Staring At The Sun

Pop‘s second single, although nowadays it may well have a lower profile than most of the singles that followed it. The thing is, whilst “Discotheque” proved too full-on visually and sonically for American audiences, “Staring At The Sun” had no such stylistic issues, and wasn’t too horrifyingly, well, gay in the video area either, so it shouldn’t have provoked quite the same backlash. The reason it failed to ignite public interest, though, is possibly out of a) bad feeling carrying over from the first single, and b) the fact that the video just isn’t very good (in fact, it pretty much ends the great run of classics that began with “The Fly”). Of course, the band have since argued that the real issue was c) the arrangement, and during PopMart they took the action of simply removing everything but the acoustic guitars and vocals. I can’t say that this improves the song, it just makes it different, improving it in some way by making it more direct, but also worsening it at times by making it slightly buskerish.

The oft-used descriptions in the music press have often been that this song has Massive Attack-sounding synths and an Oasis chorus, but at least one of these is contentious; the title and the happy to go blind line are symptomatic of a worrying desire to ignore troubling facets of reality and turn to the comfort of deception and lies, whereas Oasis have more often written about…something, maybe. In any event, “Staring At The Sun” is in the verses seemingly disjointed, very Unforgettable Fire in its shifting of imagery. Said imagery runs from images of summer to biting insects to questioning the possibility of world peace to military dictatorship to the tense end of a football match, a long apparent stream-of-conciousness. Yet it’s all linked together by repeated fear (much of the aforementioned imagery involves anticipation of terrible consequences, a visible threat of their existance, and the awareness of those threats not going away) of where society is going – it’s a growth from the seed of doubt in “If God Will Send His Angels”. In effect, “Staring At The Sun” is a song that identified a particular aspect of Western society that hasn’t gone away, namely the short-termist desire to make minor fixes to, or even to deny the existence of, huge issues, such as global warming or financial markets*. Even whilst the music has dated slightly (it’s neither angular indie or hip-hop with severe overcompression), the lyrics are certainly relevant today. Not the best song on Pop, but deservedly a single.

*given Bono’s tacit support of Obama, and indeed vise versa, hopefully most readers here can forgive this shameless partisanship.
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~ by 4trak on September 26, 2008.

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