I’ve got to stop smiling
One really wouldn’t expect this on This Is My Truth. Amongst an album full of introspective, melancholy mood-mellowers, you’ve got this extremely outrospective stadium rock anthem made to make the crowd jump.
It’s not jarring in the slightest however. For one, it doesn’t break the mood. It might sound a bit optimistic and it’s certainly far more lively than most other tracks on the album, but in its heart it’s a bitter and enraged song. The massive guitarwalls act as a great contrast to the rest of the album and since it’s introduced so early on, it doesn’t break the flow in any way. It’s still stylistically a bit off the mark with its slightly barer sound, but its general quality makes you forgive that. The fact that it’s a very bitter song no matter how you interpret it adds to it – you can either see it as something about a broken relationship or, more accurately and factually, about Wire’s dislike for touring.
Favourite musical details: the drum machine loop sampled from a pinball machine; the little bass foolarounds in the verses; the instantly recognisable trademark-Bradfield riff in the verses.
The David Holmes Joyful Racket remix is exactly what it says on the tin. It’s joyful and it’s a bit perkier in its sound, very airy and summery. Even the chorus breakdown sounds… breezy. The Mogwai remix on the other hand is the complete opposite. Sleepy, drowsy. Both are some of the more memorable Manics remixes.
The sleeve quotes: “Art is a lie that helps us understand the truth” from Pablo Picasso and “Acting is bad for the mental health. I can’t take it anymore. This has got to stop” from Anthony Hopkins.
The video for the song is a fairly simple performance video but a good one, flicking between happysunny verses and the angry choruses where the room shakes and storms flails outside. Some bunnies and even a few cartoon birds appear to annoy Wire on the second verse. It’s good fun. Unfortunately it’s not on Youtube (well I can’t see it anyway) so have the excellent Manic Millennium performance that can also be found on the Pedestal single.
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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.
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Here’s a true story
Here’s one of the most downright gorgeous Manics songs.
The gorgeous church organ that (almost) starts it all. The gorgeous clarity and beauty of the verses mixed with the gorgeous thundering roar of the choruses. The gorgeous lyrics, perfectly demonstrating the “personal is political” angle Wire’s often talked about – merging together the 60’s event of flooding a small Welsh village to provide water reserves for elsewhere and introspective melancholy. One of the most gorgeous middle-eights in music history. The most gorgeous use of a sound clip in a Manics song.
The further the song goes, the more amazing it grows. The ending of the second verse starts the build up as James switches his singing style, the second chorus sounds even more impactful, then the divine middle section begins and finally everything just collapses together in the most perfect way and finally the church organ from the start returns.
The Leaving the 20th Century DVD has not only the Manic Millennium version of this but also a wonderful in-studio live version. Then you have also this unspeakably beautiful acoustic version with James collaborating with John Cale.
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Just this fucking space
If the idiotic remarks that This Is My Truth is just an Everything Must Go copycat (which is really quite an utterly insane point of view if you have ever even bothered to listen to the two albums) haven’t already been taken back by this point of the album, I’m Not Working should definitely clear it all up. It’s a song unlike anything on Everything Must Go. It’s a song unlike anything else in the band’s career. It’s the band at their most experimental in studio.
Trippy and floating in an endless amount of space, enslaved and enstrengthened by studio trickery. Little melody, little hooks, just endless amounts of vast infinity in the sound and a gigantic yet detached drum section. I’m Not Working was made for headphones. It’s the only way to completely appreciate the gigantic amount of space in the recording and the ethereal, translucent atmosphere it produces. The apathy and existential crisis -filled lyrics add it a paranoid, hopeless feel.
Stunningly captivating material.
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Need a new start and a different time
James has professed that he had major problems singing the lyrics for Born a Girl. A likely reason for it being only played about once or twice live as well. Born a Girl is Wire at his most naked and vulnerable, an extremely personal lyric that perhaps would have been sung by Wire himself if it had appeared later on the band’s career. In that case however it’d lose a lot of its current power – James’ vocal performance is an important part of the song.
This Is My Truth’s instrumental experimentation shows up once again on this track. The guest star this time is an accordion (played by the live keyboard player Nick Nasmyth, as a rather surprising trivia). Sounds fantastic and gives the song the sort of musical fragility it needs, as a contrast to the careless strumming James works out from his guitar on the choruses – the verses played lightly and subtly in a very beautiful fashion.
