Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses

With Achtung Baby came the previously unprecedented step of a fifth single, although casual fans would be forgiven for forgetting its existance; The Best Of 1990-2000 decided to replace it with “Until The End of the World”, and it was naturally never going to make U218 (no traditional delay, for starters). That said, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of an album with five songs to truly enter said artists’ high canon – when you put out that many, history inevitably forgets at least one, and to forget this is largely fitting, actually. “Wild Horses”, whilst a fine song, isn’t a single – it’s over five minutes long, with little real room for editing. It also doesn’t automatically soar or reach for the huge chorus, instead going for a quite big chorus instead. Despite the similarly long title, “Streets” this ain’t. Despite this, it was still a hit in the US, and even a #15 hit in the UK. It is, nonetheless, quietly a great song, and interestingly one of the few easily describable in one word.

That word is “windswept”. After that initial noise, sounding like wind passing through a gutter, the song reaches out to an open field of blasting guitar. It has to be said that the rest of the song doesn’t really maintain the level of the intro, but there’s still a hugeness there, a big, smearing, echoey, midrange-dominated feel, with a faint drive emanating from the rhythm section. It’s an uncertainty that matches the lyrics (the title is, after all, a question). Clearly, there’s a sexual theme here – it’s even explained right after in “So Cruel” – but also a sense of blame squarely put on someone else. It’s the “you” of the song to blame, which, given the stances taken in previous songs (“Until The End Of The World” and “Even Better Than The Real Thing” suggesting the fault of the narrator, and “One” sharing it) is an oddity. I’ve stated previously that Achtung Baby shouldn’t be regarded as having a clear narrative (it leads to situations like the 33 1/3 book, whose author somehow conludes that the album is about the Fall of Man in Genesis. It’s a new one, I’ll give him that), but increasingly after this point, the narrator is less self-loathing and begins, in the middle third, to get more accusational – “you’re so cruel”, “she moves in mysterious ways”, etc.

Also interesting is the use of rain and river imagery. I wonder where that came from.

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~ by 4trak on September 2, 2008.

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