Released on: This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours (Album #5) Epic Records, 14 September 1998
Speaking in September 1998, Nicky Wire made a couple of rather odd statements about ‘S.Y.M.M.’, the closing track of the This Is My Truth album released that month. First, he said that it was “probably the first song we’ve written that uses space and emptiness to such a degree”. This might have been technically true because the song had actually been written two years prior to that point, but at least two other songs on the same album use space significantly more. Secondly, he called it the “the most beautiful piece of music” the band had written which, well – just isn’t true.
Obviously Wire is entitled to his opinion. The fans’ opinion is generally very negative when it comes to this track, which is possibly the least popular closing track the Manics have yet released. It’s easy to see why – ‘S.Y.M.M.’ is lengthy, slow, experimental, and a real downer. It is also frustrating from a lyrical perspective. While the song’s topic is a good and important one – the full title being ‘South Yorkshire Mass Murderer’, it is about the Hillsborough disaster of 1989 – but the song is literally about its inability to say anything significant about those events. This makes it unique and possibly even important within the discography, as it reduces a band known for their eloquence to speechlessness. What it doesn’t do is make the song a whole lot of fun to listen to.
At the same time, it’s hard to be quite as critical of the recording as fans often are. It’s interesting to hear a Manics song which deploys a lot of studio trickery, such as the backwards snare drum hits in this case. Additionally, there is no doubting the strength of Bradfield’s vocal performance, which rescues a great deal of emotion and credibility from the relative car crash that is Wire’s set of lyrics.
That being said, ‘S.Y.M.M.’ is still jostling with [T51] ‘Gold Against the Soul’ for the title of worst Manic closing track. It simply isn’t engaging enough, and leaves a somewhat bitter taste in the mouth after the consistently excellent quality of the preceding several tracks.
Choice Lyric (Full Lyrics)
“the ending for this song / well I really haven’t though of one”
Jimmy McGovern – (1949 – ) British TV writer. He is referenced here in relation to two of his works; ‘To Be A Somebody’ a story told in three parts as part of his police drama Cracker, and the later drama Hillsborough, which were both concerned with the Hillsborough disaster. McGovern actually wrote the latter in order to satisfy angry relatives of the Hillsborough dead, who complained about the former story.