Saturday, March 7, 2009

Blog on Demand: U2 - No Line on the Horizon

The New (and in my mind brilliant) U2 Album.
No Line on the Horizon

This massive post is the start of a new semi-regular feature I will be doing on the blog. I call it Blog on Demand. The basic idea is that if someone tells me that I should do a blog post on something, and I find the idea to be a good one, I will do the post and give that person credit for the idea. The first idea comes from the community pastor at my church. His name is Brian Gray, and he suggested I do a blog post on the new U2 album that was just released this week. "No Line on the Horizon." He also challenged me to find two hymns that were buried in the music. Although, I am sad to say, Brian. I could only find one bit of music that sounded like a hymn, "White as Snow" sounded a lot like "O Come O Come Emmanuel" not sure if that is one of the two that you are referring to, but it's the only one I heard.

The reason this blog post idea came up was due to Brian's enthusiastically asking how many people had bought the new album (which had just been released that day) on Tuesday night when our church met for our weekly service. Brian asked in such a way that he expected probably half of the room to shoot their hands up excitedly and perhaps even to have a few people in the room hoot and cheer at it. The rather tepid response and only a few hands being raised in the room led to two other pastors teasing him. One pastor told the congregation that everyone who buys the album this week should shoot him a quick email to say that they too have it now, so that he wouldn't feel alone. Then he gave out Brian's email address from the pulpit. The other pastor created this work of photoshop brilliance, it's a photo of Brian contemplating his place in the church community...

What follows now is a monstrously long breakdown of every song in the album and my thoughts on it. Items in italics are brilliant because they U2 lyrics, items not in italics are less brilliant because they are just my reflections on the lyrics. Items in bold are the titles of the songs in the order they appear on the album. The one item in bold and italics are words from William Carlos Williams, which you might find amazing, but I find rather overrated.

No Line on the Horizon:

Much like how they used "Vertigo" to start "How to assemble an Atomic Bomb" with a song about having a hard time finding your balance in a crazy world, U2 opens NLOTH with the title track about having trouble finding balance and a steady way in a nutty world with this song. I liked the music better to Vertigo, but I have a feeling this song will grow on me with time. My favorite line in this song is:

I’m a traffic cop, Rue du Marais.
The sirens are wailing
But it’s me that wants to get away.

I like this line. He is a cop in the heat of the action, but rather than chasing he feels like he's being chased. He can't make sense of the world, everything is topsy turvy and he can't even find the line on the horizon. Not sure it's the perfect song to open the album with, but it does a good job setting the tone for the album.


Wow. Powerful worship song of love for God. This song is both lyrically and musically amazing.

I was born to be with you 

In this space and time

After that and ever after
I haven't had a clue

Knowing what and who you were made for, but not having a clue about anything else. Man, Can I relate!

I was born to sing for you 

I didn’t have a choice
But to lift you up
And sing whatever song you wanted me to
I give you back my voice
From the womb my first cry
It was a joyful noise

I don't even have the words to express how beautiful I find this song. If this isn't my favorite song on the album, it's awfully close.

Moment of Surrender:

This song has so many layers and so much depth that I am not entirely sure I get it all, but I am drawn to it. I like the basic idea of it as far as I do understand it. I hear this song as saying that love is something that you give yourself to entirely and it may spit you up a bit and it will change you, and you won't always know what's going on, but once you're there, you surrender to it.

It’s not if I believe in love
But if love believes in me
Oh, believe in me

I think if you are going to give yourself to love, whether that be to a supreme being or to another human, if it's going to work, you need to surrender yourself no matter what that means. It's both beautiful and terrifying.

At the moment of surrender
I folded to my knees
I did not notice the passers-by
And they did not notice me

When it works, you only notice what you've given yourself up for.

I was speeding on the subway
Through the stations of the cross
Every eye looking every other way
Counting down ’til the pain will stop

When you forget how it works, you forget who you are and what's important. You've forgotten to surrender and you still feel the pain without remembering why.

