Winter

Winter is a song left over from the No Line On The Horizon sessions, it was used in Linear by Anton Corbijn because at the time he made that film, Winter was still in the No Line playlist, but removed later. It was also used on the soundtrack to a movie called Brothers, which I have not seen and know little about. I should also mention that there are apparently at least two different versions of the song, one that is more rocky, and one that is a little calmer, more acoustic. I am surprised that for a song that wasn’t properly released that they would do multiple versions, I’m sure that’s happened before but I can’t offhand think of another song like that. I’m only giving one rating, of course, even though there are two versions (haven’t given multiple ratings for other songs like that), although I think if I were to give ratings for them separately I don’t think I could distinguish between the two versions, this is the relatively rare song where I don’t even have a preferred version.

The song begins with a bit of odd sound repeating, but it gives a bit of a bounce to it as the rest of the music kicks in. The start seems in fact to be quite U2 sounding, but the further into the song you get the less it sounds that way. At the start and in the early part of the song I get the idea of the song sounding like a mid-80s U2, something like a Joshua Tree remnant, but it later goes off on a tangent and doesn’t sound much like U2 at all later on, with the exception of Bono, although even he sounds a bit off now and then.

The song is a brother song to White As Snow, dealing with similar themes, those of soldiers being off and fighting, specifically in Afghanistan but really they could stand in for many different places. It is a feeling of sadness that pervades both songs, how does a war like this end up producing multiple songs? It keeps giving and giving in so many ways, unfortunately. When I say they are brother songs, that is a play on the movie title, but also because the theme to both songs is that of a country kid in the military being sent off to fight in a war in a far-off land, as the lyrics say. The song is somewhat descriptive of life there, but also lyrical, as in that poetic kind of description that Bono can get into. It’s not as good as some of his though, the descriptive style doesn’t work too much here. Not bad, just not good.

So I can’t recommend this song. The subject matter is a little dreary, and the title Winter belies the “hot as hell” line in the middle. The music isn’t really there either, again this feels like a half-baked song. I get a mild depressed feeling as I listen to it, too, and I don’t like that. If it’s not the subject, and it’s not the music, then it has to be a combination of them, and that makes it not good all round.

My rating for Winter: 3 / 10

No Line On The Horizon

The interesting thing about No Line On The Horizon is how the album reflects back to the early days. Not like the way Songs Of Innocence does, but rather in the way I have scored the album. You see, the early few albums had a wide range of songs, from the really good and great to the execrable, but the middle period for the band tightened up considerably, with a great album having nothing weak on it and a poor album (Pop) having nothing great on it. That trend tended to continue all the way until No Line, which went back to the early days by having some great music and some terrible music.

The album begins really well with the title track, which is one of those songs that has grown on me over the years since first hearing it. If not a top tier song, it is certainly in that upper-middle class. It is followed by Magnificent, which by the name tells you it is good, but by listening it does as well. I rate it the same as No Line, but really on a good day I might rate it higher. Another that keeps growing on me as we go. Followed by Moment Of Surrender, yet another fantastic song and a trio that makes really good start to the album.

We take a little dip with Unknown Caller, which I gave a 5 when I rated it, but I also said that I was conflicted, because there are so many days when I dislike it and so many days when I like it a lot. A very dichotomous song to listen to, having written that review back in May I am still thinking that this is the most flip-floppy song of all that I remember. But we’ll leave that thought aside for a moment, because the next song is I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight, another great song. It lends itself to the split personality of the album, being one of the songs at the very top of the ratings for the album, and indeed for all-time.

But then we take a slip through the rest of the album. It’s not quite the second half of the album, since it’s songs six through eleven, but close enough. We take a dive down through the likes of Get On Your Boots, Stand Up Comedy, Fez, White As Snow and Cedars Of Lebanon, none of which are good and some of which are pretty poor. This feels like a case of them having half an album and trying to figure out how to fill it up, if the second half had been as good as the first the album would have been their best ever. As it is, hardly anyone outside U2 fans even heard it.

