The Bush of Goats

Marc Williams, writer & designer: 'Life's too short for empty slog ans'

day 14 – a song that no one would expect you to love

A Sort of Homecoming – U2

Note: the laborious task of ripping, copmressing and uploading an MP3 version has proved to be not only illegal (who knew?!?!1?) but too much effort, frankly. This is a link to Spotify. Other streaming musical services are available. 

It’s a hard one this. Primarily, because I have an uncontrollable urge to deny any kind of characterisation whatsoever. I think it displays an ageing middle-class rebel’s frustration and childishness in a particularly harsh and naked light, and I am therefore  proud of it. The very idea of a song no one would expect me to love gives me a kneejerk reaction (yeah, yeah. Just like all the other individuals).

Anyway, what about particularly this song by U2 is it that I refuse to acknowledge might betray some characteristic of me, by not being expected of me?

In one  of the many strange twists of the universe, I’ve ended up being friends-with-someone who works with U2. If I’d told my teenage self of this situation, he’d unquestionably be impressed. (And immediately try to cover it up by saying ‘I knew you were gonna say that’). For a while, from Under A Blood Red Sky’ through to ‘Joshua Tree’, I was mad for U2. The live aid performance that everyone remembers of them gave me a sense of intense pride in my band (a major win over my friend Kieran. He  liked Dire Straits; whose turgid pastel-hued performance earlier in the day had barely raised a murmur.)

The Rattle and Hum stuff kind of left me behind a bit and then we went off in different directions, but for that period, they were the sparky locals upstarts who became bigger than Jesus under my patronage (not me alone, obv.).

Perhaps that’s what it is. U2 are frowned upon now by many in the alternative musical landscape for selling out. I do struggle with that a bit. Success in rock music these days is a product of hard work. Take it from me (or more accurately, my friend) ‘life on the road with U2 is work. They have a great life, and its creative work, but you gotta work hard to succeed.’ You wouldn’t believe how many millions their current world tour has earned them. That’s what hard work gets you.

But ‘A Sort of Homecoming’ comes from a wet 1980s which offered little to working class men from Dublin. It lumbers out of a foggy bank, asynchronous booming drums bouncing off corrugated sheets of guitar. ‘B’ (that’s what they call him on the road’) lyrics fret, ‘… you know it’s time to go, through the sleet and driving snow, across the fields of morning, light in the distance.’  It sounds like a storm brewing.

But then the verse tension dissolves into the euphoric chorus’ eulogy of doing.

I guess that’s what’s unexpected about this being U2. Success doesn’t change the fact they wrote powerful, impassioned hymns to energy.

Our eldest is just starting to do cross country running. When she’s in her PE kit, her arms and legs fidgeting about as she gets ready to burn up the enrgy in her, I hear this. Arms and legs beset by a life of their own, and the happiness on her face as she runs. Simple pleasures.


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September 2012


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