[Ed. note: This is the 62nd in a series of personal essays by the @U2 staff about songs and/or albums that have had great meaning or impact in our lives.]
“One of these things is not like the other. One of these things doesn’t belong.” Those lyrics come from a segment on Sesame Street that teaches children to spot the difference. Differences are found in every facet of life, and it’s in those differences where we get to appreciate the uniqueness we bring to the planet. It’s so easy to get caught up in the mundane, and it’s even easier to settle for the easy way out.
Throughout this year, I’ve been struggling to find a balance. I used to be really good at time management, but when two toddlers throw monkey wrenches into the day constantly, I’ve found that I have had to settle for something less than ideal. As many parents can attest, as soon as the kitchen table is cleaned off it’s right back to being a cluttered mess of crayons, glitter and Legos. Most days, I try to keep in mind that they’re only toddlers and it’s what they do. It’s part of the deal of having children.
When it all gets overwhelming, I try to remember that they won’t be this age and stage for very long. The Play-Doh on the floor can be vacuumed, the Sharpie on the wall can be removed with a magic eraser, and for the most part, it’s all going to be OK. Never mind that this has added about three hours back onto my housecleaning, you know?
To pass the time, I’ll pop some music on to at least make clean-up time enjoyable. I find that Achtung Baby is a great disc to use as I can usually pace myself with it. When the anniversary edition came out, I was excited to change it up a little by listening to the B-Sides and Bonus Tracks disc. It was as if I were reacquainting myself with some old friends as most of these tracks were on the Salome outtakes. As I was getting into my groove around the house, I was brought to a sudden halt as I thought my daughter might have changed the disc on me (as she usually does).
As the quiet instrumental “Near The Island” filled the house, I felt like I was being transported out of my toy-filled living room and brought to some sort of tropical getaway or exclusive spa retreat. The peacefulness of this song felt out of place compared with all its Achtung Baby-era siblings. The piano and guitar seduced me in a way I didn’t expect. While the guitar provides the backbone, the piano presents an exploration of mood: steady, hushed, dance-like, stern (especially at the 1:08 mark), but mostly gentle. “Near The Island” has challenged me in ways I didn’t expect in that I realized that simplicity is underrated. Don’t get me wrong, as a U2 fan I do miss Adam and Larry’s touch in the song. Bono’s a great lyricist, but sometimes there’s more said when you say nothing at all.
After a day of loud toys and screaming children, I long for a change of pace. However, I know when this stage passes, I’ll long for the days of scattered Tinkertoys and puzzle pieces. “Near The Island” has allowed me to recognize that life passes quickly, and while it’s important to take a timeout to rejuvenate the soul, it’s important to cherish the precious moments each stage of life brings.
“Near The Island” has reinvigorated me as a U2 fan and has me very curious about the tracks that could make up Songs Of Ascent. The softer side of U2 is just as relevant, and as I’ve come to discover, it’s just as challenging as the punk side of the band. They continue to reinvent themselves to push the envelope more artistically. In a box set filled with rock ’n’ roll, club remixes, ballads, punk and electronica, a song like this may not be like the others, but it certainly does belong. As do the Legos on my kitchen table.