War (1983)


 
1. Sunday Bloody Sunday 2. Seconds 3. New Years Day 4. Like a Song 5. Drowning Man 6. The Refugee 7. Two Hearts Beat As One 8. Red Light 9. Surrender 10.40

 

U2 grew up in a big way very fast. This is their first political album, and although their first two records were great, they're not as known to the mainstream as this one. The theme here, obviously, is "war". Just a look at the front cover is a good indication of the atmosphere of the album. I'm not sure if its the same boy from the cover of Boy, but he looks the same - only a bit older, wiser and disillusioned with the state of the world. No, not all the songs are battle related, but a good chunk of them reflect the state of current affairs in 1982 and 1983. From the Polish solidarity movement on New Years Day, the fear of nuclear war on Seconds or the tragedy in Northern Ireland on the lead off, and best known track, Sunday Bloody Sunday. All of these songs are great. Hell, the whole album is great - with the message being straightforward without being too angry to make the experience unlistenable.

Musically, the band sounds a bit more hard and angry as well. Larry Mullen Jr. stands out the most with his thundering drums that are loud and up front in the mix. Probably no coincidence. There are a few instances where they resemble the U2 of old (which sounds silly considering their history now has gone on so long), but those moments are rare. Two Hearts Beat As One has a pleasant enough sound, yet the song never did as well as I thought it would. Other highlights are the croon along Surrender and the most underrated song in their whole catalog Like a Song, which could have been a leftover track from Boy, with its infectious danceable grooves.

Fortunately the whole album is pulled off masterfully. This could have backfired in their face, but good songwriting and good musicians are good songwriters and good musicians. U2 would prove time and time again that they couldn't be put in a particular box in terms of musical style. They even incorporate an electric violin in Sunday Bloody Sunday and a trumpet in Red Light, yet manage to make is sound very U2. Even some of the slowed down songs such as Drowning Man and the fan favorite 40 flow well with the overall feel of the album.

Funny that these guys still weren't that popular with the mainstream in the U.S. (although they were burning up the charts in England and other parts of Europe).They were, however, getting a pretty heavy rotation of play on the up and coming network in America known as MTV, so it was just a matter of time before the whole world would fall in love with them.

This is one of those albums that probably every U2 fan loves, since there were a significant number of early admirers that deserted them shortly after this one for being too commercial or something. Whatever. It rightly deserves all the attention that it gets.

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