75 Essential Albums – Day #15 – U2 – War

Here goes with day 15 of my countdown of 75 Albums that in my opinion should have a place in everyones music collection.  They are not in any particular order though the top 10 will be my personal take on the top 10 albums ever released.  You might be surprised at some of my picks and some of my omissions.  Feel free to chime in with your comments and let me know if you love (or hate my choices).

U2 – War

In the days before Bono turned into a self obsessed, egotistical prick U2 were a band who made high energy political and relevant rock music.  They were four young men with something to say and they wanted to say it loudly, with feeling, with anger and boy did they mean it.

War was their third album in as many years and was by a distance their most political.  The previous albums ‘Boy’ & ‘October’ had begun to break the band outside of their native Ireland ‘War’ was about to catapult their name into the conscious minds of music fans across the globe.

The album opens with one of its strongest and most political songs.  The thumping aggressive drum beat and squealing guitar leads into Bono shouting, “I can’t believe the news today -I can’t close my eyes and make it go away” despite Bono’s repeated denials the song, with it’s anti-war message, is thought by many to be a reflection on the ‘Bloody Sunday’ killings in Londonderry when 14 civil rights protesters were killed by the British Army.  The controversy around the song and its deeper meaning did much to propel the album into the limelight.  The Anti-war theme continues on ‘seconds’ with its warning about nuclear holocaust, something that was very controversial and political in the UK at the time as there were increasing protests about the stationing of US Nuclear weapons at the airbase at Greenham Common in Berkshire.  It is easy to underestimate the political significance of these issues at a time when the UK was recovering from the Falklands war.

The political theme is very much what holds the album together, it gives a sense of what many young people were thinking at the time.  ‘New years day’ offers commentary on the battles the polish miners were having in their desire to break away from the Soviet Union.  This at a time when the Iron Curtain was still firmly in place and the cold war was still very real.  Who would have thought that only 5 years later the soviet block would begin to crumble.  The song holds out just this promise, a hope for a new beginning, an emergence from the darkness.  Despite the anger in some of the songs ‘War’ does offer something of a rallying call.  There are statements of love, faith and dreams, a promise that if everyone stood together they could make the world a better place.

On Drowning Man, a song about a man weathering the storms of life we get glimpses of how important Edges guitar was to become to representing U2’s sound.  On ‘Two Hearts’ we get funky basslines and a danceable rhythm and in 40 we return to promises of faith and renewal.  What War did was send a message that political music could be a force for good, that it could give voice to a generation and that people did not have to simply accept things as they were.  It also marked a change of direction for the band, it gave them the pace and direction that was later to see them become, for a time at least the biggest band on the planet.  The album is an important milestone in rock history.

Sing out here if you want to be heard!

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