And since you’re a U2 fan, I know you’re reading this and noticing that I left something out. Yes, of course, I didn’t mention Breathe, because it is in the second half of the album, buried in the mire. I rated Breathe the same as Crazy, but that doesn’t make them the same level, not really. While Crazy would be in the top twenty, Breathe is a top ten all-time U2 song for me.

So we can see from this that the album was so widespread, from a couple of the greatest U2 songs ever (believe it or not, there’s only two U2 albums with more top twenty songs than No Line has), to a bunch of weak stuff that may land in the bottom twenty. We might just pretend we didn’t hear some of it while we listen to Breathe again.

My rating for No Line On The Horizon: 5.8 / 10

Linear

This is a summary of what happens in the movie Linear by Anton Corbijn, which is based on all the songs off No Line On The Horizon. Basically he took the songs and created a movie with each of the songs being a different section. There’s no sound in the movie other than the songs.

The first song is Unknown Caller, which is a black and white view of Paris at night, various scenes. We know it’s Paris because the opening shot is an overview of the city and we see the Eiffel Tower off to one side. Otherwise it could be any generic city. It’s basically an artsy video, kind of boring really, waiting for something to happen which never does. Get used to that feeling.

Next comes Breathe, which starts with a bang when a motorcycle cop knocks his cop bike to the ground then sets it on fire. The rest of the song is wasted though, as we spend the entire time just watching the bike burn. It ends with the cop getting on his own motorcycle, so we realize he doesn’t have a thing against bikes, maybe just against the police. As Winter plays, they finally turn on the color, and we see the cop (ex-cop?) going on a road trip. We know it’s a road trip, and we know he’s making progress, because the film keeps showing road signs with Bordeaux getting closer each time. Otherwise it’s a lot of pictures of roads, with snapshots of the stuff beside the road, making me wish I could go there and see some of it for real.

He stops for a rest in White As Snow, laying on his bike and looking at the sky before falling asleep (I don’t know how he didn’t fall off the bike while sleeping). Amazingly the clouds come together to form a map of Africa, is it magic or is he dreaming? We get a little fancy with No Line On The Horizon, this time they hired a helicopter to follow him down the road for a bit. Then he gets hungry in Fez/Being Born, so he stops at a cafe where he eats while the girl working there chews her nails and watches him eat. Wow, exciting stuff here.

Magnificent sees the two of them watching U2 perform the song on the tv in the cafe, which lends a surreal air as the color on the tv is messed up. Stand Up Comedy shows a weird angle as he is back on the bike, it’s either some kind of fisheye lens or a reflection from the bike itself, I can’t tell which. But it ends with another road sign, showing he is in Spain now. Get On Your Boots is in some kind of nightclub, where he has a drink and watches a woman dance, then goes and looks through a peephole at women in mustaches dancing. I’m really missing something here, I don’t get the point of this at all.

Moment Of Surrender goes back to black and white, this time walking through the town, down various alleys. Is this supposed to be a comparison to Paris at the start? After a whole lot of mood shots, where he stands and leans against walls for a while, he ends up at the beach, where he lays down to sleep. He wakes up in Cedars Of Lebanon, where he sits on the beach for a while, then sees a convenient rowboat which he gets in and starts rowing to Africa.

Now I haven’t told you anything you couldn’t have read yourself, except maybe how boring it all is. It’s apparently very artsy, like I said, but I guess I don’t get most of it. The idea of the guy leaving his life and heading back to Africa, not sure how interesting that all is. It’s certainly not made interesting by the movie.

My rating for Linear: 2 / 10

Cedars Of Lebanon

Bono said that he wrote each song on No Line On The Horizon from a different character’s point of view. For Cedars Of Lebanon he chose a war correspondent, and you clearly see that come through in the song. The song is extremely wordy, like the correspondent is trying to write a novel, or something similarly erudite to make his name. I mean, most of it works, but ultimately there are few lyrics that really stick with you. And the music is deathly dull, this is definitely a soporific kind of song. So much so that I tend to not listen to it too much, it kind of depresses me for the most part.

