Saturday, June 25, 2011

A song a day: U2 - Acrobat

It's easy to make fun of U2 these days but back in the 80's there were few bands that were releasing albums of lasting quality who cracked the mainstream. That's why you still hear them on the radio as opposed to Big Country. Whatever you may think of Bono or the declining quality of their releases, U2 have earned their place in the pantheon of great bands from 80's/90's regardless of what Henry Rollins may think. I don't like all of it but I like a lot of it.

I have long contended that their greatest album is Achtung Baby - not because it was a radical reinvention for them as is widely claimed (because it wasn't, adding distortion to a U2 song is not revolutionary) but because the focus of the album is incredibly personal. Lyrically it is much more introspective talking of self doubt, trauma and hurt in a very personal sense. Of these songs, Acrobat is my second favourite* because it plays to all of the band's strengths - Larry and Adam lock into a solid foundation which allows the Edge to refine and go stratospheric with the signature sound he'd been working on for the previous fifteen years. Bono comes to the party with some great lyrics which talks more of the distance between action and belief while being defiant in the face of personal contradiction. While many focus on the lines "don't let the bastards grind you down", the most telling line is in relation to title of the song:

And I must be an acrobat
To talk like this
And act like that

We all have contradictions - some on a small scale and some can be played out on a world stage but Acrobat catches the spin between what we want to be and what we are.

*My favourite song off Achtung Baby is Love is Blindness because the Edge plays one of the most devastating solos committed to tape. True story.


  1. I still like that album too. I got the Fly single on day one (such a fan...) and sat listening to it many times thinking What... WHere... etc. That Fly solo is something I still feel emotionally.

    Lyrically-emotionally it's an unusual album too, for them. The bitter divorce angle mixed with womencelebrations. And the almost spoken way the Boner intones them. 'T was a big change while being extremely familiar.

    What got me much later about Love is Blindness is that the title is a cunning inversion of a cliche (love is blind) into something darker and despairing. I'm not sure where Bono is pointing to by saying 'I don't want to see... wrap the night around me' (regression? freud?) - but I do love that they kept that Edge solo in there. The timing is all wrong or first takey - but then you realise - it's a broken emotional sound, entirely correct.

  2. Great minds, and all that. I saw U2 this week, and yes, bought the T shirt. Achtung Baby is definitely one of three records people need to own by U2, and well, read my blog if you're really interested, but I would stack U2 up against the Beatles ( yes, the Beatles) and say that U2 wins. Sure, some of the songs are a bit silly, but nothing as bad as "yellow Submarine" or "Octopus' Garden". Sure, some songs are pretentious, but nothing as bad as the Beatles' anthems, like "Hey, Jude" or "Let it Be". So, yes, I really am saying that U2 are a better band than the Beatles.