Down All The Days is an early version of Numb, at least much of the music is the same, but the lyrics are very different. It’s somewhat difficult to review the same song twice, but I’m going to try here, especially since I haven’t gotten to Numb yet, so I can say a few things now before I do that song. I’m not a big fan of Numb though, so I hope that doesn’t color this review too much.
The song came out of the Achtung Baby sessions, and was discarded for that album, although the band revisited it for Zooropa, taking the music and creating Numb out of it. Now, much of the music is different, but there are many parts that were clearly ported directly from one song to the other. Actually by a minute or two Numb isn’t very noticeable, we’ve switched mostly away from the Numb sound into the sound of Down All The Days.
Something that seems to come to me as I listen to the song is the idea of the lyrics being from the Joshua Tree while the music is from Achtung Baby, which might explain why it didn’t work. If you listen just to the music you obviously get it being more modern or whatever the appropriate word is there, because the song ends up showing up on Zooropa. But try listening just to the words sometime, and tell me that they don’t sound like they could come from The Joshua Tree, or perhaps more appropriately from Rattle And Hum. They do have that almost American West sound, something that you get maybe with Hawkmoon, or perhaps the feeling that comes from Heartland. And like I said, that could be why the song didn’t really work, it was trying to mix the two different sensations together and coming up with one mish-mash. Maybe a bit where they hadn’t really gotten out of the Rattle And Hum mode and into the next album just yet.
So what is Down All The Days about? I can’t really tell, and you’re probably not surprised to read that. Remembering that it is an unfinished song, but there are lyrics to hear. The first part is couplets which are sort of opposites (“My lips are dry, they’ve tasted water”), which are therefore senseless. Meaningful? No. Actually, thinking about just one of the lines (“My heart is heavy, it hears the distant firing”) makes me wonder if maybe the song is from a veteran’s perspective, which I can somewhat see if I look back.
Then there’s the title, which is repeated quite often during the song, especially during the middle sections where it repeats several times in a row. And a final section, which Bono pretty much speaks, or reads, rather than sings, and it is not very coherent both in terms of being able to be understood, and when you do actually go read the lyrics, in terms of making any sense at all.
My rating for Down All The Days: 5 / 10