U2 Album Anniversaries | War and NLOTH


In the past week, we celebrated the anniversaries (or are they birthdays?) of two U2 albums: the 33rd anniversary of War on February 28 (Sunday), and the 7th anniversary of No Line on the Horizon on February 25. There are so many fans who can reflect on War more articulately than I can, because:

a.) I was seven years old when it was released and at that time, I only knew U2 as the guys who stood in the snow in that one video I might see on Saturday mornings after my cartoon regimen was complete – that song, I believe, is called Arbor Day (KIDDING!)

b.) In general, I don’t feel qualified to pontificate at length on anything pre-Acthung.

No, that doesn’t mean I don’t know and love Joshua Tree, Unforgettable Fire or the album we’re celebrating, War (or the two albums that came before it, which I believe are titled “September” and “Girl” respectively – I kid, I kid!). But if you were a legit fan in 1983, you’re who I want to hear from when it comes to War. To get things going, I’ll say that 40 is the perfect U2 song. (Wait, Bono didn’t write it? Those lyrics are from Psalm 40? In that case, it’s the most perfect song ever written.)

Since I’ve absolved myself of reflecting on War, let’s move on to NLOTH. It’s been seven years since U2 gave us this work, and here’s what I remember from that time: Because we had been listening to How to Dismantle for three years and the Vertigo tour had been over for roughly one year, most of us lapped this new album up like thirsty little kittens. It was recorded in Morocco? Cool, whatever. You fired Rick Rubin and got down to business with Eno and Lanois? Awesome, we’re just glad you’re back; now please don’t ever go away again.

But for some people, the love affair with No Line was short-lived – mostly thanks to disdain for the cheesiness of Boots, I’m guessing. I have to say, I was not one of those people. Boots is a funny song: It’s corny as hell, but it has some depth to it. “I’ve got a submarine, you’ve got gasoline, I don’t want to talk about the wars between nations.” Honestly, has Bono ever been better at sexual metaphors than he was when he wrote that? I think those are the kinds of lyrics that really prove his brilliance, and I’m not being factitious.

Lots of people have been asking fans to list their favorite songs from No Line, and I’m going to do mine here. If it’s not here, then I’m not crazy about it.

  1. Moment of Surrender – There’s a reason this was the 360 closer, even on the 2011 leg; the band knew this song was special. So special, in fact, that it became a snippet during Bad at many shows on the American leg of I+E. I teared up when this happened at Boston night 1, because it was another confirmation that I did the right thing traveling across the country to see them one more time.
  2. White as Snow – Honestly you guys, this is a lovely song that just doesn’t get its due. I can’t say much more about it than what was said here.
  3. No Line on the Horizon – I left this off my list earlier. It’s back in. Watch the Rose Bowl DVD and take note of how fun this performance was…I was there and it was such a highlight. Plus, more brilliant lyrics: “I hear the universe in her sea shells.” Oh yeah! Whoa whoa whoa whoa…
  4. Crazy Tonight – The original. No tricks, as David Spade would say when it comes to REM’s Radio Free Europe (Google that if you need to). Larry, put away the bongos. Bono, this isn’t a discotheque in Madrid. Sometimes, we just want U2 to sound like U2 and that’s what they did in the original recording of this song, as opposed to the live performance. (Just when we thought they knew they were too old for this…sigh.)
  5. Breathe –“16th of June, nine 0 five, door bell rings, man at the door says if I want to stay alive a bit longer – here’s a few things I need you to know. Three!” Why would Bono invite a complete stranger into his home? Because I just want to have some tea and give him my thoughts on various third world improvement initiatives (well, that’s what I told him at the time).
  6. Unknown Caller – Three birds came into their little rhiad, and the sound was pure magic. It’s really too bad this song, written for “a chorus of voices,” didn’t catch on better live. I wish they had not re-tooled the 2011 leg so much, and one of the reasons is that Unknown Caller deserved to continue getting its chance to become a classic. After all, how many of us still think of it when we see 3:33 on the clockface? That’s what you call impact.
  7. Magnificent – Plenty of people have written about U2 songs that can be categorized as hymns or prayers. I can’t do a better job than them, so I’ll just agree with them: Magnificent is one of the best.
  8. Fez gets an honorable mention, because it’s about the place where the album was recorded and U2 clearly wanted it to be an ode to their experience there.

There you are: my reflections on No Line on the Horizon and a loving nod to War. Now go, shout it out, rise up and share yours with me.

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U2 community builder, actualist, sometimes full of anger and grieving. Contact: IG @brookwf, X @U2radiobrook.

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