So Cruel

Sandwiched away between two superior and less conventional songs (and indeed, singles – “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses” and “The Fly”), “So Cruel” is almost a stealth track on Achtung Baby, and probably one of, if not the weakest song(s) on the album – not that AB possesses any duds anyway. Nonetheless, it’s lacking the dynamic rise of “One”, and it isn’t as unconventional as the windswept “Horses” either, which means it comes across as somewhat conventional and standard on an album that is, on the whole, neither. At nearly six minutes, it’s also a song that begs a lot of your time, too. Not that the arrangement – keyboards, bass, the more funk-inflected drumming Larry adopted during the 90s, and burbling effects-heavy guitar backgrounded – is a bad one. Apparently there’s a bodhran in there too, although I certainly can’t hear it.

Perhaps the song’s real power is lyrical, because the imagery invoked in the song is frequently disturbing – that of addictive drugs, screaming, dying flowers, the night described as “bleeding”, and the protagonist not knowing the difference between fear and desire. And that’s not mentioning the most violent lines, Between the horses of love and lust/We are trampled underfoot. Under such an onslaught, the protagonist’s response is to merely make the titular remark, “you’re so cruel”; something actually appropriately wimpy for the scenario. It all adds up to something fairly powerful.

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~ by 4trak on April 20, 2008.

4 Responses to “So Cruel”

  1. I like So Cruel, for me it’s always been a highlight of AB, and I certainly rate it above Wild Horses. The songs it comes closest to are One, because it is essentially a slow, rising number; and Mysterious Ways, because of the snare pattern (altho I think it’s an 8-beat on MY rather than a 16..?). I actually prefer SC to One, but this may be partly because One is played so much, and a bit too obvious and anthemic– Yes, I know anthemic is part of listening to U2, but One is not my favourite anthem! I have similar feelings about REM’s Everybody Hurts.

    Anyway, what So Cruel does more than anything else is create an atmosphere, primarily through the excellent trippy drumming, but also some nice couplets (I disappeared in you/ you disappeared from me). It’s quite seedy and desperate, and makes me think of both a specific person being described, but also of a less concrete temptation- maybe fate, or temptation itself, is so cruel.

    It begs to be followed by something aggressive, cue The Fly, great sequencing.

  2. Ah, the price of free speech: someone will disagree with you on literally everything. Well, I say that…still over 100 songs to go.

  3. Fair comment! Sorry for being contrary… but I guess I need to be provoked to comment, either because there is something particular about a song– or because it’s one I want to defend!

    Keep up the good work…

  4. Pah, ya can’t always agree, or else you’d be a mental clone of me. And that’d be scary.

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