Wednesday, October 1, 2014

U2 - The Unforgettable Fire

Today (October 1st) marks the thirtieth anniversary of The Unforgettable Fire, the fourth studio album from U2. The multi-Platinum seller went to number 53 in Ireland, number 39 in Austria, number 24 in Sweden, number 14 in Finland and Germany, number 6 in Norway and Sweden, number 5 in Canada, number 4 in the Netherlands, and number 1 in Australia, New Zealand and the UK. Here in the US, it spent one hundred and thirty two weeks on the Billboard Album chart, peaking at number 12.

Side one starts with “A Sort of Homecoming”, a meandering mid-tempo tune that has a far and away feel to it. In the lyrics, Bono even asks “are we there?”.

“Pride (In the Name of Love)” was the first single. It charted at number 33 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 26 in Canada, number 12 in Sweden, number 8 in the Netherlands, number 7 in Norway, number 4 in Australia, number 3 in the UK, number 2 in Ireland, and number 1 in New Zealand. The song was inspired by the US Civil Rights movement, as well as the lives of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. I remember hearing this one everywhere back in 1984 and 1985, very specifically blaring from dorm rooms throughout campus. It has a powerful beat and engaging guitar riffs that made it a true rock anthem. It is now wonder that Rolling Stone magazine ranked it number 388 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All-Time, while VH1 ranked it at number 38 on its “100 Greatest Songs of the 80’s” countdown.

“Wire” too carries on that solid percussion and guitar mix that made, for me, the band’s early 80’s sound.

The title track is next. Released as the second single, “The Unforgettable Fire” went to number 59 in Australia, number 8 in the Netherlands, number 6 in the UK, number 3 in New Zealand, and number 1 in Ireland. It was inspired by an art exhibit about the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. I will admit that I was never really a fan of this single; it was just too mellow for my taste back in the day.

The mellow continues with “Promenade”. Brian Eno was one of the album’s producers, and this one sounds a good bit like one of his songs.

Side two opens with the moody instrumental track “4th of July”. The title comes from the date that the Edge’s daughter Hollie was born, which was during the time the album was recorded.

The six-minute long “Bad” is a song of heroin addiction. This one starts low and personal, going for a slow build to its payoff. Just like “Pride” is the highlight for side one, “Bad” shares that same honor for me on side two.

“Indian Summer Sky” sounds, in some ways, like “Pride part 2”. Both are cut from a similar cloth, but this one lacks the fire of the hit single.

“Elvis Presley and America”, an improvised track, is Bono’s reaction to Albert Goldman’s biography of the King of Rock and Roll. It has a very rough, unpolished sound to it that does not do it many favors. I really had to work to follow the vocals.

“MLK”, the closing track, is another piece that centers on Martin Luther King Jr. This one goes with a more reverent, almost prayer-like sound.

I have admitted to not being a U2 fan in the 80’s. I liked their big hits but that was about it. So, this review was my first listen to a bulk of The Unforgettable Fire. I have to say, except for a few highlights, it is pretty forgettable for me.

For more from U2, click here.

1 comment:

Mark said...

While the lyrics are historically inaccurate, "Pride (In the Name of Love)" remains my favorite U2 tune. I agree with you that the rest of the album doesn't quite measure up, especially following the stronger War album.