Tuesday, August 9, 2016


U2's War from 1983 continues to be my all-time favorite in the Irish rockers' canon.  A raw, politically charged batch of tunes that remains lyrically relevant thirty plus years on.  "Sunday Bloody Sunday" thunders in on Track One with a military-like strike of drum and wail of guitar that signals a new direction for the band.  A commanding, sober damnation of the troops who would gun down civil rights protestors in Northern Ireland but also an elegy to those unarmed civilians who perished.  Lead singer Bono's vocals reach heights not heard on the previous albums, powerful efforts themselves.  The addition of violin became signature to the tune.   "New Year's Day", about the Polish Solidarity Movement, continued the battle cry and also dominated charts around the world.   No longer was U2 just a cult band.

The rest of the album is filled with exciting, memorable compositions that forewent overproduction and just cut and burned like pure rock and roll should.  "Red Light" utilizes somewhat eerie backup voices (from Kid Creole and the Coconuts) to tell a story of prostitution.   MTV hit "Two Hearts Beat As One" is a good old fashioned love song.  The anger roars back in "Seconds", about nuclear war (the sampled vocal bit within was later quoted in THE BREAKFAST CLUB).  The infectious "Surrender" is an intense workout for The Edge's guitar and Bono's voice and is a great driving song.  "Drowning Man" is a somber, downbeat sounding yet entirely hopeful prayer/assurance that has haunted me since high school.  I recently awoke from a dream (borderline nightmare) in which this song was playing, and what prompted this entry.   It is still my favorite cut on the album.

War concludes with the spare "40" which takes its lyrics from the Psalms.  That song, plus the imagery of faith and linkage to Isaiah in "Drowning Man", and the lyric "to claim the victory Jesus won" in "Sunday Bloody Sunday" were excitedly quoted by my friends at church back in the day.  Breathless were they to inform me that this big secular band was actually Christian.  I was excited about that too, then even more impressed later that the quartet, which includes Adam Clayton on bass and Larry Mullen, Jr. on drums, did not brandish their faith as a weapon or marketing strategy.   They were not and still aren't polished, gleaming saints.  Rather, regular guys who cussed and got pissed about the things anyone aspiring to Christianity should get pissed about.  Made for great music.

Sláinte, always, gentlemen.
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