Those of you searching for a political rant about United States foreign policy and the way America imposes its beliefs on the world might be disappointed. This is not about that kind of war. There are, however, political rants. There are a variety of statements about human nature, about love, loss, and religion. Everyone wish a happy thirtieth birthday to War by U2.
From the opening crack of the snare drum fear enters the heart of the listener. Marching right behind is the high hat and bass drum. Sparse, open guitar arpeggios spring up and attack the ears of those brave enough to face them. This is not just War; this is Sunday Bloody Sunday. A song inspired by a terrorist bombing, this has long been considered one of the greatest works of alternative rock history. Few could anticipate what was about to happen as they dropped the needle on this track on a late February afternoon in 1983.
War is a heavy album with vivid imagery and serious topics. The rest of side one is no less imposing than it’s opening track. Seconds and New Year’s Day are both strident studies of mankind and the decisions people make. Like a Song... at least sounds uplifting until you read the lyrics and realize that the narrator is suffering a crisis of the soul and is leaning toward a suicidal end. The mind blowing A-side finishes with the sublime and serene Drowning Man. In the extended liner notes of the remastered package The Edge is quoted as calling this song “one of the most successful pieces of recording we’ve ever done.”
Side two begins with the rollicking Refugee about a young girl caught in a warring nation with the hopes to one day live in America. Two Hearts Beat as One is a poppy, danceable love song and was the second single from the album. The levity is short lived as Red Light and Surrender follow in sequence. The song cycle closes with “40” and a plea to God asking repeatedly ‘how long to sing this song?”
The members of U2 had made a name for themselves by singing about their friends and families, growing into adults, and their Christian faith. War was a pivot point for the band. Their songs became more complex and their subject matter began to grow out into the world. Faith and family were certainly present throughout but a more worldly view now accompanied these themes. War took U2 to new heights of popularity and planted the seeds of social activism that the band has become know for today.
If this is your introduction to War it is time to stop reading and get to the nearest record store. Luna Music and Indy CD and Vinyl both stock the new vinyl remaster and the two-disc CD set complete with outtakes locally.