I have a confession: it is a long time since I liked any U2 song on first hearing it. I’ve actually heard this about other people too, that U2 songs are something that grow on you. I suspect it’s because when I hear a new song I’m really trying hard to listen to it, to get the words, to get the tune, and that focus takes away from just sitting back and hearing the song. So in general it takes me several listens to start liking the songs, in some cases a few listens, in other cases many more.
Why say this now? Because this is the first song off the new album, Songs Of Innocence, so I’m afraid that my ratings for those songs might be lower than they would be if I was rating them a year or two from now. In fact, I was talking to someone a couple of weeks after the album was released and I said I thought it might be their weakest album in many years (that comment was in large part the impetus for this whole writing project). But now I’ve been listening to it for a few months, and I can honestly say that it has risen up the ratings since then.
Every Breaking Wave is one of the better songs on Songs Of Innocence. It is slow and thoughtful, with an interesting melody, but as I sit here and think about it, I’m trying to remember if there are any drums or bass on it. I’m sure there are, and they may even stick out in a few places, but as a general song I kind of think about it as an acoustic song (ironic since the extended version of the album is essentially an acoustic version). Now even though I’m saying that, I’ve noticed that when I do listen to versions of songs with just Edge and Bono, the bass and drums stick out like a sore thumb as being missing.
Near the end there is one great moment, the section beginning “The waves know where are the rocks”. I do love when they switch into this style of playing, twisting up the music completely from the rest of the song for a verse or so. In this case the song is slow and you get this short fast-paced section, almost completely without instruments, just a fast-talking Bono. It’s kind of like certain live versions of some songs where he adds in a little paragraph of rap, a boost of energy just where you need it.
Having said all that I have to bring in the downer part of the review. It seems to me that recently (i.e. the last few albums) Bono has had issues with some of the lyrics. I’ll point out some of them over the course of the year, but Every Breaking Wave has a good example. “Every dog on the street knows that we’re in love with defeat.” I mean, come on. What does that even mean? If it’s a literary allusion then I’m not aware of it. If it’s a bible quote then wow. Wherever it came from I cringe each time I hear it (and it’s repeated three times in the song), and wish that Bono had thought longer and harder on it. I’m not saying I could do better. Just saying he could have.
My rating for Every Breaking Wave: 6 / 10