The music is kind of simple, single notes slowly repeated at the start, a little bit of here and there as it goes. I’m not sure I can even identify the different instruments. When Bono starts singing it picks up a little, but mostly that’s just due to the appearance of the drums, giving it some kind of beat that helps. I guess it’s true in this case that it’s all about drums, right Larry? But for most of the song, it’s the same old music here and there. I think if you were to play a section of the song without lyrics, you would probably struggle to identify which section of the song it came from, it’s just so samey from start to finish.

There are bits and pieces here and there that do grab the attention. There’s some kind of local person chanting now and then, and by local I guess I mean Moroccan since that’s where the song was recorded. The one thing I would say about this song, that is a little bit of a bonus, is that you need to listen in stereo, because there are parts in one ear that aren’t in the other. Many songs I only listen with one ear plugged in (because I’m often listening to someone or something else while I listen to the song), and I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. In fact I listen with both earbuds in, then pull one out and nothing seems different. This song, yeah, noticeable difference. It’s also one to definitely listen to with earbuds, rather than over speakers or in the car for example. The kind of song that makes you realize that you can do different things with sound that make people pay attention.

And so to the lyrics, which aren’t that good. There are parts which are really forced, like when Bono tries to rhyme cigarette and minaret. Overall it does tell the story he intended, and if you hear it you can get that feeling of being there in some ways, or at least to know what he’s talking about. His lines “the worst of us are a long drawn out confession, the best of us are geniuses of compression,” this is a really good description of correspondents and writers in any field. The last verse is the best, with “choose your enemies because they will define you” being the standout line of the song. This is one of those truisms that everybody can understand. 

My rating for Cedars Of Lebanon: 3 / 10

Get On Your Boots

Get On Your Boots, or Get Your Boots On as my wife and son like to call it, is one of those fun, bouncy, peppy kinds of songs that seem to show up at least once on every album. A couple of recent examples would be songs like Elevation or Fast Cars, songs that are usually singable, fairly fast, fairly fun, and moderately forgettable for the most part. Now, I give Elevation as an example, and that breaks the rule of forgettable, because everyone knows it and even now it is being sung on the current tour. Perhaps I would have done better just to stick with the album that Get On Your Boots came from, and add in I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight and Stand Up Comedy instead. Note that those three songs went together on the album, one after the other in the middle, and kind of lead to a weird center of the album, quite out of focus with the rest of it. But that’s a story for another day.

Fast drums, fast guitar to begin with, then Bono bounces in and we get just percussion. Guitar pops back and then everything kicks off. You’re jumping up and down listening to the song, I guess I’d call it party rock or something like that. The music seems to flip back and forth between those two extremes, very quiet (with a little bounce) while Bono is singing the verses, then taking off again when they go into the chorus. Not bad, like I said fun, but very much the feeling of filler while it is on. This would have been a good song to be on Pop, it would have fit in very well there.

And the lyrics? I get the feeling in Get On Your Boots that the lyrics are disjointed, not necessarily telling a story, or if they are, it’s one of those kinds of stories that flash in and out of focus, jumping here and there. Some of the lines seem to be in there much more for the rhyme than for the meaning. It’s because when you do try and put them together, even within a particular verse, there’s not much matching up happening. However, having said all that, there is actually a way to get them to come together, and that’s to know that Bono has said the song is set at a fair in France. Once you know that - and there’s no reason the casual listener should - you can start to see patterns within the song, whole sections that make some sense. But my point is more that most U2 songs don’t need that very specific visual idea to get the point of the song. Most of them are literate enough that you can get a meaning by yourself. In this case I think they somewhat fail at it.

And I don’t like the “let me in the sound” and “meet me in the sound” sections, they are very repetitive and if you’ve been reading the blog for any length of time you’ll have seen how repetitive I am at disliking repetitive lyrics. They just sound like they’re filling in time because the writer has nothing else to say. And we know how much Bono has to say, so that can’t be it.

