‘Unreleased’ songs, or even albums, do have a tendency to attain a certain mythos over time – Prince’s Black Album, The Beach Boys’ Smile and so on – but what was/is remarkable about “Mercy” is that it gained this status amongst the U2 hardcore rapidly, some proclaiming it a classic that the band were insane not to use even as a b-side. The other camp is, of course, asks “what’s the big deal?”. I have to say that I fall into the former – for nine seconds, before moving to the latter view. That’s not to say it’s a bad song, more that the unknown, mysterious nature of it – and the lack of context it’s given by not being an album track or b-side – could cloud judgement.

Essentially, this song is “City of Blinding Lights” (the entrance of the rhythm section having this chugging momentum to it), “Original of the Species” (the atmospherics), “Miracle Drug” (the spare guitar lines of the verses) and “Window In The Skies” (the lyrics about what “love” is or does) combined, which makes its appeal relatively easy to understand – those are, after all, among the best ballads of U2’s 2004-2006 period. It thus stands that, depending on your view, this results in a song that expertly synthesises the aforementioned songs, or ends up somewhat sounding big, important and full of (must use that terrible term again) possibly unnecessary U2phoria.

To give some credit to the song, it is fairly multi-sectioned and varied, as well it should be over six and a half minutes. Lyrically, I’m sure most people would pick out the Biblical/Christian references, but the one line that should surely stand out is Love is the end of history. “End of history”, of course, meaning the end of conflicts, be it physical, mental or ideological. It’s essentially a way of saying the terrible cliche of “love brings us together”, and however rubbish the sentiment it’s actually quite a neat method of expression. I also mentioned the first nine seconds, a buzzing chime of guitar loop and keyboard sheen that sounds quite brilliant. It’s a song, really, that’s not really the sum of its parts, although those parts are often quite lovely or even downright great in themselves.


~ by 4trak on August 24, 2008.

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