I recall the day I brought home my purchase of the CD single for “Pride (In the Name of Love),” and how excited I was to hear the B-sides, two songs titled “Boomerang,” parts 1 and 2. I was a little disappointed when I put the disc in and listened, only to discover that the two parts were just vocal and instrumental versions of the same song. That song isn’t bad, I just wanted the two tracks to be two separate tracks rather than a repeat. My biggest complaint with the song “Boomerang,” whether we are discussing the vocal or instrumental version of the song is how dated it sounds. The song sounds very much like it came from the mid-1980s, which in fact it did. Very little of U2’s catalog carries the imprint of a specific period of time like this, but every song that I can think of that does is from the Unforgettable Fire sessions. I tend to think of this as U2 suffering a little bit of an identity crisis. They were sure that they wanted to push boundaries and to create something less straightforward than the War album, and so they were searching for a personality of their own. Oddly enough, this quest to sound new and exciting resulted in the band sounding less original than they ever would again. I have heard critics and the like complain that U2 was too influenced by Brian Eno, that his personality overrode the band’s, but I can’t say that I really buy into that. Eno’s sense of experimentation is in plain evidence on The Unforgettable Fire but I think that that is just because the band wanted to sound like that. Eno wasn’t forcing the band into a different sound from what they wanted…it just so happens that the desires of the two parties were in sync at that point.
The best thing about “Boomerang,” at least part 2, is Bono’s vocal. Spirited, passionate, and unrestrained, it is not, perhaps, the most polished thing that he has ever sung, but that spirit propels his singing into some pretty exciting territory. The listener can hear in this voice Bono’s desperation to create great art, his desire to reveal himself and to overcome what he views as a weakness to climb to even greater heights. I once had a co-worker who said about Bono’s vocal on another song that was recorded during this period, “Imagine being able to make that sound anytime you wanted to.” I agree.
“Boomerang” has never been performed live. It seems like that is true of most of the songs that I have written about over the past little while. I guess that I am in some pretty obscure territory, stuff that the band never saw fit to break out from a stage, but that isn’t necessarily a bad place to be. I admit that I have a desire to hear U2 play live every song they’ve ever recorded, but I am having a hard time coming up with a circumstance in which it would be appropriate to play “Boomerang,” either part 1 or 2. I guess some songs just weren’t meant to be played live, and that’s not a bad thing. Boomerang is still plenty entertaining as is, if only for Bono’s heartfelt vocal.