At the moment of surrender
Of vision of over visibility
I did not notice the passers-by
And they did not notice me

Then when you get over how stupid you are and remember what's important and begin to surrender again you may be broken again but in a good way. However, most people around you won't even notice the difference.

Again, I don't even claim to think I completely get this song, but I this is kind of how I am hearing and feeling it right now. Pretty solid. (And this is going to be the hugest blog post in history if I keep this up.) (Edit: Yup, I was right)

Unknown Caller:

I may once again be totally off on my interpretation of this song, but I see it as a guy late at night unable to sleep and uncomfortable with either his life or who he is, then in the middle of the darkest part of the night he finds the "Sunshine." He connects with God who tells him to shut up and listen

I was lost between the midnight and the dawning
In a place of no consequence or company
3:33 when the numbers fell off the clock face
Speed-dialing with no signal at all

Go, shout it out, rise up
Oh, oh
Escape yourself and gravity
Hear me, cease to speak that I may speak
Shush now

He does the smart thing and shuts up and interfaces with the almighty and reboots himself and remembers who he is and who he isn't.

I was right there at the top of the bottom
On the edge of the known universe Where I wanted to be
I had driven to the scene of the accident
And I sat there waiting for me
Restart and re-boot yourself
You’re free to go
Oh, oh
Shout for joy if you get the chance

I like that God tells him to shout for joy if he gets the chance.

I'll Go Crazy if I Don't Go Crazy Tonight:

Yet another song that I really like, I hear this one as a call to action. A call to be bold and to be bold now. We have to live, we have to love, we have to listen. We can't hold on to old ideas without embracing new ones. We have to do crazy things now to change the world. If we don't act now, we will lose out on the chance which would be more crazy than going a little crazy right now. I also like how the song acknowledges that going out on that limb isn't easy. "It's not a hill, it's a mountain."

Everybody needs to cry or needs to spit
Every sweet tooth needs just a little hit
Every beauty needs to go out with an idiot
How can you stand next to the truth and not see it
Oh, a change of heart comes slow

It’s not a hill, it’s a mountain
As you start out the climb
Do you believe me or are you doubting
We’re gonna make it all the way to the light
But I know I’ll go crazy if I don’t go crazy tonight

Every generation gets a chance to change the world
Pity the nation that won’t listen to your boys and girls
‘Cos the sweetest melody is the one we haven’t heard
Is it true that perfect love drives out all fear
The right to appear ridiculous is something I hold dear
Oh, but a change of heart comes slow

Get on your Boots:

This is their first big single off of the album. I actually find it to be one of the weaker songs on the record, but it's still pretty good. Here's how I hear it.

The world is pretty screwed up, and everyone is scared and talking about the fear, but the world is more beautiful than this temporary fear only not everyone remembers or understands that. It's a return to what's important. Love and community. In this particular instance, love between the singer and his girl whom he refers to as "Sexy Boots"

Night is falling everywhere
Rockets at the fun fair
Satan loves a bomb scare
But he won’t scare you

You free me from the dark dream
Candy floss, ice cream
All our kids are screaming
But the ghosts aren’t real

Here’s where we gotta be
Love and community
Laughter is eternity
If joy is real

Stand up Comedy:

Awesome. I dig the message of this song a lot. (Again the disclaimer that I love the message as I understand it.)

I hear this song as both a call to stand up for what is right, but also as a call to realize who you are in the light of who God is. A lot of times people who are taking a stand for an issue start to think that they are bigger and more important than they actually are. It's a call to stand up for what's right, but not because you are amazing, but because what is right is what's important and because God is a God of justice and wants you to help. Don't get confused and start thinking justice is your issue, it's just God's issue and you've co-opted it. God's the big one here, not you. This song may have my favorite line in the whole album. "Stop helping God across the road like a little old lady." The title almost seems like a play on words that it's funny how self-important people get when they "Stand Up" therefore it's "Stand up Comedy."

