Rubberband Reforming

fame is coming closer
like a new dawn rising…
a phoenix rising from the ashes of a few discarded cigars

Rubber Band, our early 80’s band is reforming,
our one true song: the B-52s’ Planet Claire…
it goes without saying that if we had written and recorded it
we would have been better than them

fame was within our reach
on paper we had more talent than
Larry’s kitchen gathering Hype (U2),
but the songs had already been written
and we were not hungry enough
Timaru was not Dublin (or Atlanta)
(though we did go to school with The Exponents’ Brian Jones)

we went our separate ways
all that promise unfulfilled

but wait – there’s more
watch this space
crack open the Steinies  This song was made for Tony’s voice and it is as if he is singing it

U2 Songs of Innocence videos

I’ve enjoyed catching glimpses of some of the commissioned videos U2 have asked various  street artists to make… four of my favourite songs are wonderfully depicted…

Paper Magazine – “This Is Where You Can Find Me Now” by DALeast is amazing


Nowness – “Raised by Wolves” by Vhils – images below…

 wolves1 wolves4 wolves3

Juxtapoz – “The Troubles” by Todd James is a visual feast… wonderfully illustrating that the trouble is you!


Rolling Stone – “Sleep Like A Baby” by ROA is disturbing, just like the song.

Great stuff!!!

Songs of Innocence 3: Every Breaking Wave

I’ve just been watching Bono and U2 performing Every Breaking Wave on BBC2:

U2 Every Breaking Wave

U2 Every Breaking Wave

A stunning version – Bono’s voice arguably at its best ever.

I am still getting my head around the meaning – it reminds me of Pop’s Staring At The Sun – people chasing after what looks like it matters but it doesn’t really matter and thereby missing the point.
With Every Breaking Wave this line stands out for me… “I thought I heard the captain’s voice, it’s hard to listen while you preach, like every broken wave on the shore, this is as far as I could reach.”

I hear this as a call to humility for those who preach or wander around with their lists of certitudes about God.
One, we only think we hear The Captain’s voice, we still have to take care that we offer caution when we think we hear things clearly – the voice is not often clear – if it was we would become tyrants!  I think that God and God alone is able to bear such power and remain healthy – the technique being dying to self!

Two, it is hard to listen when you are doing the talking and have centre stage… be careful if a community has given you authority to speak.  I figure this has been Bono’s hardest lesson given who he cavorts with!  There’s a great story of Bono meeting Archbishop Desmond Tutu and suggesting that ‘Arch’ must have his prayer time squeezed with all he does… Tutu’s reply was that he has to pray longer given what responsibility he carries – in other words – if you are preaching you have to double the listening. ‘One mouth, two ears’ is one of my personal mottoes that I generally fail to keep!

Three: whatever we think we know about God is incredibly limited.  We cannot reach further than what the breaking wave can up the shoreline… we have to live with that and reckon with that – but it is enough.  Another of my mottoes is – ‘I don’t know much but I know enough to know’ – but I admit it is barely enough – thus before those limits I am called to be humble and careful; to listen and to know my limitations.

Great song!

Songs of Innocence 2: The Troubles


Apparently U2 are working on another album called Songs of Experience – it seems as if they have prepared listeners for this with the bittersweet tone of the last group of Songs of Innocence.  The album starts buoyantly but ends with some haunting themes – one (in Sleep Like A Baby Tonight) is clergy abuse – two (in The Troubles) is domestic violence. The haunting chant sung by Swedish singer Lykke Li says it all…’Somebody stepped inside your soul, little by little they robbed and stole till someone else was in control.’  It is so utterly sad and the musicality provides the perfect platform for this haunting.  Yet it is also hopeful – Bono wrestles hope from the chant – ‘I have a will for survival’ – ‘God knows it’s not easy taking on the shape of someone else’s pain, God now you can see me, I’m naked and I’m not afraid, my body’s sacred and I’m not ashamed.’  Beautiful hope!  I guess that the strange album cover with Larry protecting his son indicates why the band have embarked on this theme – when U2 were young they were aware of being surrounded by various forms of violence. Maybe they are bringing the past into the light in the hope of a better day for their children’s generation.  I wonder how Songs of Experience will deal with the difference between hope and reality – especially in an Ireland that is economically hard-hit in a similar way to when they were young.

Songs of Innocence 1: Sleep Like A Baby Tonight

U2 Time

I’ve been enjoying U2’s Songs of Innocence album – kindly donated into my life by Apple!  There is so much to enthuse about. The standout track for me so far is Sleep Like A Baby Tonight.  Musically is has a lilting lullaby-like style – mellow… but there is a deep dark element of menace in it that The Edge manages to capture with some simple but astounding guitar work.  The lead guitar solo late in the piece sounds as if he is channeling an old African-American playing mournful blues on his muted trumpet – rich, wide, sad, broken. The sense of menace in the music is reflective of what informed the writing of the song – the clergy sexual abuse of children and young adults that has transpired to have been a dark undercurrent in the church the the years that shaped and formed this group of men into a band.  It may not have impacted them individually but it impacted the lives of many around them and thereby shaped them.
Here is Bono’s reflection on this song: “Some can live with cruelty and abuse. Some have to… When the children of any church aren’t served, but are instead enslaved by an abuse of power, extraordinary acts of atonement are required to put things back together. Honesty is just the starting point…secrets can make you sick. Ireland in the ‘70s was a tough place.”
The menace,captured so well in the lyrics and the music, makes this song extraordinary.  It is one thing to rage with loud chords and angry vocals – but to reflect the menace gently and patiently but pointedly indicates the depth of wisdom that U2 are tapping into this album.

