There’s nothing I could ever say that could really take the pain away
My defense for S.Y.M.M., the oft-hated closer of This Is My Truth – arguably the angriest Manics song, counting whatever’s on The Holy Bible.
Lyrically it’s ingenius, really. Many times when artists are utterly shocked by something and feel like reacting, the lyrics end up being a clichéstorm of roundabout lines. But what if you’re so utterly shocked that you’ve got all those feelings and things you want to say raging inside you, but simply can’t put them into words? That’s what S.Y.M.M. is about – Wire’s feelings about the South Yorkshire football incident (if I recall correctly) where a huge riot was born and several people ended up trampled to death by fellow football fans. Only a few lines in the verses speak Wire’s thoughts about the event directly, whilst the majority of the lyrics simply talk about the seeming pointlessness of wanting to say something but realise there’s never going to be any way you can genuinely put what you feel into words – and even if you could, what could it possibly do?
It’s in the chorus where the largest strength lies. The chorus consists of one line, a single line in all the solitude of the song that bursts out one direct feeling from the incident. “South Yorkshire mass murderer, how can you sleep at night?”. In its loneliness, in its sudden outburst of clear loathing compared to the emotional muddle of the rest of the song, it becomes the angriest, the most resentful and the most violent line in any Manics song. James’ vocal tone never expresses the anger but his ethereal, angelic sighing voice he sings the line with just enhances the lyric’s disgust.
The dreamy, echoing and highly spatial-aware music floats around the words, letting them breathe in the cold atmosphere. Sonic details like backwards snare drums give the song an alien feel (or make it sound like a tyre breaking when listening to it in a car, according to my dad).
A fantastic song.