Please

Apparently, this is one of Bono’s very favourite U2 songs (well, I don’t see why he’d lie about it), and I’ll agree to the point that it does make a very good flipside to “Sunday Bloody Sunday”. Naturally, though, it hasn’t received that degree of recognition, not helped by the increasing drought of live performances that, whilst afflicting all Pop songs, has taken out this one in particular – a regular during PopMart, that was cut down to 20 performances during Elevation and none at all during Vertigo. Bono has placed the blame squarely on 9/11, but people blame 9/11 for a lot of things somewhat unnecessarily.

As already mentioned, this is effectively a new “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, but where the 1983 song was a sung speech, here the attitude is directly accusatory, the call being to Get up off your knees, i.e. to approach the situation from a wider consideration than the religious motives driving the Troubles. It’s another piece, then, in the more recent line of U2 songs that are critical of religion, or more accurately, religion as an authority that is blindly followed without any real question of consequences. And then there’s the apparently controversial section – September, streets capsizing/Spilling over down the drains/Shards of glass, splinters like rain/But you could only feel your own pain – which further condemns this insularity when referring to the breached IRA ceasefire. This song is supposedly addressing a single person “who shall remain nameless”, although it certainly doesn’t sound like it. In any event, “Please” is the final brick in the lyrical wall, the protagonist (there isn’t one, but there is a sort of singular voice) having been alienated by showbiz (“Gone”, “The Playboy Mansion”), social values (“Miami”), economic values (“Last Night on Earth”), sex (“Velvet Dress”), and society’s apparent blindness to it all (“Staring At The Sun”), there’s now a repulsion to organised religion, and everything clicks into place for “Wake Up Dead Man”.

Musically, the band apparently spent a lot of time arguing about keys, and even if “Please” is in total consonance, the song would still sound awkward anyway. The guitar is downbeat, the main riff sounding like a lamentation and the part generally subdued and passive, whilst the bass slides aggressively and expresses firmly. It’s really this difference in attitude that produces the dissonance, and it adds to the feeling of conflict, which the band seems to have overlooked the possibility of. Whilst I wouldn’t regard “Please” as the best song on Pop, or even that close to being so, it is very effective at making its point, and live it achieves a strong theatricality, which limited editions of the Best Of 1990-2000 happened to demonstrate on the DVD section.

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~ by 4trak on September 15, 2008.

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