Van Diemen’s Land is one of the Edge songs, one of the few songs where he is everything in the song from the guitar to the singing to the who knows, maybe the bass and drums. Actually there aren’t any drums on this song, I think Larry decided he wanted a little break at that point. And Bono plays guitar, but doesn’t sing. I don’t know why Edge did so much on the song, why it became such a personal project for him. But it is a sad song, and a sweet song, and something you just listen to quietly and enjoy.
Musically it’s a quiet little song, just guitar and bass, strumming slowly, nothing exceptional. Fairly simple overall, it feels like a song I could probably play myself, although I have never tried. I always think that I could play the slow and simple songs, but for some reason I don’t play them too much. I like to play the faster songs more, although I’m not very good at them. I kind of have that problem, wanting to run before I walk on a lot of things. Sometimes it gets me in trouble, but in this case no, it’s not that much trouble that I can’t play a song on the guitar. Unless Bono pulls me up on stage, and I have to say that I can’t play whatever they want, but maybe they’ll be cool and ask me what I can play and we’ll play that. Guess I’ll have to work on Acrobat, huh?
The song is about the deportation of convicts from Ireland to Australia, more specifically Tasmania, which was originally known as Van Diemen’s Land. It is important to note that pretty much everyone who lives in Australia is either a convict or a descendant of a convict, which would probably go to explain most of what you know about Australia (if you knew me you’d get the context for this, and would probably think it’s pretty funny. If you don’t know me, just assume it is funny). The song is very sad, as you can tell from the opening lines, “hold me now, til this hour has gone around, and I’m gone on the rising tide.” Essentially saying goodbye to people, family or friends, because he is going to be put on a boat and sent to the other side of the world.
The song was the second song on the album, and the second song on the movie, playing behind the credits while we see images of the band around town, and then shots of them while they play the song. Somewhat low-key, just like the song. An interesting opening you might say, but really it does feel just like a bit of filler. One of the important things to note is that the song on the movie differs from the one on the album, it skips an entire verse (the “kings will rule” verse). I don’t know why, option one is that they cut it so that the length of the song would work for the length of the credits, and option two is that it had a little extra political stuff in it (kings rule while poor toil) which may not have been great for the movie. On the other hand they put a whole lot of politics in there, so I don’t know why they would skip that part.
My rating for Van Diemen’s Land: 6 / 10