My rating for Get On Your Boots: 5 / 10

I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight

I have talked before about how it normally takes me a long time to warm up to a U2 song, that I don’t usually like them at first hearing (simply because I don’t yet know the song), and they grow on me over time. I have also mentioned a couple of times that I have generally found if I like a song right away, then it is going to shoot to the top of my personal charts. This is the case with I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight, which I loved on first hearing, have loved even more since then, and I have it rated really high. It’s not in my all-time top ten, but it’s not very far outside, and by the end of the year it might even reach that list.

Now, I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight (which has a nice long title to fill in the word count) is really two songs in one. There’s the album version and there’s the live version, and they are markedly different songs, and somehow they both manage to remain great. I don’t know if I could pick between them for which one I prefer (oh, who am I kidding, it’s always the live version, right?).

So, the album version. Like I said, immediate love when I first heard it and ever since. It’s got really good pace, it’s got every single part of the band working well together, it’s got everything. Interesting and attractive words and sound, a beat that you can tap to, words that you can grab hold of quickly. I can tell you that my son, who was five when the song came out, also loved it, I believe it was the first U2 song that he actually knew the words to.

And the video. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, it’s animated and honestly I have never been able to follow the story very well, to figure out which person is which and what their relationships are. It seems to be a very sad tale in many ways, and given the song which is mostly uplifting, the video is a little out of sorts. There’s a second video, but it’s the album version of the song played over live concert footage, and I don’t think they match too well. It would be better to play the audio that goes with the video, in my opinion.

And so to the live version, the real one that is. Specifically I’m talking about the one on From The Ground Up, but it’s the one I saw live in person during 360, and I think it’s the one they played most of that tour. The live funky version, it’s somehow two minutes longer than the album version, but it’s way more upbeat, faster, it seems to have just more of everything. As a general rule I’m not a big fan of club versions of U2 songs (there are many exceptions to this rule), but this one is by far the best of those that I could name. They step it up at the right points, bang it out, the bass is pounding and driving the song on. The crowd gets really into it, Bono is egging us on, it’s just great. To give a further clue, during a couple of the 360 shows there were only two songs that I pulled my camera out to tape, those two songs were Streets and Crazy. That alone should tell you how high I regard this song.

My rating for I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight: 9 / 10

Breathe

16th of June, 9.05, doorbell rings, man at the door says if I want to stay alive a bit longer…

I have a system for liking U2 songs. It goes like this: listen to the song/album the first time, and dislike it (mostly because I don’t know the songs yet). Listen to it again and again, and slowly things will start hitting me and the songs will grow on me. Sooner or later they will have become second nature and I will like them. What I have found is that it can sometimes take me a long time to know and like a song, and sometimes it takes a long time and I still don’t like it that much. But there are certain songs that I like the first or second time I listen to them, and those songs tend to become the ones that are the biggest hits and amongst my favorites. It doesn’t mean I can’t love a song if I don’t like it straight away, just that if I do it’s going to be with me forever. Breathe hits that category, a song that I loved the moment I heard it and a song that I rate really highly today.

I haven’t read any James Joyce, let alone Ulysses, the book that the song seems to be based on. I read the Wikipedia page once, that’s a good way to look smart without having to read all that junk, but then I’ve forgotten most of it anyway so more fool me. But basically the story is a day in the life of some dude, and it happens to be the 16th of June and that happens to be the day I’m posting this. There’s a show tonight in Montreal, I wonder if they’ll play Breathe (I don’t think they’ve played it yet on the Innocence + Experience tour), but maybe they’ll think of the day and do it. And then hopefully they’ll remember it next week when I’m seeing them in Chicago (although there seem to be a lot of songs I want to have in Chicago, not sure if they’ll have room for them all).

The song is a great lead song, it led off almost every show on the 360 tour, and I actually debate myself over whether I would prefer Breathe or Streets as the opening song to my ideal U2 show. Both of them start somewhat slow, building up until the point they take off. Both sound really good in doing so.

