[T112] ‘Black Dog On My Shoulder’

Released on: This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours (Album #5) Epic Records, 14 September 1998

As with [T109] ‘You’re Tender and You’re Tired’, ‘Black Dog on My Shoulder’ is one of the songs on the second half of This Is My Truth in which the theme of depression is most explicit. The title and lyrics refer to Winston Churchill, who was a longtime sufferer of depression and described it as a “black dog” which would periodically attack him. Wire said that the song “tries to deal with depression in an unglamorous anti-rock star way”. The song takes the form of a very nicely constructed kind of acoustic shuffle enriched with strings, which might not be rock n’ roll or even glamorous, but is beautifully serene.

Although Bradfield’s delivery is wonderful (as ever, on this record), particularly during the second verse (“melodrama here in my kitchen sink”) the real highlight of the song is the instrumental sections. ‘Black Dog’ is one of the small numbers of songs in the Manics canon which takes the time to indulge in a fairly long instrumental part towards the end, and it’s a great effort which makes much of Moore’s pattering drums and those superb strings.

If there are criticisms to be made, it’s only that the song’s theme feels slightly lightweight in the context of Truth‘s largely very deep second half; however, the instrumental parts of the song and the way Bradfield delivers the ideas that are here more than makes up for this minor shortcoming. Ultimately, it’s another major creative hit for the album, and one of the best Manics acoustic tracks.

Choice Lyric (Full Lyrics)
“my dilemma but not my choice / Winston Churchill can you hear my voice”

References
Carlito’s Way – Brian DePalma’s 1993 crime film starring Robert DeNiro as gangster Carlito Brigante. The film reunited the actor/director combo behind 1983’s Scarface. Wire appears to have a fondness for gangster films, as he would go on to reference The Godfather Part III in 2010’s ‘The Future Has Been Here 4 Ever’.

Allusions
Kitchen sink
– the term is used here to refer to the term “kitchen sink drama” or “kitchen sink realism”, a trend in British drama in the 1950s and 1960s characterised by emphasis on working-class, domestic concerns often in poor, industrialised regions of the UK.

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