Released on: Know Your Enemy (Album #6) Epic Records, 19 March 2001
Apologies for the recent lack of updates, Manics fans…
Really opening up the final stretch of Know Your Enemy, ‘Epicentre’ is probably best understood as a significantly more subdued counterpart to [T136] ‘The Convalescent’ which still preserves the epic (by Manics standards) length and stream-of-consciousness lyrical bent focusing on Wire’s psyche. Built on a ramshackle core of acoustic guitar, slightly heavy-handed piano and drums, the song is the centrepiece of the album’s lo-fi quasi-acoustic mode. One of the more immediately odd things about the song is its curious structure, particularly how difficult it is to identify an actual chorus. Around where we’d expect to find one, there are two or even three semi-distinct sections running into one another and it’s very hard to say where a bridge ends and a chorus begins, or vice versa. This all adds to the sense of tripping over ideas that KYE‘s two long songs share.
The other very strange element, and something which pretty much marks out ‘Epicentre’ as unique, is a looping, warped sample over another song which plays after a brief silent section as the track’s final minute. This effect brings to mind experiments like ‘Wild Honey Pie’ on The Beatles (AKA ‘The White Album’), although that example was a distinct track in its own right. The connection is deeper because both of these little sonic excursions are versions of other songs – in the Beatles example, it’s fellow album track ‘Honey Pie’ which is being riffed on, whereas the finale of ‘Epicentre’ is a modified, looped section of a then-unreleased B-side: [B145] ‘Masking Tape’.
While ‘Epicentre’ lacks the gripping, storming conclusion that ‘The Convalescent’ has, it makes up for that particularly in the area of its lyrics. The very last lines (“you don’t drink, you don’t get high / so make sure you take your medicine boy”) are an especially memorable effort from Wire, but the song is packed with them and absolutely worth a few thorough listens for that reason at the very least.
Choice Lyric (Full Lyrics)
“a sad numb creature / I worship a painkiller”
Epicentre – the point on the Earth’s surface directly above an earthquake’s focus.