Love Is Blindness

You hear wobbling tremolo bass a lot these days, be it either in dubstep, manufactured pop or, within my record collection, Nine Inch Nails’ “Zero-Sum”. In 1991, however, it was there on the final song of Achtung Baby, although admittedly today’s modern equivalent tends to be subbass (20-83Hz) rather than the bass (83-166Hz) range mostly employed here. Furthermore, where those modern examples use this trick as a matter of course, here the bass is front and centre the focal point, an unstable point at which misery and darkness coalesce. It is, nonetheless, a heck of an effect, although not one that manages to overshadow the rest of the song, even as the song rises out of bass and fades back into it like some monster emerging and falling back into a murky, black swamp. If anything, the least noticeable contribution here is conversely from Larry, who doesn’t particularly do anything wrong; it’s more that this song is 180 degrees from War in many respects, and his role changes accordingly, the beat now being a solid, slow and steady thump towards an inevitable sequence of events, marking that, whatever happened beforehand, there’s no going back now. In effect, “Love Is Blindness” is, as the marching feel of the rhythm section and the lowness of the lyrics demonstrate, U2’s equivalent of R.E.M.’s “You” or Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt”, a closer to show that no matter what happened before, there is truly no going back, no more hope, and that the character(s) in the album have reached their lowest point.

The Edge, however, needs no grand production trick, although apparently the solo in this song cost him a fair amount in replacement strings. Yet Edge’s real ability has never been theatrics, however thoroughly theatrical his performance here (the solo never barely even seems to end, simply fading right down until it’s well behind the vocal in the mix before delivering its final notes); what his playing has often been about is working within the context of a song, and here the occasional drips of notes makes for a sobbing effect as they shake and drift in.

Bono, whilst not averse at any point during this album to disturbing and morbid imagery, really throws out some chaos here. The betrayal that’s clearly happening is viewed by the protagonist as without heart, purely rational without consideration of feeling (Love is clockworks/And cold steel), an attack against (presumably) him in the manner of terrorism (In a parked car/In a crowded street, A little death…). Suggestions of suicide arise in what may be U2’s blackest song, maybe surpassing “Exit” – the ultimate irony for a band who marketed this record as a lighter one compared to their serious 1980s work. Even so, it also showed that in terms of mood as well as style, the U2 of the 1990s arguably went further, and not always in the direction expected, which is how one of U2’s best albums ends so brutally.

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~ by 4trak on September 25, 2008.

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