God knows how much of the lyrics for this one are fully honest, but they certainly make a fantastic text and the core of a haunting song. The most quiet and most haunting moment on the album.
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Floating around up here on my own
Before Tolerate’s potential hit status was realised, Be Natural was the most important track of the This Is My Truth sessions and heavily thought of as the lead single. But ever after the album’s release, it’s been completely silenced. No talk about it outside Wire once mentioning his opinion on the lyrics (he says they’re shite but we all know he’s completely wrong, right?), no live performances at all. It’s confusing.
It’s also downright annoying. There’s a reason why Be Natural had the big song status and that’s because it’s a big song. It’s got one of the best Manics choruses in the entire catalogue, the guitars on this song are absolutely heavenly and the build-up to the said chorus and the explosion of sound as the song reaches its climax point whenever it hits the chorus is purely orgasmic. It’s at the same time boldly outrospective and a natural born hit as it is an introspective brooding session filled with such spatial studio trickery as I’m Not Working is.
In other words, perfection.
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Your only crime is silence
I’ve always loved the video for Tsunami – it’s actually one of my very favourite videos by them. It’s one of those videos where simplicity is excellently stylish: just a fantastic, black and white performance shot with a poem from ‘The Silent Twins’ – the song’s subject matter, two young girls who held a vow of silence while producing all sorts of literature – interspersed in-between.
Tsunami is musically one of the more straightforward pieces of This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours, an obvious single really. Hypnotically driving verse, fantastic soaring chorus, a brilliantly dreamy c-part break. The sound’s more in line with the rest of the album however than e.g. You Stole the Sun because of its heavy emphasis on studio production and deeper soundworld. The electric sitar brings in an Eastern vibe, the guitar strums of the verses are enhanced with a delay pedal which makes a minimal strum ring and vibrate beautifully. The whole song has a wonderfully dreamy atmosphere to it, a wave of soft and encompassing sound that washes over you. It wasn’t originally like that though – one of the famous legendary unreleased Manics pieces is the original demo version of Tsunami that the band (especially James) has talked about several times, which is apparently a far raunchier and rocking take on the song. The live performances of the song give some hint as to what it probably is like but the demo’s never been officially released, sadly. And unless we get a big boxset of Manics rarities one day (which wouldn’t be surprising, considering Wire’s packrat tendencies and his own love for rarity boxsets), we most likely won’t hear it either – the hopes of it being included with the 10th anniversary re-release of This Is My Truth shipwrecked when the plans for the whole re-release hit the iceberg.
Speaking of live, Tsunami disappeared from the band’s live setlists after the big tsunami incident in December 2004. It stayed away for several years but started to make reappearances once again on the brief Journal for Plague Lovers tour. It’s a song that really jumps in quality with each performance – sometimes it ends up sounding very ordinary and the Ruisrock 2003 performance even gave me a slight headache with the insanely high pitched sitar sample from the keyboards, while other performances (like this Later With Jools Holland one) sound fantastic, the studio production replaced with extra beefiness in sound.
From an album full of utterly amazing cuts, Tsunami is one of my favourites.
The Tsunami remixes are pretty groovy. The Stereolab remix is the better one of the two, its colourful and psychedelic organ jingle is so damn joyful you can’t help but love it – especially whenever it completely switches its style in the chorus to some loungy, fingersnapping goodness. The Cornelius remix is similarly busy and hyperactive in sound, but this time in a more ramshackle way as it’s mainly a play between a hyper-strumming acoustic guitar and a fast drum section. Both worth a check at least. Then there’s also this pisstake ‘remix’ by “Cumfiend” (which may or may not be just as pisstakey) that replaces the whole music with a generic funky house background and repeats the “disco dancing with the rapists” line ad infinitum. Of course it’s not certain if it’s jokey but considering the guy’s MySpace and the relatively low profile it’s more than likely, yet it’s surprisingly addicting.
Rather surprisingly, neither of the Tsunami single sleeve quotes come from the Silent Twins. Ted Hughes’ “Before us stands yesterday” graced CD1 and CD2 got “I have to change to stay the same” as said by Willem de Kooning.
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