U2 – War (1983): Review

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Produced by Steve Lillywhite
Label – Island

If debut album “Boy” had articulated the fresh faced passion of a journey through the topsy turvy transformation from teen to adult, and “October” was overtly driven by the band’s spiritual identity, “War” rages in a world of conflict and political crisis. Waking up from the relatively safe, cocooned world of dreamy adolescent ignorance, they became men, travelling the world, and discovered that it’s filled with terror and tragedy. Front man Bono, stated that he wasn’t really aware of “the troubles” in Northern Ireland until he left Dublin, and this, along with widening global insecurity fed the lyrical convictions and peace led slogans that fill the album. The military beats of “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, and Bono’s white flag wielding lyrical ballistics are a far cry from anything from their debut, and all the weighty seriousness could be over reaching if it wasn’t so impassioned by Bono’s sincere belief that popular music can have an effect in highlighting his listeners to the effects of terrorism and government injustices. The music that accompanies his personal fury is starkly direct, simple lines and beats that spotlight the desolate, ravaged landscapes that lay foundation to the lyrical concept. Steve Lillywhite’s production effects are deliberately minimal, relying on what feels like The Edge’s most spontaneous guitar picking and Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen’s spare, thudding rhythms.

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Some will comment that Bono’s manifestoes are overwrought, and that for all the soap box posturing, rock musicians really don’t have a strong enough voice to effect change in a world full of barbarism. His fans will counter this by stating that the singer is reflecting a viewpoint based on what he’s witnessed, and his state of mind at the time of the recording. Whichever point of view, the passion in which he and his band deliver these ten songs is stirringly admirable, at a time when popular pop bands rarely ventured a social attitude. Not all of the songs work, but on the whole “War” is a successful progression for a band that were just on the cusp of world domination. Its success is based on U2’s continuous commitment to approaching each successive project with a changing attitude, a will to win, and most importantly a mature understanding of presenting challenging scenarios in a pop world bereft of identifiable views. The highlights are of course the stomping opener, the catchy power pop singles “New Years Day” and “Two Hearts Beat As One”, but the startling winner is the cleverly layered “Surrender”, which feels like a natural taster to their next long player, “The Unforgettable Fire.”

Whether U2 had anything significant to say partly misses the point, because their continual progression was based on unique and interesting post punk music. Their endeavour to continue to develop in unexpected ways would eventually cement their positions as one of the most vital bands for the remainder of the century.

8/10

Track Rating

1 – Sunday Bloody Sunday (9)
2 – Seconds (7)
3 – New Year’s Day (8)
4 – Like A Song… (6)
5 – Drowning Man (6)
6 – The Refugee (6)
7 – Two Hearts Beat As One (8)
8 – Red Light (7)
9 – Surrender (9)
10 – “40” (7)

U2 – Boy (1980): Review

U2 – October (1981): Review

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15 responses to “U2 – War (1983): Review

  1. The first U2 album I bought- and after listening to it- went out and bought “Boy” and “October.” Will be seeing them twice on their upcoming tour. I have always thought “War” was the album where they joined the ‘big leagues.”

  2. I’m of two minds about U2 and Bono but it would take more space than this comment box allows to really get into both arguments. To sum, it’s hard to take such a rich person railing against poverty so seriously but you can’t question their passion and their talent. And in those early days, they had that raw edge going for them as well.

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