The #MDW foreign policy mixtape: #MemorialDay

Here’s a great #MDW reflection by Stephen Kinder on his foreign policy mixtape:

U2 is named after an American spy plane that was at the center of a major Cold War confrontation. That means it belongs on my life list.

I follow bands whose names evoke the history of American foreign policy. This hobby gives me a window into modern music, assuring that my tastes don’t stagnate. When I attend a concert by one of these bands, I rarely know whether I’m going to hear reggae, folk-rock, or something frightfully new. It doesn’t matter. Staring at my ticket, I reflect on the band’s name and what it means. After the concert, I add that band to my life list.

America’s 120-year adventure in the wider world is a fascinating narrative, but few Americans know it. Reminders of our past conflicts crop up in odd places. Bands that name themselves after historic events keep those events in our consciousness. They summon us to reflect in ways that mass media rarely does. It is a wonderful example — intentional or not — of pop culture evolving to fill a political void.

Read the article for historical reflections on The Maine, The Boxer Rebellion, Berlin Airlift, U2, Cold War Kids, La Sandinista, The B-52s, Napalm Death, Agent Orange, Desaparecidos, War on Drugs, and Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin.

Keep the memory alive…

soundstreamsunday: “The Three Sunrises” by U2

U2_ThreeSunrisesThe principles of exclusion, constraint, and limitation are drivers of art as much as what ends up on the canvas, and more than anything explain how U2’s “The Three Sunrises” did not make the cut of their seminal 1984 album The Unforgettable Fire.  That album, their fourth, changed the band’s trajectory by broadening their palette (thus ultimately guaranteeing their longevity).  Subduing the band’s onward-Christian-soldier martial airs without dulling its passion, producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois — who the previous year had created, along with Roger Eno, one of the great ambient masterworks in Apollo — worked at applying creative filters to make a music that was moody, introspective, less deliberate but also more whole.  The Unforgettable Fire feels more like an album with a sonic narrative than any of its predecessors.  Still, no one, not even Eno, could contain U2’s spirit or strong self-identity, and the recording sessions yielded some work with one foot still grounded in the energetic brightness characterizing their previous catalog.

In 1985, U2 stopped the show at Live Aid with a stunning, impassioned performance of the song “Bad” from The Unforgettable Fire.  In packaging the performance for release — and here it’s important to understand the impact that Live Aid had on popular music at the time, as it was simulcast on radio and TV worldwide — the band put it on the Wide Awake in America EP along with another live track (“A Sort of Homecoming”) and two studio outtakes from The Unforgettable Fire sessions. “Love Comes Tumbling” shares the twilit moodiness of the album it didn’t end up on, but “The Three Sunrises”  is both farewell and greeting, a simple effusion of a youthful love song wrapped in a gleeful guitar riff, its title bearing a suggestion of trinity that so bound the group, especially in its early days, to a strong Christian following.  More than this, or perhaps because of their beliefs and willingness to be moved by the Spirit, U2 was a post-punk band able to express joy like few other “serious” groups of the time, and in “The Three Sunrises” their ability to strike at the heart remained innocently undiminished.

*Above image is a detail of Larry Mullen, Jr., Adam Clayton, and Bono listening to Edge perform the riff to “The Three Sunrises,” from the documentary of the making of The Unforgettable Fire.

soundstreamsunday presents one song or live set by an artist each week, and in theory wants to be an infinite linear mix tape where the songs relate and progress as a whole. For the complete playlist, go here: soundstreamsunday archive and playlist, or check related articles by clicking on”soundstreamsunday” in the tags section above.

On the Edge of 30: U2’s THE JOSHUA TREE

Originally released March 9, 1987

Thirty years ago this month and next, U2, Brian Eno, and Daniel Lanois were putting the finishing touches on what is arguably one of the greatest rock albums ever written, THE JOSHUA TREE.  That “the album wears well,” even three decades later, would be a tragic understatement.  Frankly, though I have listened to it repeatedly over the past 29 years, THE JOSHUA TREE sounds as fresh at the end of 2016 as it did in the spring of 1987.  It’s possible that nostalgia—“the rust of memory,” as the great sociologist Robert Nisbet once proclaimed it—clouds my judgment, but I don’t think so.  Other albums from that time that meant almost as much to me then sound dreadfully tinny and dated now.

So, my continuing and continuous awestruck response to THE JOSHUA TREE can’t be complete nostalgia.

Continue reading “On the Edge of 30: U2’s THE JOSHUA TREE”

Progarchy Radio–Halloween 2016

From 1985: Oingo Boingo’s Dead Man’s Party

An appropriately bizarre episode of progarchy radio–featuring only SPOOKY songs!  Featuring Oingo Boingo, Glass Hammer, Matt Stevens, Japan, Gazpacho, Black Vines, The Cure, Steve Rothery, Steve Hackett, U2, Rush, Steven Wilson, Spock’s Beard, Advent, Mazzy Star, Cosmograf, and Simple Minds.



The Edge — Live at the Sistine Chapel

On May 1, U2’s The Edge made history by rocking the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel with Leonard Cohen’s “If It Be Your Will,” as well as U2 songs “Yahweh,” “Ordinary Love,” and “Walk on.”

Some grouches are upset that The Edge broke the rules by singing “Yahweh” (a name you’re not supposed to say out loud).

Hey, dudes, if so, still, maybe it was God’s will?

Continue reading “The Edge — Live at the Sistine Chapel”

Politics in Rock: U2 and Rush

u2 war album cover
1983.  One of the most political rock albums of all time.  And, thank God.

I want to thank Bryan, Craig, and Nick for such a civilized discussion regarding politics and art.  I also want to thank the many commentators who joined in.

I only have a personal, autobiographical, inward-looking comment.  I grew up in an extremely anti-war, pro-Catholic, libertarian household.  I’m deeply thankful to my mom, my aunts, my maternal grandmother, and the Dominican nuns for teaching me that EVERY SINGLE HUMAN LIFE (regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, religion, skin tone, etc.) matters.

Life is precious, and the good life is even more so.

Continue reading “Politics in Rock: U2 and Rush”