[T131] ‘Wattsville Blues’

Released on: Know Your Enemy (Album #6) Epic Records, 19 March 2001
Track: 7

With ‘Wattsville Blues’ Nicky Wire makes his second appearance on lead vocals on a Manics recording, and the first one to be released on an album. There is an interesting comparison between this song and his previous outing [B124] ‘The Ballad of the Bangkok Novotel’ – where that song was about Wire’s unhappy relationship with touring, this one is about his (broadly) happy relationship with home. Wattsville is a village near Newport in South-East Wales where Wire lived for a time – he subsequently moved to a suburb of Newport itself, where he still lives.

While Wire’s “sighing” vocals are the most striking element of the song, what is really important – and what might be missed by those who can’t see past those vocals – is the large number of fascinating things that are going on musically. The core of the track is an odd combination of ramshackle acoustic guitar and a jerking synthesizer, and the other elements that work their way in later are similarly dissonant but intriguing, not least Bradfield’s backing vocals (reversing the usual trend when the two sing together) and the heavy use of organ in the final third of the song. Appropriately given Wire’s dominance of the track, his bass playing is also much freer, louder and generally more notable than usual. By contrast, Moore’s contribution is only slight as machined drums take the place of his live playing (although Moore presumably programmed said drums, at least).

It’s easy to write ‘Wattsville Blues’ off as just another song with awful Wire vocals, but that would mean missing the highly experimental nature of the rest of the piece, as well as the interesting insight into Wire’s personal life as he puts sleepy Wattsville on the map. Not one of KYE‘s strongest tracks, but undoubtedly worthy of attention.

Choice Lyric (Full Lyrics)
“I’m so happy I know I can never leave” (obviously this didn’t prove to be literally true)

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2 responses to “[T131] ‘Wattsville Blues’

  1. A song which on every listen I find something new and different in it. It’s the one Manics song which can be described as “low-fi and experiential”, yet I like it. Fast forward to Nicky’s solo work and some b-sides from the Postcard era and you can see that this sound was always there in the background, waiting for an oppprtunity to make an appearance.

  2. Thanks for the comment Barry – I’m not too familiar with Wire’s solo work yet, but I’m looking forward to getting to grips with it when I can. I know what you mean about always finding something new, though: this is really one of those songs which has appeared deeper and grown on me with each listen.

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