Monday, March 9, 2009

No Line On The Horizon

Is the title of U2's new album, which I have been playing, obsessively, since this past Wednesday. I have to admit the album is a grower. The first time I listened to their single "Get On Your Boots", I wasn't really impressed. So I didn't become a fan of the song until I watched their opening act at the Brits. In spite of my initial apprehension, I shelled out 13 bucks, and purchased their 12th album. What can I say, I am a U2 loyalist. And, *drumroll please* this is one of my favourite albums. The lyrics are deeply enthralling. The music is volcanic, eruptive, riveting...and I can keep going. They recorded some of the songs in Morocco, and one could actually feel the Arabic cultural influence both in the sound and lyrics. But this influence is not a case of Orientalism, or as The Edge pointed out, of musical tourism. They made the Arabic tunes their own.

The songs are longer, and each song has its own narrative.

1. No Line On The Horizon
This title track gives the album a kick-start with the classic U2 sound. The song is about a girl who said "Time is irrelevant, it's not linear". The girl apparently has them mesmerized, Bono sings: "The songs in your head are now on my mind".

2. Magnificent
In my opinion, the song is about U2's growth and their relationship with their audience. Bono sings:

I was born
I was born to sing for you
I didn't have a choice but to lift you up
And sing whatever song you wanted me to
I give you back my voice
From the womb my first cry, it was a joyful noise...
Only love, only love can leave such a mark
But only love, only love can heal such a scar
Justified till we die, you and I will magnify

The song reminded me of "Beautiful Day". With "Beautiful Day" and its corresponding album, U2 reapplied for the job of the world's greatest band, and expanded their fan base. But, I believe, with their 12th album U2 has reinvented themselves, something Coldplay attempted to achieve with their 4th album, Viva La Vida.

3. Moment of Surrender
My instant favourite, as it reminded me of Rumi's poetry. I think the lyrics are simply poetic.

We were barely conscious
Two souls too smart to be in the realm of certainty
It's not if I believe in love
But if love believes in me

In a recent TV interview, Bono said that they get a lot of their musical inspiration from Gospel music, and the following verses remind me of the act of praying. Remind me of the moment when people bow down to pray, which in my opinion is the ultimate moment of surrender. In a solitary moment of devotion, when someone becomes oblivious to his or her surroundings.

At the moment of surrender
I folded to my knees
I did not notice the passers-by
And they did not notice me

The last part of the song depicts the frenzy of our everyday life; especially the uncertainty that's hanging over us these days.

I was punching in the numbers at the ATM machine
I could see in the reflection
A face staring back at me
At the moment of surrender
Of vision over visibility
I did not notice the passers-by
And they did not notice me
I was speeding on the subway
Through the stations of the cross
Every eye looking every other way
Counting down 'til the pain would stop

4. Unknown Caller
This song pleas for the beginning of a new era.

I was lost between the midnight and the dawning
In a place of no consequence or company
I was right there at the top of the bottom
On the edge of the known universe where I wanted to be
I had driven to the scene of the accident
And I sat there waiting for me

Another song that reminded me of Rumi's poetry. A poem called "Be Lost in the Call" comes to mind. I am just going to copy-paste it here.

Lord, said David, since you do not need us,
why did you create these two worlds?

Reality replied: O prisoner of time,
I was a secret treasure of kindness and generosity,
and I wished this treasure to be known,
so I created a mirror: its shining face, the heart;
its darkened back, the world;
The back would please you if you've never seen the face.

Has anyone ever produced a mirror out of mud and straw?
Yet clean away the mud and straw,
and a mirror might be revealed.

Until the juice ferments a while in the cask,
it isn't wine. If you wish your heart to be bright,
you must do a little work.

My King addressed the soul of my flesh:
You return just as you left.
Where are the traces of my gifts?

We know that alchemy transforms copper into gold.
This Sun doesn't want a crown or robe from God's grace.
He is a hat to a hundred bald men,
a covering for ten who were naked.

Jesus sat humbly on the back of an ass, my child!
How could a zephyr ride an ass?
Spirit, find your way, in seeking lowness like a stream.
Reason, tread the path of selflessness into eternity.

