U2, "A Sort Of Homecoming"

>> Saturday, March 17, 2012

I just don't really pay a lot of attention to when St. Patrick's Day occurs. I dunno why. I like Ireland, I like the color green, I like beer. Whatever. Anyway, this year it caught my attention. I was aware of it for some reason. It occurred to me I could take notice here at the blog, use it as an excuse for popping up something great from what used to be Ireland's greatest rock band. (I don't know who Ireland's greatest rock band is anymore, it's just... I sort of feel bad writing this: it just seems unlikely it's still U2 anymore. I can't remember the last time they seemed relevant and so long since they could excite me.)

"A Sort Of Homecoming" is a gorgeous song, earnest and poignant in a way that's completely the opposite of maudlin. That's a neat trick, actually. It might be that Bono's howling sincerity is set off against Clayton and Mullen pounding away like the most awesome clock in the world while The Edge floats over everything shimmering like a ghost.

My memory says The Unforgettable Fire wasn't too well received when it came out. "Pride" did well for itself, obviously. But it wasn't like there were a string of hits following it off the record, which was often kind of chill and weird. If The Edge's guitarwork on Fire shimmered like a ghost, Unforgettable Fire was sort of a haunted house set off in an empty field somewhere. But out of the band's whole catalogue, it's maybe the record that gets better every passing year more than any other, even better than The Joshua Tree. I'm not trying to take anything away from Joshua Tree, which I think has aged well. There's just something haunting (that word again) about Fire, an old and weary record made by a bunch of kids trying to pay homage, actually, to a young country (look at that track list: "Pride (In The Name Of Love)"--a song about Martin Luther King and Jesus; "4th Of July"; "Indian Summer Sky"; "Elvis Presley And America"; "MLK"--another Dr. King song; and yet there you have the broken corpse of an Irish castle on the front cover). Joshua Tree would feature a song called "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" that, ironically enough, would be kind of a lie: Joshua Tree sort of brought U2 everything they'd been looking for as a band, and it can be surprisingly unsatisfying to finally get what you thought you wanted (ergo, Achtung Baby); Unforgettable Fire, though, really was all about looking and not quite finding, having your fingertips on the edge of something you couldn't quite remember having lost but knowing it was there only a moment ago.

Happy St. Paddy's Day.


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