La Tristesse Durera by Manic Street Preachers (Gold Against the Soul 1993)
A LITTLE JEWEL
In the mid-seventies, a friend and I were looking in the window of a record shop at the display of K-Tel compilation records, including a fifties collection which sold surprisingly well. The songs were listed on the front and among them was Yellow Rose of Texas. We both sang, ‘Oh, the yellow rose of Texas . . . ,’ at exactly the same time, looked at each other and laughed. Forty years later and a Manic Street Preachers compilation album, Forever Delayed: The Greatest Hits (2002), came to my attention and it led me to check the tracklist in a similar way. On doing so, one hit stood out above the others, La Tristesse Durera (Scream to a Sigh). This time, I did not attempt to sing a line, it is far too complex a song.
La Tristesse Durera (Scream to a Sigh) is a memorable single by Welsh rock band Manic Street Preachers, taken from their second studio album Gold Against the Soul in 1993 (Columbia). The early nineteen-nineties meant a resurrection of hard rock, with the rise of the guitar-led grunge movement and the subsequent decline of synthpop. Manic Street Preachers found themselves in the melee and legendary rock DJ Alan Freeman was regularly playing Motorcycle Emptiness, from the previous year’s Generation Terrorists, on his revived Rock Show, as if they were another up-and-coming hard rock band. He was unusually incorrect, as the Manic Street Preachers never became a full on hard rock band, and later became involved with newer, inferior and trendier indie bands like Oasis. Nevertheless, La Tristesse was a classic track with a confusing title, beguiling melody and impassioned vocals.
La Tristessa reached a respectable number 22 in the UK dingles chart. The music was written by singer James Dean Bradfield and the lyrics by drummer Richey Edwards, who also plays rhythm guitar on the track. According to Wikipedia, the title is from Vincent Van Gogh’s last words, meaning ‘the sadness will last forever’. It is conflated with Edwards’ vision of World War II veterans appearing at the Cenotaph, in London, and then being forgotten until the next year’s event. How the seemingly unrelated concepts of Van Gogh’s last words and war veterans at the Centotaph are resolved I am not certain. No matter, La Tristessa is another little jewel, like Thin Lizzy‘s Sarah, dot, dot, dot