I’m not going to go through the whole song, there are so many parts that I could pick apart and point out how good they are. I’ll just pick on one line though, “The roar that lies on the other side of silence, the forest fire that is fear so deny it,” these are absolutely fabulous lines. Extremely poetic. The song almost seems to take a pause to highlight these lines, definitely a centerpiece. The first part is from George Eliot, yet another piece of literature I haven’t read (haven’t even done the Wikipedia page), the second I think is a Bono original, and somehow fits together really well with the first. This is what I talk about when I talk about the depth of the band and their music. Wonderful.

My rating for Breathe: 9 /10

Unknown Caller

Unknown Caller is one of those songs that is very mood-dependent. There are times when it comes on and I’m immediately pressing the Next button, and there are times when I’ll replay it two or three times in a row.  I can’t even tell you what I’m in to get that way, it’s not like I’m choosing songs based on my mood (haven’t done that for many years). In fact I usually will listen to random songs, on occasion I’ll pick something slightly specific to listen to (like today when I wanted to listen to Songs Of Innocence, and ran through it three or four times). It’s not too often when I actually say “oh, I want to listen to song X” and go listen to it. I’ve done it a little more this year, actually listening to the song I’m reviewing.

Really annoying sound at the start, with the car horn stuck on or whatever it is. Plus the birds, I don’t like their sound in the song, regardless of the point of them. I think there’s really a full minute of annoyance at the start of the song, before the real music begins. So when you look at the song as being six minutes long, you can chop a minute off right there. But when that music does kick in it sounds good, like an interesting song is right there for the grabbing. I don’t know that it quite makes it that far though. I don’t know why, this does seem to be one of those cases where each of the parts doesn’t quite make it to the whole. When Bono reaches into the “go, shout it out” lyric, the music seems to lose itself.

I don’t like some of the lyrics in the song either. Bono is usually at his best when he is being allegorical, or vague, or literary. In Unknown Caller he has a couple of lines that break this style, and I don’t think they work too well. The whole “restart and reboot yourself,” “force quit and move to trash,” everything in it that suggests using a computer. It just doesn’t work for me. Even though I use a Mac and the implication is that Bono does too (Windows users don’t force quit). 

The “sunshine, sunshine” at the start reminds me of “Sun shine, sun shine on me,” which was a line in an old U2 b side called The Three Sunrises, one of the b sides to The Unforgettable Fire single. Don’t know why it reminds me of that, it just does. Maybe it’s the lyric, maybe it’s the sound, maybe it’s the combination of the two.

Doesn’t it seem like I’m saying a lot of “don’t know”s in this review? That’s what I get from the song, I just don’t know if it is good or bad, and I don’t know if I like it or not. Even though I’ve rated it average, and I’ve rated a number of other songs the same, I can’t think of another song that I’ve reviewed so far that I’ve been so conflicted on.

My rating for Unknown Caller: 5 / 10

Stand Up Comedy

Stand Up Comedy is an odd little tune, it kind of stands out on No Line On The Horizon, a bit of whimsy in the middle of a serious album. I’ll Go Crazy does have that vibe as well, but Stand Up Comedy goes much further with it. Like, if you had a rating from zero (deadly serious) to one hundred (wild and wacky), most of the songs on No Line would be in the twenty range, I’ll Go Crazy would be maybe a sixty, but Stand Up Comedy would be at least a ninety. I’m not sure if there’s a song in the U2 pantheon that fits its album less well than Stand Up Comedy does. Although I’m also not sure which album this might fit, I would say Pop but that might be a little insulting, so maybe more like Zooropa.

Interesting guitar, interesting bass, interesting drums. I guess this is an interesting song. There are a bunch of parts working here, and they work pretty well. Doesn’t mean they’re producing something great, but it does mean they work together. It reminds me of Sheldon Cooper talking to Howard: “I have never said that you are not good at what you do. It’s just that what you do is not worth doing.” Hmm, maybe a little harsh.

