What a week, huh? U2’s fourteenth album, Songs of Experience was finally released — after a delay that seemed interminable, but actually left a smaller gap between album releases than we’ve experienced with the past few albums. I listened to the album almost as soon as it became available on iTunes, but unfortunately I haven’t received my pre-ordered vinyl or CD copies yet. I’m a little disappointed about that, but my love of the new album is overshadowing that minor let-down.
For my first U2101 article following the official release of the album, I’m choosing to talk about one of the album’s many highlights (and there are several, but we’ll be getting to the others in following weeks), “Lights of Home.” With the simple combination of keys and vocal, album opener “Love is All We Have Left”, feels like an introductory statement to me, so track two, “Lights of Home” feels like the song that really kicks the album into high gear — the first “real” song on the album that showcases the whole band in all their glory. The song starts off with an absolutely killer guitar riff, a riff that is raw and wicked, just a little bit menacing but still catchy and accessible, with the sense of urgency that all great rock needs. The drums kick in shortly, and let me tell you, Larry is on his game, folks. The cymbals sparkle, the snare crackles, and the tom pounds. Bono also sounds in top form: his voice catches in all the right spots, it rises and falls in wails and moans, and it propels the song forward with strong melodies and sincerity. “Lights of Home” sounds both classic and modern: it is timeless, and it transcends genre, trends, and styles, with a coda that is as congenial and inviting as it is epic and grand…I can’t get over how amazing it sounds. Even as a U2 fan, expecting greatness from everything they do, this song blew me away.
Bono’s apparent health scare during the recording of this album has been much talked about, but that same topic is one of the driving messages behind “Lights of Home.” “I shouldn’t be here ’cause I should be dead” the singer starts out with, and you can feel the cautious optimism that comes with those words. One of Bono’s greatest gifts, as a singer, is that his voice makes the listener feel the feeling behind the lyrics, and this song is no exception to that rule. When Bono sings that he can see the lights in front of him, I first assumed that he was singing about the titular lights of home, but people who experience near-death experiences often describe seeing a bright light before them, so the very foundation of the song has a double entendre tied to it. I think that the song might even be referring to a reunion with Bono’s mother, Iris. Perhaps he feels that that is his final destination, one that he is both afraid of and looking forward to.
One more thing that I want to talk about concerning “Lights of Home”, something that I’m sure that I’ll revisit as I write about a few other songs on this album, is the nods, both subtle and overt, to the previous album, Songs of Innocence. In “Lights of Home,” that reference comes in the form of some lyrics. The words “free yourself to be yourself, If only you could see yourself” are lifted directly from the song “Iris (Hold Me Close)”, which lends a little bit of weight to my theory that this song is about Bono’s thoughts on dying and meeting his mother in the afterlife as much as it is on going home to Ali and his family. Bono’s search for validation and recognition is also on display here, as he asks “do you know my name. ” This seems to be a continuation of some of the themes from “Invisible.”