I think The Unforgettable Fire is a very underrated album. I know I underrate it myself, when I guessed as to where the rating would be, I was quite a way below where it turned out. It not only has some standout hits, but it also has some deep sleepers that no-one who isn’t a U2 fan has ever heard. Promenade is one of those. It’s short and quiet and poetic and deep and interesting.
I remember listening to Promenade all those years ago and being very inspired by it. I would listen to it over and over, and write poetry and lyrics, not necessarily based on it but not totally different. To be honest I don’t have any of those poems I wrote and I don’t remember anything about them. I just remember them being brilliant, kind of like all the lyrics that Bono has lost over the years, right? No, seriously, they were more likely terrible pieces of teenage poetry, stuff you’d be ashamed to show anyone these days, but the point is not how bad they were, the point is how inspirational this song is.
There are different ways to read the song, the literal story, the love story, the sex story. Any of them could be plausible interpretations. Literal is of course the look out at a promenade, a party going on, with fireworks and people being active and excited. The love part could be a straight look through several of the lyrics, where he’s talking about being in love with someone and watching for her and feeling all kinds of feelings when she returns. And of course there are a few places where it can be interpreted as sex, going up the spiral staircase to a higher ground and exploding like a roman candle. Each of these has their own validity, can be read by different people this way at different times, and that’s one of the magical things about the song. It’s entirely up to you as to how you choose to interpret it, if you do at all. It can fit any conception you choose.
The music in Promenade is very complementary, there is just the right amount of bass, of guitar, and of drums. They match up really well to Bono’s voice, not too high and not too deep, but kind of casual. The whole song is all light and airy, and bouncing up and down at just the right moments.
This song is I think a demonstration of the essence of poetry that people often don’t understand. I know I don’t, and it takes listening to Promenade again to get to the point. Often when I think of poetry I’m thinking of the different kinds where you’re trying to get an AABB or ABAB rhyming pattern, or any of the variations that I can’t begin to name. I don’t know much about the technical details of poetry. I know that this song is it, true poetry. It’s creating an impression, not necessarily digging through to find that rhyme, or hit that specific number of syllables, or whatever. It’s laying back and getting a strong yet possibly undefined feeling from the words and music. It’s brilliant.
My rating for Promenade: 7 / 10