A lot of this song is clearly from Bono’s perspective. Many of the lines just seem to be something he would say for himself. The whole of No Line On The Horizon was supposedly written by Bono taking characters and writing through their eyes, and this case it is his eyes. The obvious line to refer to here is the “Stand up to rock stars… be careful of small men with big ideas,” presumably references to himself.

Absolutely great line, “Stop helping God across the road like a little old lady.” Sometimes I listen to the song just to hear this line, it is so good and so well-delivered. The whole song seems to stop just to listen to this line, and it works really well. I do often like lines that are delivered in that staccato sort of style, stopping and starting throughout the line, and this song has many of them, that one in particular.

The problem I have with a song like this that there really is not too much to say about it. It is one of those throwaway songs, like a kind of snack food, nothing of substance there to chew on. There’s no video for it, it’s never been played live (one of very few album songs to not be played live), there is really nothing much to say about it. I find myself stuck for words, trying to think of something to say. I have actually had better luck coming up with things to say for many of the b sides which have no info related to them. That just seems back to front to me, you’d think a song on an album would be more well-known, have more interesting things to say about it. But no, not in this case.

My rating for Stand Up Comedy: 5 / 10

Magnificent

I will admit that I was not a big fan of Magnificent when it first came out, thinking that it was a little boring. It is one of those U2 songs that has to grow on you, and after listening to it many times I can now say that I do like the song a lot. At least some of my liking for it stems from the live version off U22, recorded in Switzerland. Listening to that a number of times really made me like it, and want to rewind and play it again. Once again suggesting the whole live thing being better than recorded.

Not sure about the meaning of the song. Probably the intent is to be a love song of a kind, but which kind I don’t know. There are enough clues in it to suggest that it’s about a relationship that’s ended, but with one party still in love with the other. Love leaving a mark, healing a scar. On the other hand, he then throws in the “’til we die, you and I will magnify” which is reminiscent of the wedding vows, and therefore suggesting they’re still together. Maybe it’s together despite their feelings changing. I don’t know, I’m not very good at working this stuff out, am I?

The band was in their Fez phase, so the video is full-on Morocco. I assume it was filmed either in the place they recorded the album, or in somewhere very similar. I don’t quite get the point of the sheets floating around the town, or what it’s meant to represent.

I like the line “My first cry, it was a joyful noise”, it really does sound like Bono, doesn’t it? First of all the idea that a baby would make a joyful noise, but second of all that he has such an ego to be able to sing the line. Of course the “I was born to sing for you” works in a similar way, making him out to be more than he is.

I love the start, the opening pounding of both drums and guitar, it does bring up a sense of powerfulness in the song. It’s possibly the best part of the music, that bit from the start until just before Bono begins to sing, when the music seems to lighten up a lot. This song really is the band working in concert, you can pick out moment where each of the three are taking the lead in the song, and actually the video does this better than most U2 videos, highlighting each of the members as they take that lead spot for a few seconds. There are often videos where it is just Bono, and the rest of them are set decoration or background. There was a famous story about that for One, if I remember correctly, and I’ll have to get to that when I do that review. A different example would be A Celebration, where you for the most part barely see the rest of the guys while Bono does his thing.

My rating for Magnificent: 7 / 10

Fez - Being Born

I haven’t heard much Brian Eno music, and yet somehow I’ve heard a lot of it. I guess I should clarify that I haven’t heard much that he’s done on his own, under his own name, but plenty that he’s done with U2 under their name, and under both of their names. Clearly he has been very influential in the U2 world, and U2 history, but when I hear his own stuff I wonder how that is possible. Was his influence truly good, or could it possibly have been not so good? Or even could it have changed over time?

Eno is a big fan of and player in ambient music, and it seems to me that he directs the projects he is involved in in that direction. Now, the first U2 work, The Unforgettable Fire, is quite ambient and is a masterpiece. He worked on The Joshua Tree, a few others in the 1990s, and All That You Can’t Leave Behind. Most of those he worked with Daniel Lanois, whom I think I credit the most for the U2 sound (after the band themselves). It just seems to me that if they’re both together the result is good, but if Eno doesn’t have Lanois working with him the result isn’t so good. The classic example is Passengers, which was self-indulgent to the point of irritation.

