It took me years to realise something really, really obvious about this song, but first things first; of all the songs on the much-maligned Pop album, “Miami” is probably the most maligned. I’d point out that Q Magazine included this in their “Ten Terrible Records By Great Artists”, but then they also rated Razorlight’s second album five stars on release, so their judgement is clearly to be treated with highest suspicion. Where “Miami” sounds different is in the rhythm section, though, with Larry’s drumming threaded backwards in a confusing, neo-Beatlesque manner (I’m pretty sure some elements are actually forwards, which gives the song a weird, contradicted sense of momentum) and the bass sounding unusual in its tone and playing, as it twitches about in brief phrases.

And now for the obvious bit – after two minutes in, a bridge enters, and the drumming is suddenly natural and forwards. And what’s playing? The opening to “When The Levee Breaks”, effectively, in other words, one of the most sampled beats of the 1990s, in what may be a sly praise or condescension towards sampling culture (knowing late-90s U2, it could easily be both). Over the whole song, a kind of slow-motion siren noise of treble hovers, giving constant tension in providing a drone against which riffs and basslines act as variations. The guitar, too, often stabs chords at points, a kind of staccato cointerpoint to the treble drone, along with occasional swells of feedback.

The lyric is unsurprisingly inspired by a 1996 recording trip to Miami, although the “my mammy” quasi-homonymic refrain is a) ripped from Al Jolson, and b) almost certainly referring back to “Mofo”. In addition, a female character comes in, and whilst there’s desire there’s a suggestion of something dangerous and strange going on, too – as soon as the line I said you look like a Madonna a muffling noise rips in, and her quoted words in this are perhaps a little creepy too. Maybe it’s just context, but I wanna have your baby sounds alarmingly direct, and whilst the talk proceeds to making something beautiful, and something that wouldn’t be a problem, as if to suggest that something is. In essence, this song’s a bit like watching a more ambiguous version of The Shining – there’s something about the titular Miami that’s sinister, but exactly what is never explained, Bono instead breaking out into a titular cry. He also (presumably) ad-libs something during the fadeout, although what is difficult to tell. We guess it’s “shakedown”, although quite why it’s said or why it’s said with such force remains a mystery.

Whilst the atmosphere and tension here make this song essentially rubbish as, say, a single, it does make this song brilliant for anyone who couldn’t give a toss about three-minute disposability. Obviously this isn’t for everyone, but for those it is for, it’s pretty darn great.


~ by 4trak on September 25, 2008.

2 Responses to “Miami”

  1. Although the album version doesnt do much for me, I have a few bootlegs from PopMart and Miami sounds great in a live setting.

  2. I’m crazy for this song. Having spent two years living in Miami, Florida, I feel that this song is very accurate to the tone of the city.

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