October

October‘s title track isn’t necessarily the best track on the album – its two immediate predecessors very much rival it in terms of overall merit – but it is easily the most startling and different track, genuinely unique on the album and, to a degree, in U2’s whole discography, which isn’t something easily said about the other 10 tracks. The band evidently realised this 17 years after the fact, as they chose to place it right at the end of their Best Of 1980-1990, a minute after the final string notes faded out of “All I Want Is You”. It’s not that the band aren’t utterly sincere to the last with every other track, but here there’s an utterly stark honesty and straightforwardness on this song, right down to the music. Voice and piano is literally all there is; no overdubs or studio tricks whatsoever, which also results truly in a “live feel”, a “stripped down approach”, and all those other cliches that musicians often claim to aim for and never achieve.

Structurally, the song mostly has precedent in, erm, Sinatra‘s “In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning”. That is, an instrumental half – not big weepy strings, but Edge’s portentous yet basic piano playing (not really concert pianist standard, and not really Erik Satie, if we’re honest, either, but effective all the same) occupying half the song, before words enter. As bare as the six lines are, with the Biblical reference to earthly kingdoms rising and falling (ironic given the Soviet Union’s turn into economic recession/collapse around 1981) seem to make a powerful statement. The “you” in But you go on is probably God, given the album’s context, but there’s no reason, of course, that it isn’t life, or conflict, or humankind. An anvil of a song.

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~ by 4trak on August 5, 2008.

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