Gavin Friday’s version of ‘the fly’

I’m enjoying Q magazine’s cd of U2’s Achtung Baby covers that arrived in the post this week after a fairly hair-raising process of securing the cd with the magazine as this was a UK only thing.

The Q magazine December issue marks the 20 years since the groundbreaking release of AB, and arranged a series of artists to do the songs in the same sequence.

the CD is named: “AHK-toong BAY-bi Covered” and is a mixed bag with Gavin Friday’s version of The Fly an early standout as are the songs at the close of the album as listed below…

10. Ultraviolet (Light My Way) The Killers 4:53
11. Acrobat Glasvegas 4:08
12. Love Is Blindness Jack White 3:20

The grand thing with Gavin Friday doing The Fly cover is that as a friend of Bono’s since they were young, he was also a key collaborator with the Zoo TV tour where The Fly was one of the best acts of the whole show.

Of course these covers are not even close to being better than the real thing but it is interesting to hear what people do with songs like these 20 years on.

Achtung Baby lyrics by U2 that have stood out (to this preacher at least) Part 1

Theme #1: Life is for living – it is a foundational attitude I have  learned to allow, cultivate, and nurture.  It is, in my opinion, the fruit of ‘God with us.’

“I’m ready, I’m ready for what’s next
I’m ready to duck, I’m ready to dive
I’m ready to say ‘I’m glad to be alive’” Zoo Station

Theme #2: I don’t think that the Christian life is all that well served by those who skate lightly and don’t acknowledge that which they wrestle with deep inside.  It is not all joy, it is the way of truth!

“Let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind…” Romans 12

“Well, my heart is where it’s always been
My head is somewhere in between
Give me one last dance, we’ll slide down the surface of things.”
Even Better Than the Real Thing

Theme: I never said I was happy when Achtung Baby came out, just happy that it came out!  There is a lot of pain in the world of people.

“Did I ask too much
More than a lot
You gave me nothing
Now it’s all I got
You say love is a temple
Love a higher law
Love is a temple
Love the higher law
You ask me to enter but then you make me crawl.” One

Theme: There’s a Judas in all of us

“I took the money
I spiked your drink
You miss too much these days if you stop to think
You led me on with those innocent eyes
You know I love the element of surprise
In the garden I was playing the tart
I kissed your lips and broke your heart
You, you were acting like it was the end of the world.”  
And then:
“In my dream I was drowning my sorrows
But my sorrows, they learned to swim
Surrounding me, going down on me spilling over the brim
Waves of regret and waves of joy
I reached out for the one I tried to destroy
You, you said you’d wait
‘Til the end of the world.”  Until The End Of The World

Add on of interest: “The song was written at the same time as one of Ireland’s greatest poets, Brendan Kennelly, was writing his great ‘Book Of Judas,’ a series of poems about the betrayal of Christ. It was an epic coincidence, because I was given the poems to review after the album was  finished. The whole Zoo TV tour that followed owes much to one of Brendan Kennelly’s great lines: ‘the best way to serve the age is to betray it.’ That became our theme for the next couple years, to do everything U2 weren’t supposed to do. We had a deep-seated belief that the spirit of the band was true enough and strong enough and imperishable enough to not rely on an obvious guitar sounds or signatures to come through. It would come through anyways. It would come through a thick prison wall.” – Bono, U2 By U2 2006

20 years since U2’s Achtung Baby

I love so much of U2’s music but rate 1991’s Achtung Baby as the most influential music album by any musicians by quite some distance.

The combination of raw music, the band stepping out of their comfort zone into a whole new frontier musically, the artistic concepts in the themes, and the ability to identify the media as a wayward principality and power has made this album the single most significant influence on my work as a preacher.

I remember the night after the ZooTV televised event was broadcast in New Zealand on a Saturday night two years later that I went back to my computer and totally changed the next day’s sermon.

In 1993 I recall trying to explain the influence of AB on my preaching to my spiritual director, Mary Concanon, a wonderful Roman Catholic nun – she was totally mystified yet also keen to try to understand.  Looking back I am not sure that I understand, I guess it is something like what any artist would describe as inspiration – the boldness, brazenness, wrestling with God, along with the worldliness, all spoke to me.  Nothing since by U2 or anyone has had as much an impact on me.

So to celebrate the 20 years I have purchased the box set commemoration thingee and heard today that it is in the post!  It includes a movie on the making of the album and several other lovely U2 things which I am sure to wax on about in the weeks ahead.

Favourite songs… here is the track list with my number rating to the right (only one song I find to be average see the * and there is only one that I have always disliked see the !)

Zoo Station (6)
Even better than the real thing (3)
One (1)
Until the end of the world (2)
Who’s gonna ride your wild horses (11)!
So cruel (8)
The fly (4) the absolute highlight live on ZooTV
Mysterious ways (5)
Tryin’ to throw your arms around the world (10)*
Ultra violet (light my way) (10) nice to see this pop up again last year
Acrobat (7)
Love is blindness (9)