This is probably one of the more striking songs off the disk. The opening is strong, and a bit confusing lyrically the first time you hear it. Check out the video from Letterman if you don’t know what I’m talking about.
Musically, there are some really cool things going on in this song. I really like the intro with the toms, the tamborine, the feedback and the strings. I love the cello all throughout the song. It’s not the typical use of a cello on a rock album – usually bands pull it out for the soaring ballad when they need something that sounds slightly more sophistocated. Not U2, they throw it in one of the more rocking songs on the disc and use it in some less-than-traditional ways. The guitar is great… some great U2 tones in there with some really smart lines from the Edge. I feel like the Edge is also singing more on this album, and this song is no exception. Maybe it’s just that the BGV’s are mixed farther forward, but I like it. The song feels a bit less pop because of it (less overproduced?), but it’s still got a great clean feel.
The bridge is definately one of the best musical moments on the album for me. When the guitar drops out and leaves it to the piano and the cellos with the slide down at the end of the phrases… it’s just great. The tom build back in and then a nice simple solo that rocks straight into the next pre-chorus. There’s something nice about the lack of overtracking guitars in this song, the way that the solo doesn’t just fade into the background as another track picks up the slack… it makes the song way more believable and somehow seems to make it rock more.
Lyrically, there are lots of interesting things going on. The first half of the first and second verses paint such great pictures. What exactly they mean is a bit up in the air, but it’s so abstract and detailed in the right ways that I can’t help but be rivetted every time I hear it. What are the other two things we need to know? What the heck is going on with the cockatoo? Is there some signifigance to June 16th? I don’t really know, but by the time Bono gets to the prechorus, I’m definately listening.
“Every day I die again / and again I’m reborn” I’m trying hard not to find redemptive and biblical messages in most of this album, but I think they’re just there. “There’s nothing you have that I need” Despite the fact that “Breathe” may be one of the most popular song titles in existance (second to “home”), I think Bono’s getting at the way that we don’t need to be afraid of people. In fact, it doesn’t really matter what people think, whether you’re afraid of them to begin with or not.
Both musically and lyrically, this song is refreshing. The contrast between the detailed and confusing verses and the straightforward soaring chorus with a message of hope is great. I know that feeling, and this song does a great job of musically encapsulating it.
“I’ve found grace inside a sound / I’ve found grace it’s all I’ve found / I can breathe”