U2’s War provided a triumphant close to their post-punk trilogy – Treble
Looking at U2’s work as a whole, the group’s albums seem to form a series of trilogies. This in itself isn’t unusual for a band – The Cure has their Gothic trilogy, Bowie has their Berlin trilogy and so on. Yet this happens remarkably several times with U2. The unforgettable fire, Joshua tree and Baby Achtung form the core of U2’s identity as one of the premier rock bands of our time, big on concept anthems and stages. And Zooropa and Pop, with Brian Eno collaborating in 1995 as The Passengers, find the group embracing their freest pop art trends and most abstract indulgences.
The band’s first three albums, likewise, form a trilogy – a crucial trilogy in their development, if this one is largely removed from the story, not a forgotten chapter but one that they more or less “pulled out.” Apart from a handful of songs. (“Sunday Bloody Sunday”, “New Year’s Day”) remain live staples nearly four decades later. There are a few basic and simple things that the 1980s Boy, Years 1981 October and 1983 War have in common. These are the band’s first three albums, written and recorded at a time when U2 as a concept – as a brand – has not yet fully formed and has yet to establish its market value. They each have one-word titles. These are also the only three albums in their catalog to be stylistically post-punk.
War is the dividing line between U2, the young number of Dublin’s new wave, and U2, the heroic rock band of the stadium. And by permanently closing the book on the latter, the band offered up their most difficult set of songs in their catalog – two punchy, muscular sides of serious rock music that retained a punk side despite being on the not to be too big to be in the same sphere as punk. The punks, understandably, didn’t go to U2, and in the face of their cynicism about the band, the band offered “Like A Song,” a counterpoint to punk’s self-destructive doorman, backed up by darkness and darkness. abrasion which throbbed under the greatest moments of their first album, Boy. “Too defined in our ways of trying to rearrange», Sings Bono. “Too right to be wrong, in this rebellious song.”
U2 would only have played it once live and never looked back.
All that U2 has purged of themselves with War, arguably U2’s first album to suggest the burgeoning level of heroism that would become their stock in trade, in doing so they pushed each other harder than they ever had been. War is a loaded title for an album. It also captures both the state of the band and the state of the world with a clearer view than their previous two albums; Bono’s growing interest in world affairs and conflicts – nuclear proliferation, Polish solidarity movement – was accompanied by a sound marked by heavier rhythms and sharper edges. The album opens with heavy, militant drum work from Larry Mullen Jr. on “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” and while there are moments of lightness and lightness, a sense of austerity permeates everything. album.
War was also, at that time, the best set of songs in the group. And that remains one of the highest points of their canon, the document of a band shaking off the uncertainty of their previous album and pushing forward with all they have. “Sunday Bloody Sunday” is one such song, inspired by the unrest in Northern Ireland and brought to life by the militaristic drums of Mullen. Like most of the songs here, it didn’t start out as a political commentary – The Edge wrote the riff in a moment of personal frustration after getting into a fight with his girlfriend, and after bringing the raw materials to the band, it was tightened up and imbued with a sense of purpose. “How long do we have to sing this song?Bono asks in a line that is adjusted slightly in the closing hymn “40”. It becomes a chorus that speaks to almost every subject explored throughout the album, whether it’s a civil war or the sound of a nuclear saber.
‘New Year’s Day’, the album’s most anthem moment, retains the post-punk groove of Boy while adding some ghostly twinkles and piano echo, as if borrowed from Jamaican dub. His video, depicting the band in a snowy landscape, reflects his melancholy, but although this song too was notable for being one of the more political songs on the album – Bono rewrote the lyrics afterwards. read about Lech Walesa’s imprisonment, who years later would end up being elected President of Poland – it started as a simple love song. Adam Clayton wrote his bassline while trying to figure out how to play “Fade to Gray” from Visage, which feels good in context – lines like “nothing changes on New Year’s Day”Make it one of the most gothic moments in the U2 catalog.
As another year would pass before U2 teamed up with Brian Eno and began a journey to become something much bigger than he already was, War found them confidently using non-directional directions. conventional in the studio. The Edge provided vocals on “Seconds,” one of the few tracks in the band’s catalog in which it would do so, while Kid Creole and the Coconuts – a more vibrant and playful counterpoint to U2’s absolute seriousness – provided backup vocals in the studio.
Most notably, the last song on the album came almost after the fact. Clayton had already left the studio when Bono, The Edge, and Mullen determined that the album did not have a suitable closing song. What they invented, “40”, is more of an epilogue than a hymn. The song quotes “Psalm 40” and comes back to a song from “How long to sing this song? Echoing the album’s opening track in a new context. Written, recorded and mixed in under an hour, the song – although created on location – ended up becoming a staple of the band’s live concert, with each member leaving one by one before the end, Clayton – ironically – often being the last to leave.
The audience’s response to “40” – thousands of voices singing its chorus in unison, as captured on a live EP Under a blood red sky—Illustrated the group’s growth not only as a songwriting entity, but as artists. On record, it was perhaps songs like “Sunday Bloody Sunday” that hit the hardest (and, finally, live too). But this? This is the staging, a shameless play for immortality. War closed a trilogy, but put the band on a higher pedestal, with the promise of becoming one of the world’s greatest rock bands nearly fulfilled.
Support our site – Subscribe to our Patreon: Become one of our monthly clients and help support an independent media resource while having access to exclusive content, shirts, playlists, mixtapes and more.