keeping an eye on the tree and the forest

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U2: ‘We want 2009 to be our year’


Here is the latest news on the upcoming U2 album from

‘We’ve hit a rich songwriting vein and we don’t want to stop.’ Bono has been talking to U2.Com about how the songs are shaping up for the new record and plans for 2009 to be their year.

‘This is our chance for us to defy gravity once again, ‘ explains Bono, calling in from a break in recording sessions in the south of France. ‘ We have what it takes, we have the songs, new rhythms and a guitar player who is not ready to re-enter earth’s atmosphere until he’s taken a slice of the moon!

‘It’s been fun, it’s been maddening… there have been injuries and recoveries, no babies born that I know of, but this one is nearly ready for the new year of 2009.’

The band have been writing and recording the follow-up to ‘How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb’ since last year, and the feeling is that they’ve hit a creative groove so there are no plans to stop. Everyone, he says, is excited about where the recording is taking them.

‘When we set out on this record it was Larry who came up with the plan not to have a plan. He put up this idea that wouldn’t it be great just to make music for its own sake, not for the purpose of a live show or on album but just to see what we’re capable of…’

It’s an idea that’s paid off. Following sessions in Morocco, in Dublin and through the summer in France, the band have written ‘fifty or sixty’ tracks. And counting.

‘We’ve hit a rich songwriting vein,’ he explains. ‘It gets a bit dark down here but looks like we’ve found diamonds not coal. I thought a while back we might have the album wrapped by now, but why come up above ground now if there’s more priceless stuff to be found?

For now, they’re keeping a promise they made to themselves when they started writing: ‘We said to each other that if we got to the great place then we wouldn’t stop…’

So the writing and recording continues and while they now know what shape most of the album will take, they’re not leaving the studio just yet.

‘We know we have to emerge soon but we also know that people don’t want another U2 album unless it is our best ever album. It has to be our most innovative, our most challenging … or what’s the point ?’

They have no doubts that it will be as important a release for U2 as any. ‘It’s a brand new chapter for us, and everyone we’ve played the tracks to has said that musically it feels like another departure.

‘The last two records were very personal, with a kind of three piece at their heart, the primary colours of rock – bass, guitars and drum. But what we’re about now is of the same order as the transition that took us from The Joshua Tree to Achtung Baby.’

He also mentions that the recording in Morocco was the first time the band have worked in a studio open to the sky: ‘On that track you can hear the sound of a swallows nest close to the building – it’s beautiful.’

Longtime collaborators Danny Lanois and Brian Eno have joined the band at different times, and, more recently, Steve Lillywhite – usually a tell-tale sign that a record is nearly done. ‘Steve has that ear for a top line melody and a good hook.’

But while Bono is itching to get the music out he says it’s going to be early 2009 when we first get to hear the songs.

‘I’m always the one who underestimates how easy it is to simply ‘put out the songs now’, if it was just up to me they’d be out already! But early next year people will be able to start hearing what we’ve been doing. We want 2009 to be our year, so we’re going to start making an impression very early on …’



If you twist and turn away.
If you tear yourself in two again.
If I could, yes I would
If I could, I would let it go.
Surrender, dislocate.

If I could throw this lifeless life-line to the wind.
Leave this heart of clay, see you walk, walk away
Into the night, and through the rain
Into the half light and through the flame.

If I could, through myself, set your spirit free
I’d lead your heart away, see you break, break away
Into the light and to the day.

To let it go and so to find away.
To let it go and so find away.
I’m wide awake.
I’m wide awake, wide awake.
I’m not sleeping.

If you should ask, then maybe
They’d tell you what I would say
True colours fly in blue and black
Blue silken sky and burning flag.
Colours crash, collide in blood-shot eyes.

If I could, you know I would
If I could, I would let it go.

This desperation, dislocation
Separation, condemnation
Revelation, in temptation
Isolation, desolation
Let it go and so to find away
To let it go and so to find away
To let it go and so to find away

I’m wide awake, I’m wide awake, wide awake
I’m not sleeping
Oh no, no, no.

Lyrics by U2

I know it is widely acknowledged that this song is about Gareth Spaulding who was a friend of Bono that died because of a heroin overdose: “I wrote the words about a friend of mine, his name was Gareth Spaulding. And on his twentyfirst birthday he and his friends decided to give themselves a present of enough heroine into his veins to kill him. This song is called ‘Bad'” (comments Bono made at a show in Sweden in 1987). However, I cannot escape a simultaneous connection with the experience of the apostle Peter after he tried to protect Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. “Where in the world are you getting that?” you may ask. Well, picking up on the Judas experience in “Until the End of the World” from Achtung Baby, I thought it wouldn’t be strange for Bono to identify failings and regrets of others around Jesus, particularly those viewed positively. What really hit me was the refrain “I’m wide awake, I’m not sleeping”. At first, I began to think of the Transfiguration, where Peter, James, and John fell asleep praying (see Luke 9:30-33). But then I also thought of the other occurrence of sleeping during prayer while they were in the Garden (see Luke 22:44-46). Thus, I got the thought that perhaps “Bad” was Peter rehearsing after the fact what he would do if he could do it again. He had limited his scope on Jesus and the nature of his kingdom to the extent that in both of the events mentioned above, he ends up making suggestions that in restrospect are so bone-headed both of which are intended to keep Jesus around rather than let him go. Anyway, that seemed to fit with the verbage of the song, particularly the fact that he was now “wide awake”. Perhaps I’m wacked out, but Bono is accustomed to weaving different layers into his lyrics so I personally wouldn’t put it past him. I also wouldn’t bank on it. But, whatever.

