RECORD REVIEW | "WAR" BY U2
photo & text by nacrowe
my family left IRELAND three generations ago in the early part of the 20th century, relocating to NEW YORK CITY. i carry an IRISH surname that traces its roots back to the small village of CAPPAWHITE just outside of LIMERICK in COUNTY TIPPERARY. in my teens i was lucky enough to get the opportunity to visit IRELAND with my family and witness a part of my heritage that really i only primarily knew through music.
specifically that of THE POGUES and U2.
whereas THE POGUES in my mind represent the complex mindset and identity of the IRISH DIASPORA, U2 seems (especially during their early career) to be a stridently modern IRISH band. influenced by the sonic experimentalism and lyrical insularity of POST PUNK, their early output seems militantly focused on presenting a vision of an IRELAND that is full of dignity and passion, as well as vulnerability.
WAR (ISLAND, 1983) in particular to me is the soundtrack and aural memory of the interpersonal brutality and cultural devastation that was THE TROUBLES. standout tacks such as "SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY" and "NEW YEARS DAY" showcase the personal toll of growing up when such unceasing and indiscriminate violence was occurring with little end in sight. those songs may be located in a specific geography and time related to IRISH HISTORY, but for me growing up it was a touchstone when traveling and encountering sites of human cruelty, tragedy, despair and mass casualties in other locations in KOSOVO, CAMBODIA, BOSNIA and GHANA (CAPE COAST CASTLE). that is not to say that these songs are sullen or depressing, in fact its the opposite. they are anthems to the human spirit of persevering and carrying on despite every evidence to the contrary that all is lost and humanity is depraved.
BONO is often mocked (sometimes rightfully so) for his often quixotic megalomania with regard to global initiatives. but i see that sort of inner fire, that very IRISH sense of empathy percolating first through these early songs in which he put his passion and sense of moral righteousness in his music. these songs touched me as a child and informed me of what it meant to be IRISH, that of being lost and itinerant yet never losing a sense of self or empathy for the other; essentially being at home in the world and finding commonality with all, including your enemies. maybe the dude was secretly BUDDHIST. regardless, i consider this album a deeply IRISH album that i return to from time to time when thinking about my ancestors and starting anew in a new country. something i have done several times on several continents.
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