The Fly

After years of silence from U2 (Love Town not touching the US or much of Europe meant a gap of well over three years) came a sudden interruption in the form of a skewed, phased set of guitars. Yes, it was “The Fly” that first hit the world from Achtung Baby, and whilst the song’s not exactly obscure nowadays, it is bizarrely low-key compared to the three singles that followed, not unlike R.E.M.’s “Drive”. It’s especially unusual considering that, at the time, it invoked a lot of discussion, with its much harsher guitar – see in particular the bashings after the first chorus, which don’t sound entirely unlike a distorted version of someone dropping a piano – its funkier rhythm section, and Bono’s distorted voice, which gives a slightly deranged quality to the, well, slightly deranged lyrics. It’s song that’s fairly trapped within its time, but then, so is Sgt. Pepper and no-one complains about that; what’s important is whether the song delivers, which it damn well does.

As aforementioned, the song bursts open with distorted guitars wonkily overdubbed over each other, which Flood and Edge were smart enough to realise results in some weird phase issues, before leading into a circular riff that maybe bests “Vertigo” in its ability to flow into itself. Yet Bono’s voice is the major change; whilst Edge had shown aggression before, Bono had sung of chaos, not in the heart of it. The Fly is, supposedly, a psuedophilosophical rock star who’s only right half the time, although in the list of aphorisms, the right ones hit the mark firmly, such as It’s no secret that the stars are falling from the sky/It’s no secret that our world is in darkness tonight. Once again, Achtung Baby merges all kinds of angles into its lyrics. Then the chorus arises, splitting perspective into an appeal above the hellish situation the music portrays (the falsetto) and the continuing psychotic view below (tenor) – one view being idealistic, in a way (We shine like a burning star) and the other sort-of realistic and accepting (A man will rise/A man will fall). Such a scramble of ideas, a postmodernity of jump-cuts and views no one of which is given special preference, was aptly captured by the video, whose sloganeering added a further component to ZooTV.

Then there’s the solo, which is unusual in that a) it isn’t tedious and b) it actually fades into the vocals and the final riff (Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, released the previous month, did a similar thing in ending the solo in dragged-out feedback that ran into the verse, so this seems to partly be a stylistic tic of the early 90s. And it should be brought back), which shrieks as the whole song seems (it doesn’t, but still) to reach a final, messy collapse. It’s truly a song of the 90s, and one of the greats from it, which means that in the 2000s it’s held with mild contempt. Ah well – with time we’ll all realise the truth, that slighty whiney pop-punk (it ain’t emo) and illiterate hip-hop (the mainstream stuff) cannot compare. Or at least, I hope.


~ by 4trak on September 27, 2008.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: