Monday, April 21, 2008

why i love u2 (part I)

(Joshua Masayoshi Huff)

One of the biggest crimes committed by my peers is their constant disdain and distaste for one of the world's most important bands--u2. People my age seem to be hung up on what is perceived to be Bono's "Jesus complex".

This is a terrible reason to hate an incredibly influential and powerful band. I disagree strongly with said "Jesus complex"--Bono cares about international politics and has a soapbox from which he can express his misgivings about the progress of the developing world. It'd be one thing if he was another celebrity who was speaking about things he had no idea about--but this isn't the case with Bono.

However, I'm not going to argue over this point. I want the band to speak for itself. Even if you don't agree with Bono's politics (or the way in which he goes about speaking about his views), you can still enjoy one of the world's most underrated/overrated bands.

(Their '80s and early '90s output is criminally underrated. It is their new material that leaves such a rotten taste in everyone's mouth)

I myself was not sold on the band (I found Bono off-putting), but a friend of mine (Chris Fujino...who has two music myspaces) showed me the light. I just want to pay it forward.


"New Year's Day"

Depending on who you believe, this song is either a love song from Bono to his wife (a recurring theme in u2's songs) or about the Polish solidarity movement.

The Edge pulls double duty here, alternating nostalgic a piano line with searing guitar riffs.

Bono is at his finest, crooning:
"All is quiet on New Year's day
A world in white gets underway
I want to be with you, be with you, night and day
Nothing changes on New Year's day
On New Year's day"

I'm not going to wax poetic about Bono's lines--but they're pretty incredible. Just because the calendar has turned over doesn't mean the world is at peace--it doesn't make anything any easier.

These sorts of contradictory/mutually exclusive statements are a theme in my favorite u2 songs, as you'll soon see.


"Sunday, Bloody Sunday"

Another political/quasi-love song, "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" speaks about the strife in Northern Ireland--clearly "one day we can be as one" speaks to the hope that one day Ireland will be united as one.

An amazing piece. Again, the interplay between Adam Clayton and Larry Mullins, Jr is immense and the Edge is on point, mixing his trademark twinkling harmonics with barbed-wire guitar lines.

"Two Hearts Beat as One"

With the inclusion of another song from the album "War", I feel that it becomes fairly obvious what my favorite u2 album is.

"Two hearts beat as one" is just an incredibly simple yet moving line--and "can't stop the dance/honey, this is my last chance" sums up a resigned hopelessness of the narrator. The power of early u2--the youth and exuberance and hope and hopelessness--has not been matched by any band since.

"Two Hearts Beat as One" speaks to the band's ability to create loud, moving pieces by using periods of near silence--look no further than the verses themselves, where sparse musical arrangements are dominant.

"Bullet the Blue Sky"

The band's "The Joshua Tree" record was recorded in America and serves as sort of a love letter from an awed yet jilted lover--look no further than this song for that.

Again--almost nothing but bass and drums during the verses, culminating with sinister slide guitars during the pre-choruses (and second verse) colliding with Bono's voice.

" This guy comes up to me
His face red like a rose on a thorn bush
Like all the colors of a royal flush
And he's peeling off those dollar bills
Slapping them down
One hundred, two hundred
And I can see those fighter planes
Across the mud huts where the children sleep
Through the alleys of a quiet city street
You take the staircase to the first floor
Turn the key and slowly unlock the door
As a man breathes into a saxophone
And through the walls you hear the city groan
Outside is America"

Supposedly, the song is about Bono's experiences in El Salvador, and the juxtaposition between American buying power and military might and third world poverty is evident.

I don't think there is a more brooding or angsty u2 song--they may have more angry tunes, but this one is truly a sinister piece.

"I know there's a problem..Ronald Reagan's the problem...."

And among the hundreds of brilliant lines that Bono has sung, this one is hard to top:

" Across the field you see the sky ripped open
See the rain through a gaping wound
Pounding on the women and children
Who run
Into the arms
Of America"

I'm sorry, but if you don't think Bono gets it, then you're not listening to u2 at all.


I know this one was a bit heavy--I'll lighten it up in my next u2 post. I promise.

Until then, look at the band in their incredible '80s stride.