Like A Song…

In which Bono defends against accusations of sanctimoniousness by, well, pointing out the importance of being sanctimonious. Or, more accurately, attacking insincerity – the essential message being “we care about what we do – who are you to criticise?”. U2 had by 1983 very much garnered the reputation of being overly sincere, yet that appealed to many in the face of the terrible alternative we’re all familiar with – the wince-inducing synths and incredibly dry snare drums from tacky drum machines, essentially the creep of electronica that wouldn’t be, for the most part, mastered until the 1990s. Even so, as confident as the lyrical message here sounds, there’s not a total absence of certainty here, or else there’d be no need to ask Is honesty what you want?

Along with “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, “Like A Song…” is one of the most aggressive songs from War, but is somewhat quicker, with an urgency to break through its entire four minutes and forty seven seconds, well, sooner. Indeed, Bono actually runs out of words after four, leaving a barrelling rhythm section and scraping guitar to race to the finish. In any event, however, “Like A Song” gives the album title a new meaning – it’s not just about literal war, but also rivalry, the tendency to, in the song’s own words, divide against each other…fight amongst ourselves.

Overall, though, the fact that the song is about personal issues makes it powerful musically but not terribly effective lyrically. Fans in particular aren’t meant to be the true recipients of the message at hand, making it somewhat self-defeating. It’s not that there’s a bad song here, but the primary issue is that better but similar tracks occur earlier on the album. There’s no doubting the power in particular of that outro, but even the band seem to have realised these shortcomings. Despite the line And we love to fly a flag being somewhat appropriate to the white-flagged War Tour, the song has only been played live once.

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~ by 4trak on August 6, 2008.

One Response to “Like A Song…”

  1. So U2 was the antidote to new wave, synthpop and post-punk electronic music? I must admit, I had a long love affair with ’90s house and acid house music, disdaining all of the synth-flavoured sounds of the early ’80s, until very recently when I realized how brilliant that whole era was. Gender-bending fashion that fit perfect with songs about sex and alienation.

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