Mothers of the Disappeared

U2 don’t normally mess up their opening or closing tracks too badly – even as October stands easily as their weakest offering, “Gloria” is a standout amongst it, and “Is That All?” is an ambitious but ultimately failed attempt. Here, it’s a similar story, although according to legend (well, the band) this song was deliberately made the last track, and coming coincidentally after “Exit”, it’s actually quite fitting. Where that track surged, “Mothers of the Disappeared” is a quiet rumination on the aftermath of something terrible, namely that of Pinochet’s regime in Chile, the Disappeared being those who went completely missing, even the corpses’ whereabouts not even known.

It thus leads to a song whose point is made gracefully, and it’s fair to claim it as a song that couldn’t have existed from U2 before 1987 – on War it would’ve been strident, and with a lesser band it would’ve been saccharine. As it is, the guitar lends enough of a Latino vibe without seeming patronising, and the bass is warm without being inappropriate. The choirlike harmonies in the background are, well, in the background, which is where they should be, and the strange metallic clang of the drums evokes the horrors of the Disappeared without being too graphic. Non-Chileans may find “Mothers…” to be a hard song to argue with, although PopMart’s Santiago stop revealed within Chile itself a divisive populace; certainly the politics of the time was Pinochet’s fascism or the communist alternative, something that may have been idealistically brushed aside here. That said, that’d be oversimplifying – what really occurs here is a reaffirmation of Bono’s of what might be termed anti-anti-Communism, the rejection of outright McCarthyist strategies, and a broader comment on the cost of strongly held ideas. The people of Chile faced a catch-22 in the 1980s, facing ideologies that harshly rejected enemies rather than negotiated with them, and as a result the bodies would have piled up under both. Ultimately, this song mourns for that above all, the inhumanity of rigid authority over the common individual, making it exactly the haunting closer that The Joshua Tree needed.


~ by 4trak on July 28, 2008.

One Response to “Mothers of the Disappeared”

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    Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon….

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