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Music / War (U2 Album)

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Say it's true, it's true, and we can break through
Though torn in two, we can be one.
I can't believe the news today
Oh, I can't close my eyes and make it go away
How long, how long must we sing this song?
How long? How long?
'Cause tonight we can be as one, tonight

Broken bottles under children's feet
Bodies strewn across the dead end streets
But I won't heed the battle call
It puts my back up, puts my back up against the wall
"Sunday Bloody Sunday"

War is the third studio album recorded by Irish rock band U2. It was released through Island Records on 28 February 1983.

At the time it surprised many for being a New Sound Album where the band grew the beard as songwriters. Many songs were very political, and directly referred to the civil war in Northern Ireland.

Commercially, War went double-Platinum in the United Kingdom, and quadruple-Platinum in the United States, selling 11 million copies worldwide. When it became U2's first #1 album on the Official Charts Company album chart in the UK, it toppled Michael Jackson's Thriller. It peaked at #12 on the Billboard 200 album chart.

The album spawned three singles: "New Year's Day", "Two Hearts Beat as One", and "Sunday Bloody Sunday". The first two each peaked at #2 in Ireland, their highest showing yet in their home country, and were Top 20 hits in the UK (#10 and #18, respectively).

Not to be confused with the band of the same name, or the 1970 song of the same name by The Temptations.


Side One

  1. "Sunday Bloody Sunday" (4:38)
  2. "Seconds" (3:09)
  3. "New Year's Day" (5:38)
  4. "Like a Song..." (4:48)
  5. "Drowning Man" (4:12)

Side Two

  1. "The Refugee" (3:40)
  2. "Two Hearts Beat as One" (4:00)
  3. "Red Light" (3:46)
  4. "Surrender" (5:34)
  5. "40" (2:36)

Principal Members:

  • Bono - lead vocals, guitar
  • Adam Clayton - bass
  • The Edge - guitar, backing and lead vocals, piano, bass ("40")
  • Larry Mullen Jr. - drums

"I can't believe the tropes today":

