Released on: This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours (Album #5) Epic Records, 14 September 1998
Here is another characteristically Nicky Wire lyric. Fusing elements of the Manics’ long-held anti-monarchism, a bleak perspective on the personal and political, and a sense of despair with shades of Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Hurt’, ‘My Little Empire’ could have been written by no-one else. Appropriately, the song is performed almost as a duet between Bradfield and Wire, who takes a much larger role in the vocals than he had on any previous Manics track; while his vocals are low in the mix, they are almost ever-present and foreshadow the increasingly large role Wire would have on vocals in the future.
The song is one of the darker moments on This Is My Truth. A solitary and very mournful cello is the only exotic accompaniment to a fairly standard, muted guitars-and-drums composition. Moore’s skittering drums in the verses are excellent in their refusal to stand still or conform to a pattern, serving to highlight the conflicted themes of the lyrics. Bradfield’s guitar line is simple but memorable, giving the song a real core – it’s particularly striking in the intro.
Especially because of the cello, the overall effect of ‘My Little Empire’ really fits into (and perhaps anticipates) the mood of alternative rock at the end of the 1990s. The song wouldn’t look in any way out of place on Travis’ The Man Who album, released a year later and along with Coldplay’s Parachutes, one of the touchstone albums of the period. The song [A76] ‘A Design For Life’ was mentioned by Travis in the final song of that album – see the entry for that song for more information on that. The fact that the Manics were tapping into the cultural Zeitgeist in 1998/9 was also highlighted by their commercial success and at their success the 1999 Brit Awards.
Although one of the more forgotten tracks from This Is My Truth – an album from which a lot of tracks have been forgotten, despite its huge sales – ‘My Little Empire’ is absolutely worthy of thorough investigation, even if it precedes, rather than is part of, the truly superb run of songs that is about to begin.
Choice Lyric (Full Lyrics)
“all of my sins are attempts to fill the voids”