Reviewed by John Cheek
The album which made number one in the UK charts on its release in 1983, here remastered and expanded. By the time this, their third album, was released, U2 had already split-up: at least, in the minds of Bono and The Edge. For a fortnight during the previous summer, the singer and particularly the guitarist could no longer reconcile being Christians and being in a band. Once The Edge had decided to quit, it became increasingly clear to him what the right path was. The seeds of their next record and possibly their future, musically, were sown in this brief "death". Certainly, the opening track of 'War' was birthed at this time: the group's statement at that point, on matters of faith, politics - and sectarian Ireland - it proved to be the Anarchy In The UK or the My Generation of the (now closing) post-punk period and so controversial were it's lyrics, "Sunday Bloody Sunday" was pulled from release as a single on either side of the Irish Sea. It also featured a clear identification with the hope found in Jesus Christ. The whole record displayed the same assured, defiant optimism. Looking back, 'War''s intentional back-to-basics spirit, far from being the bombastic, irony-free collection that it's sometimes been painted as, actually contains elements of the "wallpaper music' which it set-out to oppose - read new romantic horns, flashes of funk, female backing singers. The stunning single which was "New Year's Day" would, in later years, be sampled and taken back into the charts by several dance acts. But it was the poignant, meditative "Drowning Man" and "40" - inspired by Psalm 40 - that would most mark the group out as unique talents. The second CD here offers up a few interesting rarities and suggests that apart from the album itself, the U2 cupboard was otherwise bare. But 'War' was enough.
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