Remember God so much that you are forgotten.
Let the caller and the called disappear;
be lost in the Call.

5. I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight
My appreciation for this song grew after I watched their live performance on the Letterman Show. I think, they brought down the house with this song. It's a classic U2 number, with the hidden plea for social awareness and global involvement.

There's a part of me in chaos that's quiet
And there's a part of you that wants me to riot
Everybody needs to cry or needs to spit
Every sweet-tooth needs just a little hit
Every beauty needs to go out with an idiot
How can you stand next to the truth and not see it?
Change of heart comes slow...
Every generation gets a chance to change the world
Is it true that perfect love drives out all fear?
The right to be ridiculous is something I hold dear
But change of heart comes slow...

6. Get On Your Boots
For better or worse, this track is different from the rest of the songs on this record. I think the reason they chose to release it first, because the story and/or the chaos begins from this song. Here they pose the question, what do you do when the world falls apart in front of your eyes? Something our generation has had to deal with over and over again, in this past decade. We dwindle from not wanting to talk about the outside world, to feeling selfish for not caring, to feeling inadequate, to believing in the power of one.

Winds blow with a twist
Never seen a move like this
Can you see it too
Night is falling everywhere
Rockets hit the funfair
Satan loves a bomb scare
If some one's into blowing up
We're into growing up
Women are the future
All the big revelations
I've gotta submarine
You've got gasoline
I don't wanna talk about wars between nations
Not right now

This song is a definite grower. But, don't judge the entire record based on this one song.

7. Stand Up Comedy
One of the shorter tracks about Bono's crusade to instill individual responsibility in us, to solve our global problems. I think, this song goes perfectly well with the following video, which changetheworld360 mentioned on her blog:

8. White As Snow
In this song, U2 is reminiscing about yesteryears. It is a slow song and has an entrancing effect on me.

Once I knew there was a love divine
Then came a time I thought it knew me not
Who can forgive forgiveness where forgiveness is not
Only the lamb as white as snow

9. Breathe
The song starts with The Edge's powerful guitar strings. This song is chaotic, and random, very much like our lives.

10. Cedars of Lebanon
Just the title alone reminded me of the 2007 Lebanon Conflict. I remember Lebanese with foreign passports were able to leave the country, and escape the conflict, but the ones, who didn't have the luxury of having dual-citizenships, stayed behind in the midst of "Cedars of Lebanon". I am not sure who the narrator is, in this song. It could be a journalist, who reported from the country during the conflict, portrayed through the song's linear tone.

I haven't been with a woman, it feels like for years
Thought of you the whole time, your salty tears
This shitty world sometimes produces a rose
The scent of it lingers and then it just goes
The worst of us are a long drawn out confession
The best of us are geniuses of compression
You say you're not going to leave the truth alone
Child drinking dirty water from the river bank
Soldier brings oranges he got out from a tank
I'm waiting on the waiter, he's taking a while to come
Choose your enemies carefully 'cos they will define you
Make them interesting 'cos in some ways they will mind you
They're not there in the beginning but when your story ends
Gonna last with you longer than your friend

11. Fez-Being Born
Fez is a 400 year old Moroccan city. Wikipedia tells me, the city has the oldest university in the world. This is the last song on the album, perhaps paying tribute to the city where U2 sought for their rebirth.

I'm being born, a bleeding start
The engines roar, blood curling wail
Head first then foot
The heart sets sail


Maria Sondule said...

Lol, never heard of this band until you mentioned it. Am I out of the loop or what?

changetheworld360 said...

@Maria: You've never heard of U2??? No offense, but they are legendary.

@Zany: I enjoyed reading this post. You underscored one of the things I've always loved about U2: their symbolism in their songs. Everything they write takes on a greater meaning, and makes them very unique. I'm always amazed by their power to continually reinvent themselves and their multi-generational appeal.

Zany said...


Give U2's "Joshua Tree" a listen. I think you would love them.


I agree with you. They try to make the most out of their celebrity status, more than any other band. And, their lyrics have multi-dimensional meaning. There is no other band like them.