Crumbs From Your Table

Lazy, oversimplifying, stereotyping journalists (that’d be all of them, then) liked to characterise ATYCLB as the new Joshua Tree, ignoring the band’s own PR term of “titanium soul“, which was probably more accurate. When HTDAAB rolled around four years later, though, the band’s PR this time was easily bought into by many – because they said the album was a return to the spirit and sound of Boy. Of course, it was nothing of the sort, and perhaps the one song that came closest was “Crumbs From Your Table”, primarily because it utilised Boy‘s main arrangement flourish, bells. Elsewhere it’s really U2004, the step they’d taken on ATYCLB emphasised, i.e. having already backgrounded the synths and drum machines, they further backgrounded the synths and cancelled the drum machines. Boy would never have been augmented with acoustic guitars and very faint digital flickers, and it was too roughcut an album to achieve what Edge in particular manages here, an intense layering of delay that alternately swirls upwards, downwards and round almost dizzyingly, the vocal harmonies adding in to result to something Very Big and Important.

Indeed, the lyrics are also Very Big and Important, because they’re about everyone’s favourite lyrical subject, the AIDS pandemic in Africa; it’s one of the few areas of the album where macroscale issues take precedence, alongside possibly “Love and Peace or Else” and what I’m sure isn’t an entirely apolitical video for “Vertigo”. And this isn’t some sob story about poor Africans dying either; Bono brings religion into it – both those working for good, taking the attitude of “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20, apparently), yet also condemning those who characterise AIDS as a disease of sinners and thus do nothing. With this song, then, Bono assesses the reality of religion – he’s past the dogma of October, yet also past the spiritual crises of Zooropa and Pop. It’s thus a testament to Bono’s lyric writing that, even if you don’t agree with his conclusion here, it’s very easy to respect the assessment.

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~ by 4trak on June 24, 2008.

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