So all this leads up to Fez, which is the most Eno-like song on No Line On The Horizon. It doesn’t fit my narrative above, because Lanois worked on the album too, but it does fit the Eno theme. Slow, contemplative, boring. Changing pace here and there. Not “real” - reportedly Eno insisted that Larry use an electronic drum kit instead of a real one, which essentially took the whole impact of Larry out of the album.

Oddly enough, I didn’t even realize that “Fez - Being Born” is actually two songs, or at least were intended to be two. It wasn’t until I was re-reading the stuff in the No Line On The Horizon box that I got to Edge’s point about the one song finishing and the other starting, and then talking about how they were put together. They do sound at least somewhat similar, I suppose, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. Fez is easily the worst song on the album, and for that matter the two next worst songs are quite similar in style.

The Fez part is the start, the first minute or so (with a little Get On Your Boots thrown in, who knows why), all electronic and drab and dreamy. Then it booms out a little, into Being Born, and you start getting some action, although the base sound is still there. You get some weak lyrics and a bunch of wailing by Bono, which doesn’t help matters. I hear his thing about telling a story from someone’s perspective, but it doesn’t work very well. Maybe it’s because the music is a distraction. It just keeps drifting in and out. Ambient, like I said. And the end kind of falls away into nothing.

So yeah, I struggle to reconcile the bad stuff Eno has done with the good.

My rating for Fez - Being Born: 2 / 10

Moment Of Surrender

When I first heard Moment Of Surrender I didn’t like it. For a long while it was a track I would skip when listening to No Line, thinking it was a little boring. I don’t think it was until I heard the live version on the U22 release that I stopped and said “huh,” and started listening to it a little more closely. At that point I began liking the song, and switched back to the album version to listen to that. Since then the song has risen dramatically in my estimation, getting itself up to the heights of U2. I guess that’s the power of U2 live, they can change your opinion about anything. I can also remember seeing this song live in concert and loving it, maybe that was actually the turning point instead of hearing it on the live album. Pretty sure I didn’t take my phone out and hold it up (although again I might have).

I admit again that I didn’t know the point of the song, not understanding many of the lyrics. For example the opening line, “I tied myself with wire,” is this a drug reference (since the song is supposed to be about a drug addict falling off the wagon again)? I don’t know enough to know that. But Bono describes the song as such. The next line, “playing with the fire until the fire played with me” has a definite ring of the kinds of things that people say about drugs.

“It’s not if I believe in love, but love believes in me,” is a great line, and a part of the religiousness of the song. It goes to the old saying that it doesn’t matter if you believe in God, because he believes in you. Other religious points include the fact that this is supposed to be a kind of hymn, which you can definitely hear in the song. I also like the turn of phrase that goes with the subway and going “through the stations of the cross.”

I have several mis-hearings within this song. Spinning on the subway is what I always thought it was, instead of speeding. One of the key lines in the song, “At the moment of surrender, of vision over visibility,” I thought Bono was saying “A vision of invisibility,” and I kind of both liked and was confused by that. I have to say that vision over visibility is much more interesting. Then the next line is “Counting down ’til the pentecost,” and my version is “counting down ’til the pain was lost,” which although somewhat mixed up in its’ tense, does I think sound better than their version of it.

I don’t like the line “I was punching in the numbers at the ATM machine.” I could point out the redundancy of the word machine in that sentence, but I won’t. Instead I’ll just say something I think I said once before, that Bono works best when he is being poetic and lyrical, and not when he tries to put in something literal, or mundane, like this. It has always stood out to me as a odd line compared to the rest of the song.

My rating for Moment Of Surrender: 8 / 10

White As Snow

Written for a movie which I haven’t seen, so I can’t claim any knowledge of that. Supposedly about a pair of brothers, one who is a soldier in Afghanistan, and about one of them dying in the war, thinking back to his life as he does. I can’t say that I get that out of the song at all.

