A Sort Of Homecoming

“I Will Follow” opened Boy with a driving, if not particularly aggressive, guitar riff, making for a keen and rushing start. “Gloria” starts October with a quiet but building number, and “Sunday Bloody Sunday” starts War with an outright furious bashing of drums. All three make an attack straight away; all three are amongst the best songs on their respective albums; all three are real statements of purpose. The average U2 fan of 1984, then, would have reasonably assumed the same about the forthcoming album, which makes “A Sort of Homecoming” puzzling. The guitar is a series of mellow strummings, drums patter instead of bash, and bass pulses instead of rattles. Even Bono’s vocal seems controlled at volume, instead of being a feral hollering.

It’s also the longest opening track for a U2 album thus far in the chronology, at five and a half minutes, and Bono’s lyrics are easily the most ambiguous. We know that he’s “coming home”, we have plenty of weather descriptions (presaging Joshua Tree‘s similarly focused imagery, possibly), but no accurate definition of why homecoming is important. We’re also given impressions of a disaster – “the valley explodes” – but no more details, although it may be an allusion to the title of the album (“the unforgettable fire” being a description of the Hiroshima bombings). The song is, in that sense, as inscrutable as anything off R.E.M.’s Reckoning, which the band were probably aware of at the time. If there’s one issue with the music, which is far from bad anyway, it’s that it’s not discretely sectioned enough for any kind of standout – no solo or break of any real kind. As for lyrics, Oh coma way o coma wa o coma/O coma way say I is simply a fantastic line, even as I have no idea what it means.

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~ by 4trak on June 25, 2008.

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