I Have Found What I’m Looking For


Thanks to Jonathan Dodson, I have been informed about the above book, Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas. I purchased it as soon as I read his blog and have been enthralled with it eversince. So, if you are sick about reading me write about Bono, this is probably your cue to exit. One of the reasons I’ve been interested in this book is because, as Jonathan points out, Bono’s suprisingly good theology comes out. Michka is an Italian journalist that discovered U2 back in ’78 before they were anything. He met the band and followed them a little while during his stint for a French music column. He didn’t meet with them again until after they had made it big, and they kept in touch since then. The book chronicles the conversations he had with Bono over the past 3-4 years. This includes both face-to-face and phone chats. The proceeding comes from p.203ff. The bold print is Michka, as it appears in the book and the normal font is Bono’s response.

Just for the last time, I would kike to go back to our tour of the dark side of religion. Appalling things seem to happen when people become religous at too early an age or when their experience of life is nonexistent. Don’t you think?

Zealots often have no love for the world. They’re just getting through it to the next one. It’s a favorite topic. It’s the old cliche: “Eat shit now, pie in the sky when you die.” But I take Christ at his word: “On Earth as it is in Heaven.” As to the first part of your question, in my experience, the older you get, the less chance you have to transform your life, the less open you are to love in a challenging way. You tend towards love that’s more comforting and safe.

As I told you, I think I am beginning to understand religion because I started acting and thinking like a father. What do you make of that?

Yes, I think that’s normal. It’s a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the Universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.

I haven’t heard you talk about that.

I really believe we’ve moved out the of the realm of Karma into one of Grace.

Well, that doesn’t make it clearer for me.

You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics-in physical laws-every action is met by an equal or opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the Universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “As you reap, so will you sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.

I’d be interested to hear that.

That’s between me and God. But I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge, I’d be in deep shit. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiousity.

The son of God who takes away the sins of the world. I wish I could believe in that.

But I love the idea of the Sacrficial Lamb. I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there’s mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let’s face it, you’re not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to your actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out does not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That’s the point. It should keep us humbled…It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of Heaven.

That’s enough for now, more to come soon. Discuss…

Mysterious Reflection


Johnny take a walk with your sister the moon
Let her pale light in to fill up your room
You’ve been living underground
Eating from a can
You’ve been running away
From what you don’t understand…

She’s slippy
You’re sliding down
She’ll be there when you hit the ground

It’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright
She moves in mysterious ways
It’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright
She moves in mysterious ways

Johnny take a dive with your sister in the rain
Let her talk about the things you can’t explain
To touch is to heal
To hurt is to steal
If you want to kiss the sky
Better learn how to kneel

(on your knees boy)

She’s the wave
She turns the tide
She sees the man inside the child

It’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright
She moves in mysterious ways
It’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright
She moves in mysterious ways
It’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright
Lift my days, light up my nights

One day you will look…back
And you’ll see…where
You were held…how
By this love…while
You could stand…there
You could move on this moment
Follow this feeling

It’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright
She moves in mysterious ways
It’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright
She moves in mysterious ways
It’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright

We move through miracle days
Spirit moves in mysterious ways
She moves with it
She moves with it
Lift my days, light up my nights

So read the lyrics of “Mysterious Ways” by U2. I’ve been puzzled by this song for a while, trying to figure out who “she” was. Is it his wife, or women in general? I think I finally cracked this one. In listening to “Grace” on All You Can’t Leave Behind, Bono says, “Grace, it’s a name for a girl, it’s also a thought that changed the world”. I think this is undoubtedly referring to the grace of God, as would be consistent with christian orthodoxy. But it seems that just like wisdom in Proverbs 8 is personified as a woman, so Bono has taken grace and personified it as a woman (as Kalila would say, it is like the pagan personification of “Genius” and the like). This tipped me off to look for a more parabolic, illustrative alternative to understanding “Mysterious Ways”. Even in the first stanza, “You’ve been running from what you don’t understand…Love”. Thus, I think Love/Grace is what moves in mysterious ways, much like in William Cowper’s Hymn, “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”. I think this understanding beautifly illuminates the song and has fed me time and again since I’ve thought of it that way. I do believe this is what Bono intended. The worship theme is woven right in “…better learn how to kneel (on your knees boy)”.