I’d love to go to sleep and wake up happy
Is it too easy to interpret this as Richey’s goodbye message? I mean it’s so easy to do that that you kinda start thinking that it’s definitely nothing like that because it would be waaay too easy to draw the parallels. Plus, you know, there’s the whole William thing (whoever that is), the fact that the original lyric before the edit read almost like a short story and that Wire insists it’s not Richey’s farewell letter. Nonetheless, regardless whether or not it is Richey writing as himself, it sure makes a great closing statement to an album that is essentially a tribute to him. The final words, whoever’s they are. And we all know we’re all thinking about it anyway, no matter how much we try to reason it’s not the case.
After an album full of melancholic acoustic laments and energetic, tongue-in-cheek upbeat rock songs, William’s Last Words surprises with its complete change of pace. It’s calm and tranquil. It floats softly and peacefully, strings beautifully weaving a heartwarmingly sweet pattern over a soft little pop rock backing. It sounds amazing and is a great, calm bookend to the album (well, outside the hidden track that comes and spoils the mood).
However, it’s not only the words and the music that gives the emotional resonance, it’s the singing. James takes the backseat and hands the lead vocal duties to Wire. Wire’s singing has always been very rough and very pronounced, but on William’s Last Words he takes a very, very hushed tone. It’s almost emotionlessly calm but the more you listen to it, the more it is mournfully calm. Unable to speak in anything but a soft, quiet tone because of the emotional resonance the singer himself is feeling. Whether or not it’s just a stylistic quirk or Wire genuinely fought back tears as he recorded his lines is unknown but whatever the case, it truly gives the song a gigantic emotional impact.
In the end William’s Last Words is a final goodbye lyrically. The positive, soft atmosphere isn’t really happiness. It’s a wish to leave with a smile on your face while relishing the final moment you spend with your loved ones, trying to tell them to keep the chin up and not to cry.
If there’s anything to fault in the otherwise brilliant tearjerker, it’s that the absolutely amazing and sudden James backing vocal cameo doesn’t get a reprise. The additional voice, singing in a more melodic harmony under Wire’s shackled voice is a huge impact force and should have got more than one airing. But at the same time, it’s sudden appearance stays special because of it’s one-time airing.
I think this is my favourite track on the album, actually.
The organ that appears on the demo instead of the strings is quite lovely. Not as lovely as the strings but definitely a nice little touch.
As an amusing coincidence, the Underworld remix on the Journal for Plague Lovers remix album turns out to be the best track of the remix project just like the original reigns supreme over the rest of its parent album. The remix has the similar serene beauty as the original, even starts with birdsong and all, but instead of sounding teary-eyed and bittersweet it’s straightforwardly upbeat and jubilant. Nicky is backed up by a female choir as the song starts as an atmospheric near-ambient workout, before halfway through it the instruments kick in and turn the song into one of those brilliant endless singalong finales, making the sad goodbye a joyful, celebratory farewell. It’s downright brilliant and one of the few truly essential remixes in the Manics catalogue.