Monday, June 09, 2008

Zooropa (U2, 1995)

Lyrically, the album as a whole stands out; the lyrics are outlandish (very Zooropa), the similes are perfect (it's about an animal continent at least), and each time you listen to it you get something new out of it. It delivers that essentially postmodernist knockout punch you otherwise get while watching a seedy film; but Zooropa achieves this with a very clean, hyper-tidy surgical tone that's as unruly as the flowers in the forest. Though the album is not 'straight' rock, leaning more towards the experimental (it was produced by Flood, with the technician chipping in heavily to bend the traditional Eno/Lanois flavour in favour of the electronic), I consider it their best 'road rock' effort at least. (Personally this is the album I like listening to most of the time, because it does not make any demands on you at all.) There's a lot of scope for mistakes, bad things, nonsense, and of course, there are a few occasions when man rises triumphant over all else and flies his standard high in the breeze ('She's gonna dream up|The world she wants to live in|She's gonna dream of love').


The song flutters on the wings of glint; the guitar jabs produce the effect of light glittering, light bouncing off the river water, the shimmer of the sea, the shimmer of the lake in silent wind-motion. The song hangs heavily like the wind, like fog resting on water, and then and again the light bounces off, shimmering, throwing bright golden spangles of lustrous, joyous life.

Zooropa (could be the name of the girl or that of her planet) is sprightly and full of life, running from stone to stone and over brook and mountain, like an impossibly nimble-footed mountain goat, a satyr. We also think of her featureless round face singled out by the tiny antennae and the flashy, blissed-out smile. The little girl out to have the shock of her life.

Bono catches her in flight, and he takes the opportunity to pump both life and some worldly wisdom into her; it's like catching a shadow. He peps her up ('you've got the right shoes ...') and praises her spirit...and at this point that the song branches, two-headed, many-headed, and grows on us. Bono gives us the slip, the song launching tangentially in every imaginable direction, going haywire, as the guitar roll builds its high wall. It's like Bono giving us a sly smile as he hints at the possibility of this being a song sung by him at Zooropa (in which case it's the planet), and suddenly we're caught at the very post-modern crossroads with roads all leading nowhere.:
No particular placename, no particular song
I've been hiding...what am I hiding from?

She's gonna dream up the world she wants to live in
She's gonna dream of love...
...Dream of love.

This song, the video to which became a smash hit on MTV, is a nicely orchestrated tableau spat out between clenched teeth. In drawn breaths, sighs and half-breaths, The Edge spells out the curbs on personal freedom inflicted upon the celebrity by the paparazzi. (You can compare this song, which is perhaps the best in taste on this subject, with a crass song like Michael Jackson's "Scream", which is along similar lines.)

Alternatively, the song could be the baffling array of choices and proscriptions awaiting the newcomer from Zooropa. This is how she finds life on earth:
Don't work
Don't wish
Don't fish
Don't teach
Don't reach

Dirty Day

My favourite: the minimalist guitar wail filled with pathos; the lyric among his very best:
You can't even remember
What I'm trying to forget

Crowned with the damning indictment of postmodern relationships:
Get it right
There's no blood thicker than ink

Followed by this humiliating snicker:
Hear what I say
Nothing's simple as you think

And then Bono says (obviously a personal reference):
From father to son in one life
Has begun a work that's never done
This song has that rare one-off weirdness that makes it sound like a lost man's lament. I've listened to very few songs which distill just such a denouement. It's that hopeless, helpless, detached parting shot, as when you are marooned on the Moon. Yet it is sung with an ardent bigheartedness that does not implicate nor pass judgement.

We feel we're standing at that bizarre crossroads with roads leading nowhere. Bono has achieved a complete collective damning of human life and human endeavour in this wonderfully caustic song which could be between father and son, between siblings, or between spouses. All through, a chapel-like spiralling wail of the organ follows, like a trail, like an invisible ghost just seeping through the cracks, through the half-open door, spreading caustically, like ink blotting, like poison spreading, spewing its fumes wherever there's a chance for the flames to lick fodder. (Traces of Flood?)


This song has that endearing appeal that sticks you to it the first time you hear it: it is bright, yellow (don't worry about that monochrome video which they shot in perhaps a couple of hours with as much nonsense and bollocks as they could collectively pack in without bursting at the seams), fun, and very thoroughly edible. It is a breezy song about man's quest for melon (well, you know it don't you.)

In this song Bono connects almost every major discovery man has made in the Freudian vein: the wheel, the motor car, the road, the television, electronics...were all made to look for her and to look at her. The rest of the song suddenly falls wonderfully and snugly into the groove:
A man captures colour
A man likes to stare
He turns his money into light to look for her

Alternatively, it is the story of a man falling in love, only to find that his world has been turned telescopically towards and into her; and his frightful obsession with her. He sees her in everything; everything he looks at he sees just her. He sees lemon. (See-through in the sunlight.)

This was the song which initially hooked me; I have since then become a big, big lover of this record.

I've not done an online review for quite a while, I was sitting by the tube just passing time when I had this brainwave...
[1077, 4 edits]


ARUN said...

ha - the page has lost much of its (white) self-referencing now. fresh. and tempting to (t)read.
raphael gave me u2 this time, but the file seems corrupt. i shall listen to that but. must be available online, i guess. and get back here.

Zeinab said...

I liked the white, it was plain and neat. It sort of filled up on big screens (which also I liked). Why did I change? Perhaps this look and feel will change too, I don't know much about style sheets. Might get up to speed some day. In any case, I believe it's the content that matters.
File seems corrupt? It must be somethign I've given. Unless he's done something unmentionable, it shouldn't be. Check if it's a FLAC.
If you are a regular U2 fan, and if at times you have thought like Bono, you'll like Zooropa. Otherwise...well, I'll keep my fingers crossed.