There’s something fabulous about those deep album cuts that never get released as singles but somehow manage to become fan favorites anyway. Songs like “Kite” and “Raised by Wolves,” and the subject of today’s article, “I Threw a Brick Through a Window,” manage to capture the imagination of listeners in a way that the average song doesn’t. Well, the average song from the average band, anyway…U2 has always been an album band, as opposed to a singles band. They seem to be much more concerned with crafting a whole LP worth of compelling music rather than just shooting for the Billboard chart (or any other such chart that keeps track of hit songs). But even with U2, there are certain songs from each album which the fanbase as a whole decides are especially worthwhile, and “I Threw a Brick Through a Window” is one of those songs.
When I first read the song’s title I thought that the song was about an act of rebellious vandalism and that that was that. It was only as I grew a little older and more mature (and wiser, hopefully) that I caught on to what motivated the act of vandalism. The singer threw a brick through a window not just to be destructive, but because he didn’t like what he saw looking back at him. It could just as easily have been “I Smashed a Mirror,” only that phrase doesn’t have the same panache. In this song, the singer rhymes reflection with direction, and, I believe, therein lies the crux of the song. Because the singer doesn’t like the direction that his life has taken, he finds the reflection of his face to be offensive, therefore it had to be done away with. It might be a little immature, but then U2 was a very young band when they wrote this song, and the young, realistically, often behave rashly and provocatively. Even better, we all know how the singer’s story turns out. Bono ended up using his powers for the furtherance of good, becoming a hero to millions along the way.
One of the elements of the song that stands out in “I Threw a Brick Through a Window” is the drums. Larry’s fills give the song a whole other texture from what it would have possessed otherwise. It is especially interesting to me that the drums are so forceful and in-your-face because the guitar is kind of laid back and mellow. Both are equally infectious, and either would have made for a fine song on their own, but it is the combination of the two that makes “I Threw a Brick Through a Window” such a force to be reckoned with. Of course, Bono’s howls are a key ingredient as well, as is Adam’s bouncy bass, but it really is that combination of drums and guitar that make the song the standout that it is, in my opinion. “I Threw a Brick Through a Window” is another shining example that as great as the individual members of U2 might be, together they are a whole lot better.