Grace Inside A Sound: Exploring U2’s New Horizon « The Institute of Evangelism

Henry VanderSpek of World Vision Canada, who will be giving a paper at the U2 conference in a few weeks, writes to share a link to his new piece on NLOTH, marking the start of the North American 360 Tour. Grace Inside A Sound: Exploring U2’s New Horizon does a fine job of running through the work's big themes and makes some interesting comments on particular songs as well.

Excerpt: "No Line on the Horizon, the album, begins in an unusual spot for U2. While the band’s past few albums start in a broken world but lead the listener to spiritual safety (see album-closing songs like 'Grace' and 'Yahweh'), NLOTH turns this approach upside down. The title track bursts open the album with a mix of heavy guitar, drums and Dr. Who-like sonic effects that conjure a sense of racing over a body of water—fitting, given the album’s cover art of merging sea and sky. Bono’s wavering vocals express how 'infinity is a great place to start' and 'time is irrelevant, not linear.' Bono has described 'No Line on the Horizon' as that place where the earth meets the sky, and possibilities seem infinite. U2 drew near to this space in songs like 'Gloria' (from the album October) and 'Where the Streets Have No Name' (from The Joshua Tree), but here they’ve gone deeper, crossed a line (no pun intended) and reached an altogether different place. Hints of that somewhere different can be found in Bono’s recent comparison of NLOTH to The Beatles’ White Album... [keep reading]"

1 comment:

Chip said...

This is a fine, thought-provoking essay, particularly relating to the author's idea of the album's arc moving from Heaven to the messiness of Earth. I can go with that to a degree, but if you take out the middle section, I think we have an album arcing back on itself more positively than VaderSpek sees, though sometimes ironically. "Unknown Caller" is balanced by "Fez -- Being Born," with the same accident analogy. "Moment of Surrender's" ultimate release through surrender is ironically counterbalanced by the doubt of "White as Snow," a song whose speaker is a soldier and, hence, trained for war. (And do the two brothers provide a rough counterpart to the husband/wife or lovers in "Moment"? I just thought of that.) On a more positive note, both "Magnificent" and "Breathe" use imagery of breathing in different expressions of gratefulness to God, even though both speakers' lives are filled with difficulty. (Yeah, the difficulty is more pronounced in "Breathe.") Finally, both "No Line on the Horizon" and "Cedars of Lebanon" invite us to look into infinity -- "No Line" horizontally, and "Cedars" vertically. ("Where are you in the cedars of Lebanon?")

The middle section, it seems to me, does not contain this arc, but rather acts as a practical commentary on the beginning and ending sections.

I posted at least one of these thoughts (the "No Line"/"Cedars" comparison) on this blog back when the album first came out. Then, as now, the magnificent structure of NLOTH still grabs me most of all.