Tuesday, 7 July 2015

When all you've got is hurt

Sometimes you just want to get something finished. A bit like a bike ride that's gone on just that little bit too long, I'm working my way through my top ten songs and really am a bit bored with myself now.

But as I'm on holiday from work, it's quite good to have some time to think and type, so I'm going to crack on. A lot of the songs have been a little bit obscure, particularly for a mainstream audience. This one is not. This one is definitely in the vein of clichéd choice. This one is eminently predictable. This one is One.

So much has been written about this that I feel there is little I can add, if you're a U2 fan you'll know it, if not, chances are you find Bono irritating or U2 an overblown and pompous load of hot air. Or you can read about it, well one interpretation anyway.

Well, I don't care what you think much. U2 have been the band that I've followed the most closely for most of this one life. Achtung Baby, the album from which it comes, is my favourite album of all time. The albums they've made in the last decade or so have been somewhat formulaic and on the whole disappointing. Some good songs, but at best derivative of earlier stuff.

A square montage of square photographs arranged in a 4 by 4 grid. The photographs are mostly blue and red in tint, but some are monochrome. They are candid in nature and mostly show four men in various locations, including in an empty street, a crowded festival, under a bridge, in a car, and standing on sand. One photograph is a close-up of a man's hand wearing two rings bearing the characters "U" and "2".

It's hard to express just what a breakthrough that album was, how different it was and how cathartic it was. They took a huge risk and did something really unexpected, and ultimately it defined them (at least for me) as a band. It's also hard to describe what a time of possibility and excitement it was in the early nineties. Thatcher gone, Berlin Wall gone, a whiff of better things to come with the end of the Northern Ireland conflict and even a possibility of  progressive government.

How were we to know it was all going to turn to shit?

But for a while there was that hope. And the songs on that album, in their tone, their texture and the coruscating distortion of The Edge's guitar, jolted me like nothing before or since. But the lyrics, oh such bile, such scathing and such irony. The combination was irresistible, and nowhere was it so good as in the song One. If you listen to it it's pretty clear it's about a break-up, a disappointment, a song of difference. So I love the fact that couples get married to it, and corporates us it to do that shitty "we're all in this together" bollocks.

 I even love the Mary J Blige collaboration. although my favourite is this live version from Slane castle, sung with conviction and passion a week after Bono's father died.

And yes we do "get" to carry each other, not "got to". As he says, a privilege of obligation, not an act of love.

One to go now.

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