The anti-“Streets”; where in The Joshua Tree‘s opener is a warm chime of hope, of warmth, of unity, here there’s a bassline suggesting the blackness of night, isolation, a steady ticking of contemplation, that lone bass emerging out of a mass of cicidas in the surroundings. As such, “Exit” may well be, musically, the most American song on the album – certainly, the harmonica and slight Dixie tone of “Trip Through Your Wires” has a degree of Americana, but in terms of time and place, it’s hard not to think of “Exit” as being in the dead of night in the heart of the Mojave.

Then the lyrics enter, although the listener isn’t told exactly what happens. The pistol weighed heavy, which clearly suggests a murder, a suicide or a murder/suicide. In any event, the protagonist’s worldview is pushed to the extremes, deeper into black/Deeper into white (and, of course, the mention of the same hands being able to create and destroy) and also becomes brutal and harsh, even with otherwise gentle aspects – the stars, for example, shining like nails in the night.

And then comes the event – as said before, we don’t know what it is, but it is clearly huge, a cinematic eruption blowing up, crashes of guitars (which may not be entirely tab-able, such is the fury), smashes of cymbals and frantic drumming (and the same bassline, possibly indicating a lifeforce within the victim/protagonist, given the way it pulses to a slow finish) incidentally, which only breaks at the end of the crescendo), all of it really defying mere description. “Exit” is one of the most powerful U2 songs ever, I’d argue, something only backed up by it becoming U2’s very own “Helter Skelter” in 1991 when Robert Bardo claimed it drove him to kill actress Rachel Schaeffer. Unsurprisingly, his plea of insanity succeeded in sparing him the death penalty. The song is also perfectly placed on the album, sounding like a viscious closer to the album, depicting a Hobbsian world of irrational brutality. This then leads into the empathy and sorrow of “Mothers of the Disappeared”, reflecting two extreme sides of human nature. Certainly, it’s obvious which aspect is preferable to live with; that said, it’s also obvious what makes for better drama. A classic.


~ by 4trak on September 1, 2008.

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