I have the ratings for all the U2 songs in a single file, which I refer to each day when I randomly choose which song to review. Pick the song, go to the file and look up the song to determine what I rated it. There are a few songs that I know are at the top, there are a few songs that I have a basic idea of where they are, and a few that I have to hunt for. The Refugee is not one of those. For The Refugee I went to the bottom of the list and started scanning up looking for the name, and didn’t have to go very far.
The Refugee came off the War album, fairly reasonably given the title, and I suppose you could say that it fit on that album pretty well. Except there are times when I think it doesn’t. The album does feature a lot of what I’d call martial music, somewhat strident, definitely showing up the drums more than the other albums. Larry came out of a marching band, and for War he uses those skills a lot. It makes for some good sound, like with Sunday Bloody Sunday (and currently on the tour he features heavily in that, especially when Sunday ends and we get toward the start of Raised By Wolves), but it also does give a little bit of overkill, which I think The Refugee is one of the specific examples of that. Along with the rest of the music, and the lyrics, this song just doesn’t appeal to me.
Strident is the word I used earlier, and I’ll repeat it again here. The song seems clipped, driven by short beats in both the drums and the lyrics. There aren’t long winding lyrics in this, they’re mostly a few words said (and I mean said, not sung, although maybe I should say shouted) quickly, trying to keep the tempo running. Again, not necessarily a good thing. Staccato, that’s the word I was trying to come up with to describe it. May make an interesting theme, since the word gets used for gunfire as well, continuing the album theme, but it doesn’t make for good music.
As for the point of the song, it is kind of saying that there’s a girl waiting to become a refugee, to be taken away to America to live in peace. I’m not so sure about that, it’s a fairly simplistic notion of being a refugee. I have been paying a little more attention to refugees lately, as Neil Gaiman has been turning his spotlight on them a little. It is one of those tragic situations, where people are being driven from their homes for reasons that they usually don’t care about. I can’t imagine being in that situation. It tends to lead back to thoughts about the powerful using the rest of us as pawns in their games. They stay in power, or switch power with someone else, and the regular people, the little people, die or get thrown out of their land.
The other thing that irks me about the song is the start, where every time I hear it all I think is “more cowbell.”
My rating for The Refugee: 2 / 10