'War Of Nerves' was the last track recorded for All Saints' debut album... Shaznay wrote the lyrics during the weekend of Princess Diana's tragic death in 1997 and says "It brought the subject of death closer to a lot of people who hadn't experienced it".
That weekend was also the weekend when All Saints made their chart debut and nobody noticed: they were a new entry at 4 on the chart dated 6th September 1997, which would normally have been announced on the 1st but for the only time I can recall the Sunday chart show was cancelled entirely that day. In the days before online publication, we didn't get to hear the position until the Wednesday. Presumably the intent of the songwriting wasn't purely self-interested, but by the time this remixed version showed up as the fifth single from the album in late 1998, there were rumours of some disputes within the band. It's certainly not an impression much discouraged by the video, very dark in the literal sense and perhaps metaphorically too. Notably you don't see all four of the band together at any point, and the repeated shots of their faces on the back of a bus implies a certain discomfort with their fame. I suppose it's just about possible that the final shot of that bus in the tunnel is a hint back towards Diana's death as well.
The song itself was surely a single too far from the album, peaking at 7 after three consecutive chart-toppers (fun fact: every follow-up to an All Saints Number One peaked at either 1 or 7) and swiftly being forgotten. I probably hadn't heard it for almost fifteen years, and I hadn't heard it much at the time either, so imagine my surprise when it turned out to be quite decent after all. Not an obvious hit at all, but there's something decidedly charming and sad about the melody, and it's swoopingly produced by no less than Cameron McVey. I also hadn't noticed until this week that the title doesn't quite appear in the lyric, she actually sings "Trying to break through this wall of nerves". Maybe the title was an accident, and the fact that it's not in the chorus makes little commercial sense, but I'm starting to wonder whether this is actually my favourite All Saints track. In the 1990s I'd never have thought it possible to have a favourite at all. The fact that they didn't make another record until 2000, a very long gap for such an act, seems to give some credence to the rumours of a fractious relationship.
Also appearing on: Now 38, 39, 40, 41, 47, 65
Available on: All Hits - Special Edition