In a very political career, U2 turned with this song to a hotly political subject, the disappearances of so many people in Argentina during the 1970s and 1980s, when there was a military junta in charge of the country. A topic that I know little about, that the vast majority of U2 fans and indeed non-U2 fans know little about, until it got publicity through this song and other places, raising awareness as sometimes it seems only Bono can do. In recent years, with changes in Argentina’s government, the actual Mothers have been getting results and finding information about their children, and former high-ranking officials have been convicted of crimes related to the disappearances. Not necessarily due to the U2 song, but it at least helped in some ways and raised attention everywhere.
The last song on The Joshua Tree, Mothers Of The Disappeared joins Exit in forming a deep and dark ending to the album. Listening to the album, those two songs taken together have always left me in an introspective mood, as I said in my review of Exit. It’s not a bad thing, it’s really that emotional depth that you don’t often get in a song, even with many of U2’s songs. Don’t get me wrong, there are others, but this pairing is one of the best ones that U2 have ever done.
The words in the song are raw and emotional, this is very much the painting of a picture, one that you would sit and stare at for hours as you peel back the layers. There are actually surprisingly few words in Mothers Of The Disappeared, for such a long song, only four short verses, with only three lines each (I count “Hear their heartbeat, we hear their heartbeat” as one line, not two as it is partially printed on the U2.com site). Each line provides depth by itself, in a combination it really gets into you. Like I said, I could sit and listen to this and think deep thoughts. Now I think about it, this would be a really good song to play as I lay in bed before going to sleep, or if I can’t sleep, because it certainly calms the mind.
The song starts quiet and scratchy, slowly building up the layers - again - of sound, adding drums, guitar and bass sporadically, but louder and louder as the song goes on. It isn’t until 1:30 that Bono steps in, with the sound continuing with almost no change or break when he joins. After a couple of verses he takes a break while the music continues building, then he comes back in, and you can hear the emotion in his voice as he sings the last two verses. Then he is done singing, except for some ooo-ooohs, and there’s another 1:30 of music until the end of the song. It keeps building up though, louder and louder, until there’s a sudden break, like a cloudburst, back into the scratchy sounds as the song fades to the end. And as I write and listen I realize that the scratchy sound is quite possibly a way to simulate the rainfall that is talked about in the song.
My rating for Mothers Of The Disappeared: 7 / 10