the space in which they usually rehearse.
Last time I saw LIFE perform at the Adelphi, it was for the venue’s birthday celebrations. It was packed so tight I would have been more comfortable with my hands in my neighbour’s pockets. This experience was bound to be contrast with that. A Thursday night, I’d expected it to be quiet, but there was just the right collection of supporters in order to create a comforting and sociable buzz.
Supported by Witty’s Passage and Babies, there was time to get a couple of drinks and settle into the evening before the co-headlining bands set to the stage. I attended with a fellow contributor for Browse Magazine. I had planned not to work the event, attending as an encouraging fan. Alas, at the last minute we couldn’t get a photographer, so I took on this role. I had one aim: get a shot of Mick which wasn’t a terrible mess of blur.
We entered as Witty’s Passage performed, greeted by Mez, and took a seat next to the merchandise table. One massive bonus to a midweek gig is that you can usually get a decent place to park yourself. But we couldn’t help feel somewhat saddened by the gap in front of the stage. For the musicians, it is always wonderful to see crowds gather as close as they can. I knew, though, that this wouldn’t hinder our LIFE.
Storms, promoting their EP on the tour, came across as aptly named. Their song ‘Shame’ is a mixture of soft and heavy vocals. A track accompanied by a soulful beat and fast-paced instrumentals, it rang around my head even as I rode in the taxi home.
Heavy sounds and a harmonic clash of vocals, there was barely a break between tracks as they swam from one song to the next. The guitarist, Felix Howes, did stop at one point to compliment Witty’s Passage and Babies, stating that Hull has “got some f*cking talent”. My favourite track was ‘Swell’, which started with a calm welcoming instrumental and then pulled you into the riptide of noise between verses. Their set concluded with a cover of ‘My Girl’, the remains of their energy thrown into the final chords, leaving amps still ringing as they stepped from the stage.
Though both bands fit into the genres of rock and punk, their sounds are very different. Storms are a loud, powerful force, whereas LIFE are a whirlwind of energy and charisma. Both empowering and mesmerising, creating a sound which pushes its way into your heart.
The short interlude between co-headliners, saw Hull’s LIFE open in their traditional manner with ‘In Citrus’, instantly hooking the crowd with their familiar tune and bouncing beats. Another popular song, ‘Money’ had the crowd stepping forward and dancing. Mez joined their fans on the floor for a couple of tracks, with Loz and Mick hanging off the stage. “You’re only close enough if you get wet from this,” Mick told us, as he shook his damp barnet. This is the spell that they cast; that within a couple of tracks they’ve worked up the audience as much as their sweat levels.
New songs ‘Membership Man’ and ‘Go Go Go’ featured, as promised, with Mez introducing the latter as “this one’s very fast”. It didn’t stop a couple of us trying to sing along, which the brothers commented on, adding they’re not even sure they can follow along with the lyrics. “I just go nananana,” joked Mick.
Who, by the way, I did get a non-blurry photograph of. The only issue the guys had was the low ceiling. Mez climbed the drumkit, curving himself around the rafters, and Mick did mention afterwards that he almost did himself an injury when throwing himself around the stage.
What I adore about this band is their sheer love of performing. They are the only band where I can guarantee the mic stand is more likely to spend it’s time off stage than on. There is never a doubt in my mind that I will leave delighted with their set, empowered by the bond they create with their audience.
Between them, Storms and LIFE are a mesmerising clash of noise and stage presence. Bands to be reckoned with, and bands you will hear about for a long time into the future.
You can still catch these guys on their co-headline tour, which continues across the UK until 13th November.
The band have been hailed as a modern ska band, generating an infectious noise which has pulled in the crowds across Europe during their tour. Having previously been compared to such greats as The Specials and Madness, they mix the jazz and blues roots of ska with powerful guitars and a little bit of rap. The true origins of the genre are found in calypso, and there is certainly a sense of carnival party in this collection of songs.
You can expect some well-known tunes as well as some new material, including ‘Don’t Look Behind You’ and their most recent single ‘Radio’. The latter is everything I love about ska – instantly injecting you with adrenalin and dragging you to your feet. Even sat down writing this review, my shoulders are bouncy of their own accord. And with a catchy chorus, it’s a definite crowd-pleaser. If you’ve never listened to the band before, you’ll be confidently bopping and singing along before the end of the track.
