Released on: Love’s Sweet Exile/Repeat (Single #5) Columbia Records, 28 October 1991
Peak UK Chart Position: #26
Band Ranking: #18
Undoubtedly one of the best B-sides of the Generation Terrorists era, ‘Democracy Coma’ would have made a fine replacement as joint A-side had ‘Repeat’ been removed. Like that song, ‘Coma’ is a straightforward uptempo rock effort which represents an attack on the monarchy; it differs by being much more interesting musically and having at least a little more in the way of lyrical panache. However, the line “in Walkman sounds hear Sony control” has long been mocked, quite rightly. Although ridiculous sounding it was to an extent subversive. Given that the Manics were signed to Columbia Records, once an independent label founded in 1888 but taken over by Sony exactly a hundred years later, the band were essentially, indirectly attacking their own record label. This may be a reference to the Clash’s 1977 single ‘Complete Control’, which attacked their own label CBS. CBS was itself then the international guise of… Columbia Records. Oh, the tangled webs the record industry weaves.
The scene for the song is set right from the excellent intro; Bradfield’s anguished cries of “condemned” are looped over a very mean sounding, chugging slab of guitar and (live) drums. Throughout the song, Wire’s bass is given higher-than-usual presence in the mix. What really makes this solid effort stick in the mind is the rollicking chorus, which Bradfield hurls out for all he is worth. Ultimately the song is simple but effective – it may lack the experimentation of, say, [B15] ‘R.P. McMurphy’, but as a straightforward rocker it stands up very well and made a welcome appearance on Lipstick Traces.
In the US, a number of more politically controversial tracks were dropped from Generation Terrorists. As a way to partly make up for those losses, ‘Democracy Coma’ was inserted into the tracklisting between [A20] ‘You Love Us’ and [T33] ‘Crucifix Kiss’.
The closing quote, taken from an Allen Ginsberg poem, is a great closing touch; the band would soon make a real talent out of selecting these clips.
Choice Lyric (Full Lyrics):
“taught in schools to see her as a glorious being”
Auto-da-fé – “act of faith” in medieval Spanish and Portuguese. Used to refer to acts of public repentance during the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions which could go as far as execution by burning.
Belfast wall – peace lines or peace walls are structures erected in Belfast, Northern Ireland by the British Army in 1969 to segregate Catholic and Protestant communities. The use of the expression “Belfast wall” (singular) may be an effort to invite comparison with the Berlin Wall (which had been torn down in November 1989).
Walkman – a brand of personal music players for various formats produced by Sony since 1979. The iconic compact cassette version was discontinued in 2010.