Boy, this is a dreary song. The music is based on an old hymn, which explains a lot, since it is turgid and boring and puts you to sleep. For this review I went to listen to the song a few times, and as it reached the end of the first time I realized I was long tuned out, that it was nothing more than background music to me. I’ve read a few reviews of the song that call it moving and sad, and I suppose it isn’t impossible to feel that way about it. But clearly from my perspective it’s not that at all, it’s just a song to skip over.

As I seem to do every day, a little talk about the religious aspects, which appear in every U2 song it seems. Now I’ve just told you that the song is based on a hymn, so that should be enough, right? But in this case I keep looking at the second verse, which begins “Once I knew there was a love divine,” and this to me is the subject saying they used to believe in God. The second line is “Then came a time I thought it knew me not,” which seems to be the common belief that you have reached a certain point where it is obvious to you that God no longer loves you or is interested in you. But then it goes “Who can forgive forgiveness where forgiveness is not,” which I struggle to try and unwrap. Too many forgives in that line, but you wouldn’t have an argument from me about the religious significance, especially when you couple it with the last line of the verse, “Only the lamb as white as snow.” The Lamb of God as they say, so bringing it together to point out the redemption part of the religious experience.

So having dug through that verse and pulled it apart, it’s interesting to take a look at the rest and see that it appears to be a lot more ordinary, talking about he and his brother driving, the land he is dying in, and then his life as a child. Goes back to the flashbacks of his life as he lays dying, but it’s most an unpoetic song, a little more narrative than usual. Yes, you can fit in the underlying themes if you want, but since this is such an uninteresting song, it’s really not worth it.

I confess I cheated on this one, because rather than letting the random number generator choose, I picked this song because it was supposed to snow here today. It did, but not much and it didn’t stick. It was as disappointing as the song.

My rating for White As Snow: 2 / 10

No Line On The Horizon (song)

No Line On The Horizon ends up being one of the better songs on the eponymous album. It is an album that I don’t think is much loved by U2 fans - certainly not by non-U2 fans - and I find myself in a minority. The song itself is smooth, somewhat relaxing but with moments in it of excitement. To kick off the album it’s perfect, it kind of reflects the album as a whole, that last sentence could describe the album to a T.

The lyrics are interesting, I really don’t know what they are about. They seem to be a slight mish-mash, it’s the chorus that I end up liking the most, but the music itself is the most interesting thing on this song. Given the images on the album, I’m trying to imagine the ocean, but I don’t know. The separation between sea and sky? Or the non-separation as the case may be. The verse that begins with “Every night I have the same dream” is my favorite part, although I’m not sure again about the traffic cop line. Or the tongue in the ear.

I also dislike the first few seconds, don’t know what the noise is there and I don’t know if I like it. Listen to it live on From The Ground Up and that disappears, Edge instead playing some quick guitar which does sound much better. I think I tend to prefer songs that both start and end clearly. Been listening to some of the fade out songs that U2 have, and most of them I wish there was a definitive stop point. Of course there are exceptions to the rule. You know, like 40.

So having said all that, what is it about this song that has me rate it so highly? Clearly the whole is greater than the sum of the parts in this case. I really feel the bass and drums working well in this song, maybe that’s what makes it. They just seem to come up and down at the right points within the song, not that they don’t usually but it is really quite clear here. Most U2 songs are led by Edge’s guitar, but occasionally they let the rhythm section take over and dominate a song. When they do it ends up sounding like this, not quite perfect but certainly very good.

One of these days I ought to take a look at the length of song titles and see how they match to the song’s rating. A while ago I had that theory about the album titles, that the longer the title the better the album, but that was in the day when they didn’t have any album titles longer than three words. Don’t think I continued that idea after they started putting in album titles that were so long you needed to come up with an acronym for them. So does that still hold up now? And how about the songs? A quick look at my ratings list does show both long and short at the top and the bottom, so maybe it doesn’t work.

My rating for No Line On The Horizon (song): 7 / 10