This album features two guest singers. Dancehall and reggae artist Dr Ring Ding features on one of the more solemn tracks, ‘Sam’, which opens with a sombre brass instrumental, echoing military bands and that element of ceremony. This is one where you want to sit back and listen to the lyrics, enjoying both the sound and the soul of the song. Former lead singer of The King Blues, Itch lends his voice to the song ‘Ceasefire’, one of the tracks which involves more rap, and opens with the command to “turn this one up”. I highly advise you do, showing the true power of rap to instil a message through fast-paced vocals set to a thumping backdrop of instruments.
My favourite tune on the album is ‘All in a Day’, with a guitar introducing, building with vocals and then the powerful mixture of instruments. Again, there is a catchy chorus which guides you to sing along, even if you’re experiencing the grey day in which the lyrics describe. This is often when I listen to ska music, when the day has drained me of any optimism, as it has that power to grab you by the collar and shake any negativity to the floor as it shakes you into a fervent frenzy.
The release date is the 24th November, right at the end of their UK leg of the promoting tour. So, to get a feel for it, you can see the band perform at the Welly on Friday 7th November, alongside Counting Coins, Breeze and Bud Sugar.
All four of these bands ooze energy from every pore. And they’ll have you bouncing around that dance floor intoxicated on their addictive enthusiasm.
You see the word everywhere: life. The media is constantly telling us how to improve our life, as are our supermarkets, doctors and friends. Well, now, the media is also talking quite a bit about the band LIFE.
LIFE consists of Mez and his brother Mick, Loz and Rich. Though they have their clear roles on stage – Loz on bass, Mick on guitar, Rich on drums and Mez just about everywhere with as many microphones as he can carry – they are a clear unit, working as a band of brothers who love to make music together. Still considering themselves a new band, having officially formed only last year, they are humbled by the response they have received from live crowds over the last summer of festivals. It took only three songs to hook me, captivated by their natural presence on stage.
Since then, I have had more and more opportunities, sharing in some of the big moments the band have experienced. Headlining at Freedom Festival and sharing stages with Chicago’s Twin Peaks and Leeds’ Kaiser Chiefs, these guys have never stepped back and let others take the fire and determination which drives them. And it is with this power that they are building a vast collection of fans, with regular gigs in hometown Hull and in London.
The month of October was another turning point for the band, as they signed with Grand Jury and cast their nets across the pond. Now that singles Take Off With You and Money are available on ITunes in the US, they are sharing their live performance with audiences across the UK.
November will be a busy one as the band take off on their 9-day tour, featuring visits to three Yorkshire towns. Four best friends, they’re looking forward to getting on the road and doing what they do best. Mez says “we love gigging” adding that when back to back in this manner “the adrenalin is almost double.” Leaving their day-jobs behind, they can get back to forging that bond with their audiences.
Having seen the band perform numerous times, to huge festival crowds and in more intimate venues, I can already feel the energy with which they take everywhere they go. Energetic really is the only adjective to describe their act – as visual a display as it is auditory. Mez will find every nook and cranny of the stage, filling it with sound and sweat as he wears the band’s name on the back of his leather jacket. In interviews, they have repeatedly said that a live performance is about that connection with the audience, and Mez will never finish a set without getting as close, if not into, the audience as possible. He shares a mic with the crowd, inviting them in with well-known songs such as the catchy tunes of In Citrus and the popular Crawling. Mick and Loz share the stage, criss-crossing and high-kicking as they play, with Rich, cushioned in the back of the stage behind his kit, adding to the powerhouse of enthusiasm. Equally, with new songs Go Go Go and Membership Man you can expect fast-paced energetic sounds.
LIFE fill any stage, and can still take on more. They’ve come across issues in the past, where technology has let them down, but nothing can slow them. They feed from the energy of the crowd and play every show as if it were their last, giving it all. You can see it in their every feature: the sweat dripping from their brows; the ferocity with which they play; and the spirited conversation with the audience.
