New tunes and old thoughts

I’ve been listening to “How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” from U2 pretty much since it was released. As usually happens with a new album, it seems very strange at first, then slowly grows on me. And along the way I start picking up on the lyrics and picking out the various songs that I like and those that I don’t.

This album, strangely, reminds me more of “War” and “October” than it does of more recent stuff, although it is certainly a more mature sound, and less of the raw unpolished energy that was in “War”.

When I’ve not yet read the lyrics, little snips jump out at me, making me wonder about the rest. I hear the phrase “The girl with crimson nails has Jesus around her neck,” and that then becomes:

They know that they can’t dance
At least they know
I can’t stand the beats
I’m asking for the cheque
The girl with crimson nails
Has Jesus around her neck
Swinging to the music
Swinging to the music
oh oh oh

(From Vertigo)

Looking back to college and beyond, I remember a lot of girls with crimson nails and Jesus around their neck. It’s the sort of verbal picture that immediately makes a lot of sense to me, but which would be rather complicated to explain.

U2 always reminds me of a particularly embarassing incident in 10th grade. Sitting on the bus, next to a girl that, if the truth be told, I had a crush on. She’s listening to some music. I ask what it is. She give me the headphones, and I listen to a little bit of Joshua Tree. And, in the inevitable lull in general conversation, I exclaim loudly, “I *love* U2!” This is followed by dead silence, and the girl blushes deeply and doesn’t speak to me for a week.

Speaking of having Jesus around your neck, I had an interesting experience this week. I went to a “Christian” bookstore, in search of a liturgical calendar. For those of you who do not have a Christian background, or who have a Christian background that was, shall we say, light on the historical aspects of the faith, a liturgical calendar is a calendar which lists the seasons and feasts of the church, including the saints’ days from the various Christian traditions. If you didn’t know that, you’re excused. You probably have good reasons. However, the boostore staff is not excused. When I asked for a liturgical calendar, or a calendar of the church year, they didn’t know what I meant. The owner/manager said that he had never heard of such a thing, and then led me over to leather-bound planner books for pastors, complete with inspirational saying from prominent authors and politicians. When I more carefully explained what I was looking for, and having received the wrinkled-nose-we-don’t-talk-about-that look when I mentioned “Saints”, I was assured that they didn’t carry anything like *that*.

Wandering around the store afterwards, I was wholely unable to find anything particularly Christian about the store. Sure, they had Bibles. I gotta give them that. They also had inspirational books by Chuck Norris, and seemed to be pushing a lot of Bushy republican political books. Oh, yeah, and a bunch of Precious-Moments-y cherubic figurines. Most of the stuff there was wholesome values trashy novels (yes, there are “Christian” romance novels, God help us) and materials for entertaining sunday school classes. Apart from the Bible, I didn’t see any printed volume published prior to the Kennedy administration. Last time I checked, Christianity is a religion of tradition and history, and of prolific writers, and it seems very odd a Christian bookstore would be devoid of any of these writings. Christian writings from the last 50 years form little more than the foam on the cappucino. Or, I suppose Martin Luther would say, the foam on the beer. 😉 Unfortunately, I’m reasonably sure that the folks running that particular store would not catch that allusion.