On a recent radio interview with Jo Wiley, Edge spoke of the thorough work that U2 have been going through to make their eagerly anticipated new record to be as good as possible. One of the phrases he used was “intellectually vigorous.” That for me is one of the most crucial threads that makes the U2 weave so vital, relevant and that cut above the rest. As the writer of Walk On; The Spiritual Journey of U2 I would of course add spiritual depth as another thread. When the first sounds, off the yet to be named new record, were released a short time ago that intellectual and spiritual strength came through loud and clear over the Kraftwerk like electronics and robotic rhythms immersed in U2’s guitar sound, catchy melodies and anthemic repeat to fade big message!
Invisible has it all... and that little bit more. It is a song of re-humanising those who tend to be invisible to us. The obvious subjects are the those across the world suffering with AIDS that the free download of this single raised over $3million for just a few days. The message is clear that the dehumanised statistics that we have made millions of people across our world are more than we see and more than we know and we need to look again and see their bodies and souls. That lingering anthemic “fade out” nails the prophetic protest, “There is no them... There’s only us..” It is simple, profound and powerful.
The humanising is a recurring theme in U2. Original Of The Species from How To Dismantle and Atomic Bomb was about revealing to someone their specialness and Get Your Boots On from Line On The Horizon took on the same aim, “You don't know how beautiful you are...” Invisible seems to throw a wider arclight. This could be about the dalits of India, the forgotten refugees of Syria or Sudan or the disappeared of any war.
The “There is no them... there’s only us” echoed true to me in the divisions of my own city of Belfast. The two historical sides of our conflict can live in places geographically and politically where we stereotype “the other” or “them”. We need to realise that the other is more than we see and know. The only way out of division is to commit to the common good. When we see the city as about us, not about us and them, then everything can begin to change.
I often wonder what Bono is reading when he is inspired. Down the years as I have read books I have suddenly spotted a line or a phrase or an idea that resonates with a U2 song. CS Lewis, Eugene Peterson and JRR Tolkien are three such writers that I have noticed squeezing in to the U2 lyric book. Here, I am surmising that Bono has been reading Jim Wallis’s On God's Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn't Learned About Serving the Common Good. I just wonder?! Even if I am wrong it would be a great book to be reading while listening to Invisible.