U2 released their third album, War, on February 28, 1983. Admittedly, I was rather young at the time when this album originally came out, so my exposure to it didn’t come until I was older. I first had a real interest in U2 in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and I heard some of the songs on this album in recurrent play on radio and on MTV. I would gain an exposure to the full album in the mid-to-late 1990s through my husband.
War leads off with “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” and it was released as the third single from the album. One of the defining features of this song musically is the militaristic sounding percussion. Lyrically, the song focuses on the Bloody Sunday incident in Derry where civil rights marchers were killed by British troops. This is followed by “Seconds,” which has a strong message about the manipulation of people, as well as touching on the atomic bomb.
The next song on War is “New Year’s Day,” and it was the lead-off single for the album. Lyrically, the song is about the Polish Solidarity movement. Musically, the song features a distinctive bassline, as well as a prominent keyboard sound. Next is “Like a Song…,” which features very heavy percussion; lyrically, it’s an anti-fighting song.
“Drowning Man” is the next song on the album, and it’s one of the slower songs on War. Also, unlike a lot of the songs on the album, the lyrics of “Drowning Man” focus more on love than on politics. This is followed by “The Refugee,” which picks the pace of the album back up. Production-wise, this song sounds like it was recorded in the early 1980s; also, it has a “lighter” sound when compared to many of the other songs on the album.
The next song on War is “Two Hearts Beat as One,” and it was released as the second single from the album. Musically, the song features a very prominent bassline. This is followed by “Red Light,” which has the lighter-sounding production quality that’s heard on “The Refugee.” Lyrically, this is another song that focuses more on love than on politics.
“Surrender” is another slower song, and it’s the longest song on the album. It’s a song about living in the city, and how sometimes you have to “die in order to live.” The final song on War is “”40”,” and it’s the shortest song on the album. The lyrics to the song are based on Psalm 40. Musically, it’s a slower, more minimal song; it’s the perfect song to end an album with.
Sonically, the War album flows together very well. After hearing the political messages on this album, it really comes as no surprise how Bono became involved with political and humanitarian issues in more recent years. If you’re just getting into U2, I would definitely recommend listening to War to get a feel for the band’s early years.