30 years of War

U2_War_album_coverWhen February blew in this year, there was an immediate rush to celebrate U2’s 30th anniversary release of the War album. I decided to take the high road and sort of waited to celebrate closer to the actual release date of February 28th and then praise the record, which I am surely doing with this short posting.

What makes the War album special in U2 history is how it launched the band onto the world’s stage. The first two records knocked on the door and third one, War, opened it. It was U2’s first true political record and a turning point in the band’s narrative. They were no longer singing about youth and religion. Instead, they were making music, pinpointing bigger issues outside of the four members. What was great the record was they were blooming and not afraid of taking a stand. They are however Irish and tough blooded men. With Larry’s ferocious drumbeat and Adam holding the low end, the band was now making rhythm an anchor of the narrative. In addition, the musical landscape was changing around them as well. The punk movement had dies and MTV, now a major player in the business, was pushing fluff. Yes, there were videos released from this record in order to build the band’s base, but it was still a grass root effort. Once you heard the record and let it sink in, no matter how you listened to it, one became hooked.

I am surprised that the band has never revisited some of the tunes on recent tours. Yes, I know there is Sunday Bloody Sunday and New Year’s Day, but they have never marched out Two Hearts Beat As One or The Refugee much like they marched out the Electric Co from Boy on recent tours over the past decade. It is my feeling, that the second level tunes on this record, are just as solid as the up-front war-horses, excuse the pun. However, with an impending album release and tour to follow, it would be great for U2 to make a nod to this record and delve deeper into it for the simple reason that this album made them who they are today.

  1. Nader Ashway Reply

    Great post – and right on point. This was most certainly the album that would become the central gene in the band’s future DNA. As you pointed out, they established themselves with much more of a complete musical backdrop, with a more varied rhythmic force, and Edge really discovering the textures (that would later be wonderfully exploited by Brian Eno on the next record, Unforgettable Fire) that are now his hallmark.

    But you’re right about the “other” tracks. On this record, maybe more than many of their others, the band really went further down each road they were exploring. In “Seconds,” they fully unleash their political power and start naming names. [How strange that we were still in a cold war then, eh? This song never lets you forget it.] In “Drowning Man,” a full expression of faith, with lyrics inspired from the book of Isaiah.

    “Surrender” is one of my all-time favorites, and is probably where you can hear the “future” Edge more than anywhere else. But think about “Like a Song:” here’s an excellent example of Bono’s habit of working out his feelings in his lyrics, (probably about his father,) and the band is just KILLING it behind him. Steve Lillywhite gets extra points on this one for the raw drum sounds. So great.

    Thanks for taking me down this road – I’ll be listening to WAR in its entirety on the 28th!

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