Saturday, March 27, 2010

"Bullet the Blue Sky" by U2 (1987)

Kirsty MacColl, who in some way must be the Patron Saint of this blog and its sister 'Best Songs...', was invited to compile a track listing for U2's The Joshua Tree album. As the story goes, she started by listing the songs in order of her favourites: the one she liked best first, the one she liked second best after that, etc. She was then going to put together a track listing, but U2 apparently felt that her top-10 list worked well. Which explains why The Joshua Tree is probably the most top-heavy album in history, with all the noteworthy songs on side one. And, in my opinion, a big nasty blight in the middle of the rather decent songs on side one: 'Bullet the Blue Sky'.

Apparently, The Joshua Tree was where U2 stopped being grandstanding, chest-beating self-important politicoes and started writing personal songs. Ahem. Well, to that I can say two things: one, U2 will always be self-important. And two, we have this current song. Which is all about Uncle Sam and the bad things the American war machine does around the world. It's strident. It's aggressive. It has nothing to do with the gentle soul-searching otherwise on offer on the album.

That's okay. Nothing wrong with political music, and nothing wrong with changing up the tone of an album. The problem is just... Bono. Well, not 100%. It`s that drumbeat - fine on 'New Years Day', boring now. It's the faux 'anthemic' metallic feel of the song. The music is frustrating enough. But Bono on top of that is intolerable. It's the grunted vocals. It's the falsetto woo-hoos. It's the heavy-handed lyrics. And... and... and... it's the spoken section. Oh God... can anyone actually listen to the last two minutes of this song without feeling queasy? Not only are 'spoken sections' pretty much always terrible (even in doo-wop), but he intones this gibberish in an agonised half-whisper, half-groan. It's all silly nonsense like a high schooler's first attempts at writing poetry. The Edge uses his guitar to make some atonal noises while Bono catches his breath. And then he's back... run, run... into the arms... of America.

Ew. America, you should know better.

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