A Sort Of Homecoming, what a great song. I think I keep saying that about songs off The Unforgettable Fire, but it really is true. The album was kind of a breakthrough, from the hard rocking of War to the ethereal, peaceful sounds on The Unforgettable Fire. And the first song, the introduction if you will, was A Sort Of Homecoming, and it grabs hold and shakes you to your soul if you let it.
It starts with a little drumming, then the guitars open up and you get this strong feeling of both power and detachment. Not sure how to explain that any better. It’s the idea of floating above the fields he talks about, sweeping through a town and looking around and down. It is so very cinematic in that sense, I almost feel like some of the images from a Wim Wenders movie is what inspires this, but Wings Of Desire was years later I believe.
Bono starts with that voice, the one he had in the mid 1980s, the one that gathered all the attention. It wasn’t the strident sound from the earlier albums, he had clearly learned a lot on how to sing in that time, but still it had a little bit of an edge to it. The rest of the band was also approaching that mastery point, if it is possible to say that one can master the instruments, but certainly they were playing at the top of their game. At the pinnacle of their profession is a phrase you might think of.
I’ve talked before about listening to this album when I went to college, I would sit on the bus for an hour’s ride each way, listening to U2 all the way for months at a time. I remember listening to A Sort Of Homecoming over and over, concentrating on the music this time, then on the lyrics the next time. I think this is perhaps the song that really got to me the idea that a song isn’t just a bunch of music and words, but that the song itself can be poetry. The thought that you could strip away all the instruments and just have the words, maybe change them a little to remove the thought of it being a song (the repetition that a song has which a poem usually doesn’t), and put it in a book and have people say wow, this is really good writing. Bono has done that a number of other times of course, but this was one of the earlier versions, and one that really set a scene in your mind’s eye.
“Across the fields of morning, lights in the distance,” I don’t know why but that’s one of those phrases that pop into my mind every now and then and I am instantly transported to this song again. It’s a song I may not listen to for months at a time, and yet I think of it much more often than that, and imagine myself in this scene regularly. Hope is what it feels like, I think.
My rating for A Sort Of Homecoming: 8 / 10