Monday, 10 September 2018
U2 - War (1983)
Released February 1983
Recorded at Windmill Lane Studios, Dublin
This was the last of U2's three "post-punk", raw, edgy, guitar bass and drum-driven authentic albums before they decided to experiment with ambient sounds, artless and Americana. This is a pure, essential, spiky album. For me, U2 were at their best in this period. While "October" had seen them veer dangerously close to quasi-religious pretentiousness, this one was bang on the money - hard-hitting, to the point and relevant. There is a serious case for its being U2's best ever album. Maybe it was on this album that they achieved their longed-for "greatness", even more so than on "The Joshua Tree". Bono is in protesting mood on this album, and, for once, it sounds totally convincing.
The rousing "Sunday Bloody Sunday" is well-known by most by now, with its martial drum sound and stabbing violin riffs. One of the great protest songs. A underrated good one is the bassily insistent "Seconds" which reminds me of something else, but I can never think of what. "New Year's Day" is superb, full of hooks, catchiness, great bass, delicious keyboards and overflowing with post-punk atmosphere. It is still such a great "winter" song. Helped no doubt by the snowy video that accompanied its release. Check out those guitar riffs half way though and beyond. Great stuff. David "The Edge" Evans at his best. I have always liked the powerful, muscular energy of "Like A Song...". There were some awful, synthesiser-dominated albums being put out in the mid-eighties. This was the antidote to that. It was still "proper" guitar and drum based rock, thankfully. Great frantic guitar drum interplay at the end.
"Drowning Man" features acoustic guitar, a mournful vocal and some fetching keyboard riffs. Lovely bass from Adam Clayton too. "Refugee" sounds somewhat dated and clumsily clunky now, to be honest, although it is not without its good points, particularly Larry Mullen's powerhouse drumming. "Two Hearts Beat As One" is a typical U2 early eighties guitar and thumping bass-driven rocker.
Despite its odd backing vocal intro, "Red Light" is an addictive number with a brief bit of jazzy trumpet right at the end that fades too soon. "Surrender" is a chugging post-punk rocker with some convincing backing vocals used at the end and some absolute killer guitar. The anthemic "40" has that ambient feel that would be explored much more on subsequent albums - ethereal vocals, throbbing bass, deep, sonorous keyboards.
The albums from this one on would explore different soundscapes, while still retaining some of the best points from these early albums, but nothing came close to the essential energy of this.
- September 10, 2018