U2101 – One Minute Warning

I know that many people who read my article every week might not think much of the Passengers album. It is weird, experimental, and strangely inaccessible. There is a debate on whether or not it should even be included in U2’s catalog. For the record, I believe that it should be included–all four members of the band are working together and collaborating on the album, even though Brian Eno and others join in on the fun in a way that is somewhat unique. After all, we still include all of No Line on the Horizon, where Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois co-wrote most of the record, and we even count “The Wanderer” that features a lead vocal from Johnny Cash. I suppose that the biggest thing that separates Original Soundtracks 1 from these other entries in U2’s discography is style. Whereas most of the music that U2 has recorded over the years is definitely meant for mass consumption, the Passengers album is not. To some people (like Larry Mullen, Jr.) that might equate to some music that is just plain bad. Music that would be better off left on the cutting room floor. Well, Edge once made the comment that anyone who doesn’t like U2 isn’t trying hard enough, and while I know that he was being facetious when he made that statement, it certainly applies to the Passengers release. There is a lot of great art on this album if only the listener is willing to give the time and effort required to find it.

One example is the track “One Minute Warning.” When I first heard this song, I dismissed it as unlistenable garbage. One night, however, the song came to me in my dreams, and ever since then, I haven’t been able to move past the song in quite the same way.  For starters, the rhythm track is positively brilliant, hypnotic and subtly affecting. There are lots of electronic elements floating in and out throughout the length of the song–snippets of half-heard conversations, unbalanced guitar riffs, and stabs of mournful keyboard. Again, very dreamy. Finally, the end portion of the song contains a male chorus (I mostly hear Edge here, but there are definitely other voices in the mix) singing forlornly about a lonesome soul in an old black boat. The whole thing is very provocative and emotional, even if I’m not sure exactly what it all means. It grabs me and won’t let go. Some might think I’m a nut, that this song is too boring to be allowed to exist, but I find it to be dense and complex and rich. To make the song even more attractive, at least for the completists and collectors out there, there is also an alternate cut of the song which features a vocal by fellow Passenger Holi (AKA Akiko Kobayashi), a famous Japanese singer-songwriter. The choice to have Holi sing this song is appropriate, as it was recorded for and included in some English versions of the phenomenal Japanese animation Ghost in the Shell.

I hope that this short review has encouraged some readers to rethink “One Minute Warning,” especially those who have found themselves skipping the track in the past. Feel free to leave your thoughts on the track, or anything else U2 related, in the comments section below.

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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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