  • Album Title Drop: While the album's title is fitting, the word is only mentioned in a line in "The Refugee" (the plural form, "wars," is heard in "New Year's Day").
  • Apathetic Citizens: "Sunday, Bloody Sunday"
    And it's true we are immune
    When fact is fiction and TV reality
    And today the millions die
    We eat and drink while tomorrow they die!
  • Arc Words and Book Ends: Both the anti violence/war songs "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "40" ask the question:
    How long must we sing this song?
  • As the Good Book Says...: "40" has lyrics based on Psalm 40 of the Bible.
    I waited patiently for the Lord
    He inclined and heard my cry
    He brought me up out of the pit
    Out of the miry clay
  • Atomic Hate: "Seconds".
    Push the button and pull the plug
    Say goodbye, oh, oh, oh
    Fall, rise and...Fall, rise and...
    And they're doing the atomic bomb
    Do they know where the dance comes from?
  • Black-and-White Morality: "Two Hearts Beat As One" attacks this mindset.
    I don't know
    I don't know which side I'm on
    I don't know my right from left
    Or my right from wrong
    Say I'm a fool
    You say I'm not for you
    But if I'm a fool for you
    Oh, that's something
    (...) I don't know
    How to say what's got to be said
    I don't know if it's black or white
    There's others see it red
    I don't get the answers right
    I'll leave that to you
    • "Like A Song..." attacks this even more pointedly (see the War Is Hell quote below).
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: "Surrender"
    Sadie said she couldn't work out
    What it was all about
    And so she let go
    Now Sadie's on the street
    And the people she meets you know
    She tried to be a good girl and a good wife
    Raise a good family
    Lead a good life
    It's not good enough
    She got herself up on the 48th floor
    Gotta find out
    Find out what she's living for
  • Heavy Meta: "Like a Song"
    Like a song I have to sing
    I sing it for you
  • Music at Sporting Events: The Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League play "Sunday Bloody Sunday" before all Sunday home games. The Als do this as a tribute to the band's unintended role in franchise history. A U2 concert at the team's then-current home of Stade Olympique forced them to move a 1997 playoff game to the smaller Stade Percival-Molson. A sellout crowd and a more intimate atmosphere led the Als to permanently move to Molson the next year (with occasional games at Olympique).
  • New Sound Album: Compared to their earlier albums, this record was way more political and confrontational; musically, the songs incorporate aggressive drumbeats and distorted guitars.
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Drowning Man" and "40" (the latter being the number of the psalm it was based on).
  • One-Man Song: "Drowning Man".
  • One-Word Title: "War", but also the songs "Seconds" and "Surrender".
  • Pep-Talk Song: "New Year's Day", where the arrival of a new year is seen as a way to "begin again". "Drowning Man" also has an upbeat message
    Take my hand
    You know I'll be there
    If you can
    I'll cross the sky for your love
    Give you what I hold dear
  • The Power of Love: "Two Hearts Beat As One" and "Red Light".
    • Also "Drowning Man":
      The storms will pass
      It won't be long now
      The storms will pass
      But my love lasts forever
  • Protest Song: "Sunday Bloody Sunday" aimed at The Troubles in Northern Ireland, directly referencing the bloodbath of January 30, 1972 in Derry, Northern Ireland when 26 civil rights protesters and bystanders were shot dead by British soldiers. "New Year's Day" was inspired by the Polish solidarity movement which came into blossom in 1980 and provided a stance against the communist government.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: "Sunday Bloody Sunday"
    And it's true we are immune
    When fact is fiction and TV reality
  • Ripped from the Headlines:
    • This album directly references the civil war and religious wars that have divided Northern Ireland for decades. This was a very mature and commercially risky subject to tackle for a rock band, but U2 actually managed to get people talking about the subject. Yet, as Bono said himself on their Live Album "Under A Blood Red Sky", before playing "Sunday Bloody Sunday".
      There's been a lot of talk about this next song, maybe too much talk.
    • "New Year's Day" was inspired by the Polish anti-Soviet trade union Solidarity, which was a major focus of international coverage of the Eastern Bloc.
  • Shout-Out: "Seconds" contains a clip from the 1982 documentary "Soldier Girls".
  • Special Guest: The female singers from Kid Creole and the Coconuts, best known for "Annie I'm Not Your Daddy", performed backing vocals on three of the tracks ("Like A Song", "Surrender", and "Red Light"), with their trumpet player (Kenny Fradley) appearing on the latter.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: The Edge sings the first two stanzas of "Seconds".
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: "Seconds", which deals with the fact that terrorism can strike anywhere at any time and anyone can die.
    Takes a second to say goodbye
    Say goodbye, oh, oh, oh
    It takes a second to say goodbye
    Say goodbye, oh, oh, oh, say bye bye
    Where you going to now?
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: The child on the album cover, who consequently was the brother of a friend of Bono.
  • Time Marches On: "Seconds" mentions the USSR, which dissolved in 1991.
  • Title-Only Chorus: "Sunday Bloody Sunday," "Surrender" and "Two Hearts Beat as One."
  • War Is Hell: A huge theme
    • "Sunday Bloody Sunday".
      And the battle's just begun
      There's many lost, but tell me who was won?
      The trench is dug within our hearts
      And mothers, children, brothers, sisters torn apart!
    • "The Refugee""
      Her papa go to war
      He gonna fight
      But he don't know what for?
    • "Like A Song"
      And we love to wear a badge, a uniform
      And we love to fly a flag
      But I won't...let others live in hell
      As we divide against each other
      And we fight amongst ourselves
      Too set in our ways to try to rearrange
      Too right to be wrong, in this rebel song

How long, do we sing this song...?
How long, do we sing this song...?
How long, do we sing this song...?