It’s now a long-forgotten facet of U2 that, when Boy was released, it inadvertantly provoked a sizeable gay following for U2. In retrospect, this really just adds weight to the band’s assertion that they were naive at the time – Boy meets man in the shadows was always going to be misinterpreted by those who could see something different in it. In any event, the lyrics of this song are truly an early triumph, managing to be ambiguous where too much of the rest of the album can be vague. A young boy – probably teenage – clearly has some sort of revelation, and needs to tell his father about something (I thought he should’ve known). But what that revelation is, and whether it’s revealed to anyone, isn’t clear. It might well be homosexuality, but it could also be a fear of death – the mention later on of a “late-night play”, described as being all, it’s everything, suggests a live-in-the-moment mentality that tries to escape this awareness of mortality. There’s also the lines (The teacher told me why/I laugh when old men cry) sounding particularly violent, but sharply dichotomising youth and age.

“Twilight” may be one of the few songs from Boy that seemingly requires two guitars, or at least a dexterous ability with one. One of the most noticeable features, too, is the early use of a guitar solo (solos being a rare thing with U2, and indeed much of modern rock). Due to the low budget of recording, and presumably the small studio, there’s very much a walled-in feeling to it – you can hear how small a space it’s being played in. This also happens somewhat with “Bullet The Blue Sky”, but there it works to a disadvantage, whereas here that constriction mimics the lyrical repression and attempt to break out of a confined space, which proves oddly effective. It is, however, another show of how U2’s first album came to be surprisingly powerful and effective (surprising, because should you hear 1970s U2 after hearing the album, the results are surprisingly not those things); they simply made the most of their limitations. Adam slides and prods the bass around in a way suggestive of jazziness, whilst Larry’s beat is insistent and driving. It’s possibly one of the few things each member is capable of at this point, but it’s done very well. This, coupled with a tension and drama that makes for a deceptively sophisticated song, could well make this the best song off Boy. There’s something really cinematic about it that isn’t really too present elsewhere (maybe in “Shadows And Tall Trees”), heightened by the building climax that creeps back in before halting. An early but oft-ignored classic.


~ by 4trak on September 17, 2008.

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