Saturday, June 14, 2014

Not One of Us

I have always had an instinctive distrust of message songs. Music all by itself is so inherently powerful that grafting a political statement on top of it runs the risk of sliding into propaganda mighty easily. That's one of the reasons it took me so long to give U2 a fair shake, despite having more or less theoretically similar values.

And yet I've always loved this, thanks to its context in the place of Peter Gabriel's finest LP, surrounded as it is by songs sung from the point of view of a nasty home invader, an assassin, a prisoner of war and an inmate in an insane asylum, amongst others.

Most of all, however, it's the deftness of the writing.

It's only water in a stranger's tear

is an amazing line, as it could come from a literal sociopath or, more likely, is simply analogous to the rationalization that the majority of the western world's population employs as a way of getting through the day. Yes, the fact that my electronics are made by children in third world sweatshops is horrible, it is, it really is, but if I don't have 24-7 access to my work emails I'll lose my job and won't be able to put food on my family. And if there's a more sadly cogent, concise summation of the social experience of human than

How can we be in if there is no outside?

I've yet to hear it.

Plus, of course, it's got the beat, the beat, the beat.

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