This Sullen Hoosier Heart … with apologies to the Manics.

0
15

You can’t ever be sure when a song will come out of nowhere and grip you. It might be the melody, the beat or the words; of course, it might be all three. “This Sullen Welsh Heart” is a current example of such an ear worm, although the words I’m hearing are “This Sullen Hoosier Heart.”

I came late to the band called Manic Street Preachers, just shy of my forties in the late 1990s, but the depth of my subsequent attachment parallels David Kitching’s:

The Manic Street Preachers have always occupied an unusual place in this continuum. I encountered them as I entered a phase of my teens wherein I sought answers to explain the world around me, as well as the correct questions to ask. I was a fairly bookish kid with a love of music and a nascent interest in how the world was run. For a kid with too many questions, the Manics had something to say. They demanded that we take up arms. Yet this arsenal was not to be composed of bullets, batons or blades. One felt compelled, rather, to build and borrow from armaments of ideas; to read and become better; to cultivate the mind in such a way as to understand the world but still have an emotional resonance with it …

In 2013, the Manics released an album called Rewind the Film, stating that a companion piece, Futurology, would follow in 2014. These songs were recorded in the studio all at once, with guest vocalists brought on board to augment the singing of guitarist James Dean Bradfield, but the mood of each album is strikingly different.

Rewind the Film is acoustic, somber and introspective, while Futurology is electric and clamorous. Numerous arguments have been advanced that Rewind the Film represents the “old” Europe and Futurology the “new,” which if true suggests that the group’s post-Brexit work will be very interesting. indeed.

Construction time again: The renewal of Manic Street Preachers at festival No. 6, by Craig Austin (Wales Arts Review)

 … When Bradfield performs the acoustic, and magnificently titled ‘This Sullen Welsh Heart’ it only accentuates the band’s inverse portrayal of fatalistic despair: ‘I don’t want my children to grow up like me / It’s just so destroying, it’s a mocking disease’. In this sense, Manic Street Preachers stand determinedly defiant in their self-imposed pariahdom as the ‘anti-U2’, or as Wire best positions it in a recent interview with John Doran of The Quietus, ‘like a version of The Fall that just happens to play arenas’. Where U2 have perpetually revelled in the earnest mythologising of triumph over adversity, and the supposedly redemptive power of love over hate, the Manics still see no justifiable reason to deviate from their time-honoured palette of turning boredom, alienation and fatalism into an art form; the emancipating gift of personal autonomy, to ‘love your masks and adore your failure’.

In this Quietus interview, bassist/lyricist Nicky Wire elaborated about “This Sullen Welsh Heart”:

“The first line, ‘I don’t want my children to grow up like me, it’s too soul destroying, it’s a mocking disease’, sets the tone for the kind of cruel self examination of the album. It’s about looking in the mirror and realising we’re all 44, and while we’re still deeply enthralled and still in love with the delusion of being in a band and playing to people, and all those brilliant rock cliches which we’ve always specialised in – we probably can’t do it any more. That line, ‘I can’t fight this war anymore, time to surrender, time to move on’, I don’t want to be like that but I think… it’s better if we are. It’s The Holy Bible for middle aged men – the horror of realising you’re in charge, you’re the grown up. I think our generation hangs on to being young more than any there’s ever been, but it’s fucking hard. Musically it’s very tender, we wanted something very Leonard Cohen-ish with Lucy [Rose] adding those beautiful textures. I think it’s the most sparse start to a Manics album.”

There’s a lot swirling through my head as I consider the song: Age and the passage of time, demographics and authoritarian America about to be implemented, my own role and perennial status of “pariahdom.”

It goes on and on. What I love most about music is the way it can make you think, and sometimes, when the thinking gets to be too hard, the very same music can be a means of escaping thought.

Perhaps as the music plays, the word “Hoosier” supplants “Welsh” because in the context of origins and belonging, I feel like I’m without a home. I’ve lived in Indiana my entire life, and now I’m as much of an alien here as the numerous preferred targets of emerging Trumpism. And yet, as a straight white male, I might blend choose to collaborate and in with the Falangists, mouthing whatever platitudes are necessary for their amusement.

Fuck them.

Welcome to Indiana,you poor bastards.

We May Write In English But Our Truth Remains In Wales, by Richard King

‘Yes,’ said Alun, enthusiastically this time. ‘Impressive fellow, I thought. He knows his job all right. Very professional.’ Charlie seemed rather doubtful of that one, but then raised his glass. ‘Here’s to us all. Welcome to Wales, you poor bastard.’
— Kingsley Amis, The Old Devils

‘This sullen Welsh heart
It won’t leave, it won’t give up
The hating half of me
Has won the battle easily’
— Manic Street Preachers, “This Sullen Welsh Heart”

In The Old Devils Kingsley Amis illustrates, through a series of alcohol-debased set pieces, a glass half-empty stoicism that has curdled with age into misanthropy. Set in a fictional Lower Glamorgan, the narrative follows the return of Alun (born Alan) Weaver to his native Wales as he reacquaints himself with his past lives and the friends who populated them. Amid scenes of relentless and dissolute lunchtime drinking that conclude in half-cut walks through inevitable drizzle, is a keenly observed South Walian humour:

“Don’t let’s think how long it’s been,’ (Alun) said to Peter, genuinely enough. ‘Now drinks.’ While these were coming he went on, nodding at Peter’s paunch, ‘I don’t know how you do it. I suppose it’s just a matter of eating and drinking anything you like.’

‘Yes, (said Peter) but it’s the slimline tonic that turns the scale.’

What all these ruminations seem to address are a handful of knotty questions that have been asked since the dame of time. Who am I, and what do I stand for? Where do I belong? How does the past reflect the future?

Complete lyrics:

This Sullen Welsh Heart

I don’t want my children to grow up like me
It’s just so destroying, it’s a mocking disease
A wasting disease

I don’t want my children to grow up like me
It’s just so destroying, it’s a mocking disease
A wasting disease

Some times I wake up with love still alive
I just want to go to sleep, but I can’t, I close my eyes
I can’t, I close my eyes

I can’t fight this war any more
Time to surrender, time to move on
So line up the firing squads, kiss goodbye to what you want
Go with the flow, go home
You can keep on struggling when you’re alone
When you’re alone

This sullen Welsh heart
It won’t leave, it won’t give up
The hating half of me
Has won the battle easily

This sullen Welsh heart
It won’t leave, it won’t give up
The hating half of me
Has won the battle easily
The battle easily

The act of creation saves us from despair
A phrase that keeps repeating in my head
In my head

It’s not enough to succeed others must fail
My unhappy mantra I wish I could escape
I wish I could escape

I can’t fight this war any more
Time to surrender, time to move on
So line up the firing squads, kiss goodbye to what you want
Go with the flow, go home
You can keep on struggling when you’re alone
When you’re alone

This sullen Welsh heart
It won’t leave, it won’t give up
The hating half of me
Has won the battle easily

This sullen Welsh heart
It won’t leave, it won’t give up
The hating half of me
Has won the battle easily
The battle easily

This sullen Welsh heart
It won’t leave, it won’t give up
The hating half of me
Has won the battle easily
The battle easily

This sullen Welsh heart
It won’t leave, it won’t give up
The hating half of me
Has won the battle easily
The battle easily

LEAVE A REPLY