One Minute Warning

Radiohead diehards take note: your band was out-Kid A‘d five years before Kid A came out. In particular, I’m thinking of those glitchy bits skirting around the edge of this song, and the muffled voices that seem to have had a bearing on songs like “The National Anthem”. Thrown in with it are traces of theremin, drum machines, bongos, slightly more jazzish drums, and all kinds of other elements that flash by too quickly to pick up in one listen. At 4:39, there’s something very uncompromising about the way the song starts to sound like it’ll pick up and lift into something more traditionally U2, maybe some kind of Joshua Tree-like anthem with the massed vocal harmonies, but this starts to emerge about four minutes in. Up to that point there’s a nervous energy suggestive of the curiously erroneous title (unless Ghost In The Shell had a super slow-mo scene that crammed five minutes into a minute’s action). In any event, this is probably the closest U2 (or Brian Eno, for that matter) have come to making something in the Autechre mode of highly experimental techno. Unlike Autechre, though (namely their 2001 effort Confield, which decides to take the Stockhausen route of deciding that music needn’t consist of anything musical), at no point in this song is strong beat or interesting structure and arrangement forgotten, which makes the song accessible but not commercial, a neat balancing act.

As for the minimal lyrics, they’re not entirely intelligible at first, and once you know them they don’t give much away. A lonesome soul/In an old black coat/A lonesome road/What a way to go implies a slight degree of heroism, but out of context that ambiguity is left hanging; the song soon finishes and we learn nothing more of the protagonist, essentially making these lyrics vague even by Unforgettable Fire standards.

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~ by 4trak on May 30, 2008.

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