Red Hill Mining Town

The Joshua Tree is often characterised as U2’s “American” album, but like all simple summations, it ignores significant evidence to the contrary. “One Tree Hill”, of course, would surely be set in New Zealand; “Mothers of the Disappeared” in Chile; “Running To Stand Still” would be in Ireland; “Streets” in Ethiopia; “Bullet The Blue Sky” in Nicaragua, and finally, there’s “Red Hill Mining Town” in Britain, specifically during the miners’ strike of 1984-1985 (incidentally, most of these foreign detours haven’t been done yet, which may suggest that they’re the best parts of the album). And quite simply, I’m not sure if any other band has managed to make Yorkshire as epic as it is here – vocal harmonies stack up against ambient settings and big, crashing drums. It just might actually be the hugest track on the album, although “Streets”, being faster and carrying a more propulsive momentum to it, is naturally more stadium-adjusted; “Red Hill” simply sounds like a monolithic folk song to sing around the world’s biggest camp fire.

Lyrically, words befit environment. There’s a methodical way in which they’re sung, and there’s a definite element of process running through them, a chain of events that ultimately lead to ruin. We wait all day for night to come is a cunning description of this, and when defeat comes, the “lights go out” as the miners are plunged into the darkness of unemployment and poverty. For all of its studio limitations, “Bullet” was an effective damning of the Reagan administration taking away the democratic rights of those abroad, and “Red Hill” is an equal damning to the Thatcher administration and an uncaring global economy smashing the common worker. With strikes in Britain on the rise, and a global economy once again destabilising, it’s a song whose core may become increasingly relevant soon, although Bono was smart enough to add the undercurrent of a love song to avoid an anachronism.

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~ by 4trak on June 29, 2008.

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