U2101 – Is That All?

The closing song on the album October is titled, “Is That All?,” but the music that makes up that song might be most well-known, best recognized, as part of another song that U2 have actually played on recent tours. I’m talking about the introduction to the track, which, when joined with “Electric Co.” is called “The Cry.” To be sure, this intro is probably the best part of the track “Is That All?” but there are some other neat points to the song that we will discuss today.

One aspect of “Is That All?” that I really enjoy is the use of Bono’s falsetto near the end of the song, as he sings the title refrain over and over. The high clear singing is beautiful, and it always makes me think of angels. It is the best early example that I can think of where Bono uses this skill that would become one of the singer’s calling-cards in later years. I also like the tiny little snip of whistling that comes at the tail end of the track, just as it is fading out. I can’t identify the song that is being whistled…or even if it is a song…but it always gives me a feeling of the band saying “this is just the end of the beginning. Stick around for bigger and better things.” Then, of course, there is that intro. Wow! This part of the song sounds like a call to battle and the throbbing bass has such an unusual sound that it gives me a shiver every time I hear it.

Unfortunately, the lyrics are not quite up to the standard of the rest of the song. There are really only three lines, then the phrase “is that all?” repeats ad infinitum. The saving grace here is the one time that Bono adds the phrase “you want from me” to the question being asked. I believe that Bono is singing to God here. Early in the band’s career, they all, especially Bono and Edge, had trouble reconciling the life of a rock star with the life of a Christian. I think that this song signifies that Bono has had an epiphany and that he has come to the realization that all God asks of him is that he be a great singer, the best he can be, and the rest will fall into place. How freeing that must have been for the young man, the assurance “Just do what you’re doing, and it will all work out.”
Other than the intro, “Is That All” has never been performed live. I think that that is a pretty good decision by the band.

The song works well as a closing thought to an album, but there really isn’t enough song here to sustain a live audience’s interest over the three or so minutes that it would take to perform the song. The band really did take the best part of the track and repurpose it as the opening portion of “Electric Co.” which was a pretty smart move, if you ask me.

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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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