Cedars Of Lebanon

DISCLAIMER: Do you really need these, by now? Yeah, opinion might change later on.

“Generally speaking, U2 are most interesting when they step out of their comfort zone, so the un-U2 art and relatively risky musical ideas seem promising. (Then again, there are two songs on here called “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight” and “Cedars of Lebanon,” so all bets are off, really.)”
– Pitchfork.com news,  January 16th, 2009.

Initially the above looks like Pitchfork’s usual snarky attitude, but considering that “Jerusalem” (well, more accurately, “With A Shout”) was a song I got out of the way before the Rattle and Hum interludes, then maybe there is potential disaster. Luckily the potential doesn’t convert; instead we get the first above-average album closer since “Wake Up Dead Man”.

Interviews have revealed that this song came about by having Lanois sampling a piece from Brian Eno and Harold Budd’s The Pearl (1984), which Larry added the soft, slightly trip-hop-ish beat to. And listening to this, it does indeed seem that these are the key elements; guitar, bass and even vocals to a degree float over these more solid-sounding elements. Said vocals are, once again, Bono in character, this time a war correspondent. Critics have remarked about how these lyrics aren’t terribly subtle, and admittedly the blatant insertions about headlines and soldiers milling about around tanks aren’t exactly Dylanesque, but in any event it’s a smart way to hide the undercurrent, that of a tired, miserable individual who’s essentially stuck in a moment and a place (I’m here because I don’t wanna go home). There’s ultimately something ghostly about Edge’s backing vocals, too, and this rising sense of paranoia gets close to outright intensity as the final verse strips down to an a capella. In a way, the song (and hence the album) ends abruptly, as exactly what the comments about enemies are meant to mean is left relatively unexplained. This isn’t Bono’s best performance lyrically, and it obviously isn’t lyrically either, but hey, it’s new and different and as such, kudos can be awarded. Indeed, it’s not overall too dissimilar to “Wake Up” in mood, but where that song was despairing, here the feeling is perhaps closer to weariness mixed with fear.

Ostensibly acoustic, the song gradually warps into something increasingly less simple as it goes along (and indeed, that fits the lyrical theme nicely), adding electric guitar, bass, and eventually main synthesisers which have a kind of shining quality to them. In fact, by the second half the whole thing starts to turn ever so slightly Think Tank (the Blur album also recorded in Fez – see “On My Way To The Club”, which has a similar feel), but then, Damon Albarn’s sonic adventurousness and use of characters and persona would be fine things for U2 to be appropriating. “Cedars of Lebanon” isn’t quite good enough to be amongst U2’s best stuff here, but it’s a more than worthwhile song nonetheless.

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~ by 4trak on March 20, 2009.

One Response to “Cedars Of Lebanon”

  1. I don’t understand the backlash to the lyrics of this song. I hear critics saying that Bono has about as much insight into the war process as a buddhist monk. But what do people want? Him to take up uniform and bear arms? The guy has been on the frontlines of world issues, and has put himself out there socially, politically and spiritually for decades. To act like he has no right to confer upon the loneliness and sadness of war, propaganda and media is ridiculous. Thankfully, I felt he delivered in spades with a lyric that reminds of Bill Flanagan’s “At the End of the World,” where in character, Bono envelopes himself in the skin of a war correspondent, but in reality, wasn’t it he who had a hard time going home, when at the edge of the world?

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