As I listened to this song in preparation for this review, I found myself listening to it over and over, each time focusing on a different member of the band. I found this easy to do, because despite this being a single song, each part is clear and distinct. It made me wonder if this song, musically, is the best song U2 have ever done. I’m not talking about the overall thing, but their actual work as musicians. I’m not sure how to describe this feeling any better. I do remember reading somewhere about Adam taking lessons on the bass sometime around here, I wonder if that might be it (not to pick on Adam, just the idea that they’ve all reached the top of their craft at this point).
We begin with Edge, playing quiet and slow but picking up. At the point where Bono starts singing, Edge heads off on a tangent, sort of warbling a little. Then he climbs back into it, before a clear strumming (which may be Bono playing) that I love to hear. Actually all through you do get that warble, high pitch, which kind of lifts the song up to fly and then lets it go back down to the bass for a while.
Larry doesn’t need to pound the drums in Peace On Earth, it’s a slow song, but you do have numerous great moments where he gets to do his own lifting of it. There are those loud bangs, but also the low drums throughout, and cymbals that are restrained but jump in at just the right moments too. He does kick off the song with the snare (I think) playing along with Edge, and when you get in about a minute, he’s playing sounds that are a little odd, almost like castanets. Odd in a good way, it really works, as it does when he heats back up again.
The bass kicks in after thirty seconds or so, and it sounds like booming footsteps when it starts. I don’t know why but I get the feeling of a live concert, you know how you feel it when you’re in the arena and you can literally feel the bass playing beneath you, through your feet. I don’t know that I’ve ever had that feeling before while listening to a song on my computer. The bass follows the lead guitar for a while, sounding really good, a strong sound behind and beneath. Then it goes off in its own direction, coming back and forth. Fantastic.
And there’s Bono. His voice in this takes just the right tone, not too high, not too low. The words are well written, it’s not a screaming cry, or a fatalism. It just fits with the music behind him. “Where there was we’d tear them down, and use them on our enemies,” a line that maybe describes so many things these days, where you just want to hurt others with what you have, rather than being happy with it. I also have to admit to getting tears in my eyes every time “they’re reading names out over the radio.”
It interests me that they have this song on All That You Can’t Leave Behind in 2000, and just five years later the tone switched to Love And Peace Or Else.
None of the above review has really focused on the point of the song, but that’s okay, it’s a little change of pace for me. I think you can tell what the point is based on the title and the words. And if you can’t, go look up the Omagh bombing on Wikipedia. Try to read it without crying.
My rating for Peace On Earth: 8 / 10