DISCLAIMER: screw it, you can figure this out by now, it’s plastered all over the home page…

The title may invoke the subtleties of the Prodigy’s 1997 hit of the same name, but ultimately “Breathe” is perhaps the most representative song on NLOTH musically and lyrically – that is, it’s somewhat more adventurous and less linear than anything off Bomb, without quite going to 90s extremes. Piano that wouldn’t be entirely out of place on a post-Downward Spiral Nine Inch Nails record threads through it, not entirely unlike October’s “I Fall Down”, only here it’s an element rather than a looping standout point. Really, on musical points there are two things that really stand out, the first being the intro, ambiguously rhythmed drumming (I’m pretty sure it’s just 4/4, but it has a certain shuffle that suggests some kind of triplet time going on) and movie-scene cello, and the second being the solo, which whilst not Edge’s best, is certainly distinctive in that it’s the first time (as far as I recall) that he’s moved into something properly wiggling and virtuoso – up the distortion and aggression and it could reach into Kirk Hammett territory.

Referencing Nine Inch Nails and Metallica, though, suggests this is a heavier track than it really is. In truth, it’s more like a less wimpy, more defiant “Window In The Skies” (The people we meet will not be drowned out). Certainly it has that same sway, but more personality, if we’re honest, as Bono’s delivery obsesses over the Chinese economy and, well, the Chinese spread of disease to a globalised world (which happens to datestamp this song fairly hard – H5N1 avian flu isn’t really that big an issue in the media at the time of writing). Given this looming, double-egded-sword presence of China, and the reference to a JuJu man pins this to West Africa, possibly Nigeria. That said, if the 16th June is an important date we can only assume it is to Bono alone, unless he really is wanting to make a big deal of Israel’s adherence to UN Resolution #425 (and don’t think this would be beyond Bono, either).

Still, overall “Breathe” comes close to being a highlight of the album; it balances the awareness of economic and social doom with the audacity of hope well, and whilst it slips occasionally (the songs are in our eyes is an unnecessary recycling from “Miracle Drug”) it’s largely different and distinctive, unafraid to pull out the odd surprise – given the fantastically rattled-off line Coming from a long line of travelling salespeople on my mother’s side I wasn’t gonna buy just anyone’s _____, you wouldn’t necessarily expect cockatoo to turn up, of all things. And dang, it fits as well. And yes, sandwiched between two eerie ballads is exactly where it should go. If I was writing for the NME right now, I’d probably give this a 9/10. Or let’s go Pitchfork on everyone’s asses: 8.7. Very good song, at any rate.


~ by 4trak on March 27, 2009.

2 Responses to “Breathe”

  1. I believe ’16th of June’ may be a reference to Joyce’s “Ulysses”.

  2. Dang, how did I miss that?

    Have to add this in once it gets an inevitable revision later on.

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