Central to monumental times for a Hull-based band who aim to be a “leading light” for their community, which they describe as “the underdog which is sick of being labelled”, LIFE are peeling back the paintwork and getting into the purity of punk. They are a band who have put their lives into performing and creating music, and they are a sight which has to be seen. Rarely do I fall so quickly for a band the first time I see or hear them, but LIFE grabbed me by the collar and dragged me into their world.
Still young but so strong, this tour is a significant stepping stone in their musical career. Indeed, as soon as it is over, they head back to the London studio to continue recording in preparation for an eagerly anticipated album.
For your taste of LIFE, get yourself to the nearest venue and see for yourselves.
An album which signalled beginning and an end for the Manic Street Preachers, it is dark, emotional and beautiful.
The title I have given this blog is a little imprecise: the album is 20 years old, but it’s only been a part of my life for about 12 years. It was not my Holy Bible, but the band were the closest I had come to a feeling of divinity. The spirit of Richey James Edward’s lyrics sung by the glorious James Dean Bradfield, was enough to have a teenage me seeing a chance at heaven.
The Manics were, and still are in a more ghostly manner, all-encompassing in my life. I no longer sit for hours surrounded by their paraphernalia, drowning in their lyrics, as I did at eleven, when This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours sought me out and took hold of my heart. They have become so much a part of me, that I do not need such a direct connection with them. My first tattoo was of my favourite song, emblazoned forever on my back, and just as with this tattoo I often find I catch a glimpse in the mirror and for a moment realise I have almost forgotten that it was there. I know it is there, but it’s been so long since I glanced at my own spine. Yet, knowing they are there means even when I forget, I am not removed from them.
The Holy Bible was their third studio album, released on the 29th August 1994. As with the Manics themselves, this album was attacked by the majority as a morbid collection of monstrosities and self-indulgence, and cherished by the minority who saw it as a series of screams in both pain and sheer pleasure. The band had stated that they felt they were drifting away from themselves, becoming too stereotypically Rock. And so this album came with a somewhat different sound to the previous Gold Against The Soul and allowed lyricists Richey and Nicky Wire to delve into their very souls and musicians James and Sean to lift them up with a hefty platform.
Six months after its release, Richey checked out of the Embassy Hotel on the day the band were due to set off for a US tour. Two weeks later his car was found on the Severn Bridge, abandoned, and since Richey James Edwards has been a memory and the occasional sighting by a possibly overly-ambitious fan.
Yet Richey’s spirit is still very much alive. He is remembered by all Manics fans, even those – like myself – who never truly knew the band of as a four-piece, through consistent questioning by interviewers and the use of his lyrics in later albums. James, Sean and Nicky have never accepted closure and his family turned down the option to declare him “legally dead” in 2002, instead allowing the term “presumed dead” later in 2008.
For me, The Holy Bible greeted me at a time when I was facing my own demons.
The lyrics rang out and stirred something new in me. I could fall asleep to the words one night and be haunted by them another. Any truth I found in the lyrics, frightened me. They are, after all, an insight into one very disturbed mind.
Yes hits home so many teenage realities. “I don’t know what I’m scared of or what I even enjoy” – fear was my enjoyment as a teenager. I started to face them and to run full pelt at them, with a desire to overcome and subdue all that terrified and haunted me. And what teenager doesn’t relate to the “11th commandment” of solitude? What teenager doesn’t question their identity and their place in the world?
4st 7lb was a song which inspired my university dissertation – 13000 words on a topic I delved into with far too much enthusiasm. It disgusted and intrigued me, leading to a mixture of non-fiction and fiction work on the topics of mental disorders, anorexia in both male and female patients and thinspiration (something which deeply sickened me). Richey summed it all up so wonderfully and hideously: “this discipline’s so rare please applaud”.
But the song which strikes me the most, especially in hindsight, is Die in the Summertime. “the hole in my life stains even the soil” referred, in my view, to a growing emptiness I held as tightly as I could. The summer in which I purchased this album was one which changed my life forever, both the better and worse. It was the summer which changed me, and saw the end of my childhood and the beginning of my road to adulthood.