With Or Without You

Well, this post threatens redundancy. It’s fair to say that a sizable chunk of populace on all continents are aware of this meeting of tenor vocals, sliding bass runs, tentative drumming and also use of Infinite Guitar (used only for this song and Edge’s solo project of the Captive OST for the purposes partly for uniqueness, but seemingly also for health and safety purposes, what with that tendency to deliver electric shocks as well as atmospheric effect). A #1 in the US for three weeks, the success of it may be due to, or maybe despite, the sheer ambiguity behind the paradoxical title – see in particular the apparent contradiction between the 2nd and 3rd verses, where in one the (we assume male) narrator comes over too demanding – You give it all but I want more – and in the other where the explicitly female character leaves the male in a clearly hopeless and static situation – Nothing left to win and/Nothing left to lose. This potentially sets up a prequel to “One”, but here Bono is in the role of an unreliable narrator – it’s not clear whether that 3rd verse is the woman’s own failings or the narrator’s willingness to blame her for what’s gone wrong.

Musically, that tension is ramped up by the use of a prominent bass melody against that often static Infinite Guitar drone, a sure if unorthodox way to guarantee a chilling effect. There’s also the fact that chords (and thus the key of D) is often implied with base notes, rather than actually played. Then, as a final confusion, Edge utilises that brief, chiming phrase towards the end to signify a degree of hope, even though the third verse strongly suggests there isn’t any. This song, then, winds up as being the polar opposite of “Hawkmoon 269” – where that song proclaims utter certainty, right down to the drumming and even the title (the precision of the “269” versus the word “or”), this proclaims utter doubt. “With Or Without You” is undoubtedly a good song, but I’ll now dare to claim that “Running To Stand Still” and “Exit” are more striking and original, and brace for criticism…

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~ by 4trak on July 8, 2008.

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