[A106] ‘Tsunami’

Released on: This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours (Album #5) Epic Records, 14 September 1998
Also on: Tsunami (Single #24) Epic Records, 5 July 1999
Peak UK Chart Position: #11
Band Ranking: #25

Like [A100] ‘If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next’, ‘Tsunami’ is one of the few songs of the This Is My Truth era which both maintains the sense of experimentation and makes a natural choice for a single. The former is provided by the fact that, in a highly unusual instrumental turn, the whole song is largely built around a wonderful-sounding electric sitar; that the song feels so much like a hit comes from the excellent surging chorus and Bradfield’s fine delivery. The song did reach #11 in July 1999, despite its fairly oblique lyrics – as Wire commented in 2011 “to have the line ‘disco dancing with the rapists’ playlisted on Radio 1, that is subversion”.

Although the title and chorus reference the concept of a tsunami – which was enough for the Manics to cease playing the song for some time after the devastating tsunami in December 2004 – this is really used as a metaphor as part of the song’s meditation its real theme. ‘Tsunami’ is known to have been written about June and Jennifer Gibbons, two identical twin girls who grew up in Wales. Known as “The Silent Twins”, they gained notice in the press for being highly attuned to each other, not communicating with anyone outside their immediate family, and eventually committing petty crime in an apparent effort to build publicity for their works of fiction. Ultimately they were admitted to Broadmoor psychiatric hospital for 14 years; Jennifer died mysteriously in 1993.

The lyrics to ‘Tsunami’ do more than just include references to The Silent Twins, as they also carry a real atmosphere of unease and despair that fits their story. The dominant element of the song is absolutely the sitar, however – in fact, it is arguably one of the most engaging and beautiful instrumental elements on a Manics recording to date and gives ‘Tsunami’ a unique sound within the discography. By contrast, it has been said that an unreleased demo of the song exists which is a much heavier effort. As it stands, ‘Tsunami’ is definitely one of the most accessible efforts (although certainly not “the closest thing to a pop song” on the album, as Wire once said) but in a way this drags it down from being quite as good as the album’s best songs.

Although it is very simple, the video for ‘Tsunami’ directed by Pedro Romhanyi is a very accomplished piece of work which at least matches his previous effort on the video for [A76] ‘A Design For Life’. A black-and-white performance is interspersed with some fractured shots over which the poem ‘We Two Made One’ written by and about the Gibbons sisters is presented line-by-line. It may not be flashy, but the effect is superb.

Choice Lyric (Full Lyrics)
“doctors tell me that it’s cynical / I tell them that it must be chemical”

References
GIs – GI is used as a noun and means a member of the US armed forces. The initials originally stood for “galvanized iron” and was marked on items of equipment, but has come to mean “government issue” or “general infantry”.

Video
‘Tsunami’ Promo Video (Directed by Pedro Romhanyi)

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