Stand up, this is comedy
The DNA lotto may have left you smart
But can you stand up to beauty
Dictator of the heart
I can stand up for hope, faith, love
But while I’m getting over certainty
Stop helping God across the road like a little old lady

I gotta stand up to ego but my ego’s not really the enemy
It’s like a small child crossing an eight lane highway
On a voyage of discovery
Stand up to rock stars
Napolean is in high heels
Josephine, be careful
Of small men with big ideas
Oh, oh
Out from under your beds
C’mon, ye people Stand up for your love

Love love love love love
Love love love love love
God is love
And love is evolution’s very best day

FEZ-Being Born:

In High School my teacher tried to convince me that William Carlos Williams' poem, "The Red Wheelbarrow" is an amazing piece of literature that I should let wash over me and I would be overwhelmed by it's beauty and amazingness. I think to this day that she and everyone who gushes over this poem are full of crap. Here is the poem:

so much depends

a red wheelbarrow
glazed with rainwater

beside the white

Apparently this poem is a pretty big deal, as tons of literature freaks hail it as a magnum opus, I just don't see it. I didn't get it then, and I don't get it now. I bring up this random piece of history from my High School Literature class at this time because this song gives me the same "Red Wheelbarrow" feeling. I should probably appreciate it more, but I just don't get it.

It is beautiful to listen to, it mentions Africa, it uses verbal imagery, but it leaves me feeling nothing. I'll still listen to it when I peruse the album, because it does sound nice, but I don't get the message I feel that I'm supposed to get from it. This is the only song on the album that does zero for me.

White as Snow:

This song is hard for me, because it touches close to my heart. It speaks of faith and doubt coexisting. It speaks of believing when you don't feel it, and it speaks to seeking to be like the lamb in a sea of wolves. I like this song, but I also hurt when I listen to it. It speaks to me of how hard faith is, which is a struggle I face every day and fail at pretty much every day.

Once I knew there was a love divine
Then came a time I thought it knew me not
Who can forgive forgiveness where forgiveness is not
Only the lamb as white as snow

As boys we would go hunting in the woods
To sleep the night shooting out the stars
Now the wolves are every passing stranger
Every face we cannot know
If only a heart could be as white as snow


I really dislike salesmen. It's an irrational hatred. This song makes me happy because it equates salespeople to Satan, selling you a bag of goods, telling you to buy the lies of what is important rather than focus on what is really important. Grace. I've found the one thing I need, and I can breathe. Fantastic. I love this album.

Every day I die again, and again I’m reborn
Every day I have to find the courage
To walk out into the street
With arms out
Got a love you can’t defeat
Neither down nor out
There’s nothing you have that I need
I can breathe
Breathe now

We are people borne of sound
The songs are in our eyes
Gonna wear them like a crown

Walk out, into the sunburst street
Sing your heart out, sing my heart out
I’ve found grace inside a sound
I found grace, it’s all that I found
And I can breathe
Breathe now

Cedars of Lebanon:

This is kind of a haunting song. I feels like a song of regret. Missing a girl from his past, possibly present, but he's too tied up in the dreary life he's leading in a war torn area. He feels like he fighting and wants to get back to when things were simpler, but he still believes in the cause too much. He wonders if he regrets beginning the fight, he wonders if he's chosen his battle wisely. He thinks so, but isn't sure, and regrets that he doesn't have certainty. This is a haunting song that is perfect to sum up the album, lack of certainty but faith in belief.

Choose your enemies carefully ‘cos they will define you
Make them interesting ‘cos in some ways they will mind you
They’re not there in the beginning but when your story ends
Gonna last with you longer than your friends


Trinket said...

Nice. If we had been at church on Tuesday, Joe would totally have raised his hand!!

Trinket said...

And, I really need to get on the ball and listen to the album now! :) Great review!

RonMexico said...

Holy smokes, that is one heck of a post.

Craig Dodge said...

Yeah, I went a bit nuts with this post. It's the energizer bunny of blog posts...It just keeps going and going and going.