U2101 – With a Shout

I remember once a few years ago…I don’t remember exactly when or what the occasion was, but I remember where I was living, so I can state with conviction that it was before No Line on the Horizon came out…Edge made the comment in an interview that his least favorite song that the band had ever recorded was “With a Shout,” from the October album. I have to confess here that I share that sentiment with U2’s guitarist.”With a Shout” is one of the few songs in the band’s repertoire that I occasionally skip if it should happen to come on when I’ve got the U2 collection on my iPhone set to play on random. The song isn’t terrible, it’s just so overwrought. It feels like the band, especially the lead singer, is trying too hard to accomplish what has come so naturally to them ever since, namely to be emotive and passionate and to lift the spirits of their listeners. Bono has often quoted Quincy Jones about how making music is like “waiting for God to walk through the room,” and I guess that “With a Shout” is what results when you apply the same ingredients without God walking through the room.  I say that because, really, the song has all the elements of classic U2…rapid-fire rhythmic drumming, chiming, echoey guitar, melodic throbbing bass, and Bono’s insistent, pleading, exhortations for the listener to “shout it out!”. For whatever reason, the song just doesn’t gel into a compelling whole. I think that one of the major problems with the song is that it simply isn’t catchy enough. It lacks that earworm quality that so many U2 songs possess.

Although it is not labeled as such on the original album release, I have seen the song with the sub-title “Jerusalem” in many online sources, and that’s probably because that word, “Jerusalem,” is one of the most frequently appearing words in the lyrics to this song. The song seems to be mostly about the crucifixion of Jesus, which took place in that holy city of Jerusalem. Bono sings about wanting to go to the “side of a hill, [where] blood was spilt,” and about going to the “foot of the Messiah…who made me see,” so it seems that the song is all about coming to Christ to be born-again as a Christian. I have to say that that’s another reason that the song doesn’t really resonate with me, it is probably the most overtly Christian song in all of U2’s inventory of music, and thus they kind of lose me with this one. I admire that they wanted to make music about those beliefs that they hold dear, it’s just not for me.

I think that, aside from Edge, the rest of the band also knew that they missed the mark with “With a Shout,” as the song was only ever performed twenty-seven times before being abandoned. This is the rare song that I am not in a hurry to hear make a comeback, although if the band decided to enact my idea about playing whole albums in sequence, then obviously we would get “With a Shout” toward the end of the October set-list. I could live with that, but to resurrect the song for any other reason would seem to be a waste when there are so many other, more deserving candidates.

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Ever since I realized as a kid, while poring over the liner notes of the Bob Marley - Songs of Freedom boxed set, that writing about music was a viable career choice, one of my greatest desires has been to write about U2. The band has been a major part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I'm thrilled to have this opportunity to contribute a little something to the fantastic online community that's been built around the band.

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