No Line on the Horizon

Cedars of Lebanon

  1. Bono is not a stupid man, and freely acknowledges, in both interviews and songs, the risky course he personally has opted to pursue. The closing track on the new album, "Cedars of Lebanon," includes lines that surely refer directly to the singer's questionable relationships with bloody-handed politicians: "Choose your enemies carefully, 'cos they will define you/ Make them interesting 'cos in some ways they will mind you," going on to conclude that your enemies will stick with you (albeit negatively) longer than your friends. Grudges, presumably, being easier to keep than faith. But when you deliberately choose, for ulterior motives of the most admirable kind, to blur the clear distinctions between friends and enemies, you risk obfuscating the ethical landscape for more than just yourself.

    Bono, of course, would simply refer to the aid he helped persuade the Bush administration to commit to anti-poverty programmes in Africa as the bottom-line justification for chummying up to the loathsome former president, and there's no real answer to that. But it is still far too early, as Schiller would say, to comprehend the complete ramifications of this process; what might be called the celebrification of political action, in which Bono has become such a major player. At the very least, it represents a sharp turn away from the democratic process of broad-based political activism to an earlier, Victorian notion of philanthropy and Good Works. Except nowadays, the wealthy would probably prefer it be characterised as "revolutionary capitalism." Whatever, it's plain that money speaks far louder than any number of concerted voices raised in protest.

    - Andy Gill, The Independent, February 19, 2009

    Jonas Steverud (Maintainer of U2MoL) ( 1st of March 2009)

  2. Bono puts himself into the mind of a weary war correspondent, in whose head random images of the war-torn country mingle with memories of his estranged partner

    - Andy Gill, The Independent, February 19, 2009

    Jonas Steverud (Maintainer of U2MoL) ( 1st of March 2009)

  3. There is a clever irony near the end of the song. Bono describes God as the one "higher than everyone" and then asks "Where are you in the cedars of Lebanon?" The irony comes because cedars of Lebanon are the building material which made up the temple in the Hebrew Bible (1 Kings 5), literally the home of God. If God is not in the cedars of Lebanon, where else could he be?

    Caleb Borchers caborchers@harding.edu ( 4th of March 2009)

  4. I ask about the album's last lines: "Choose you enemies carefully, 'cause they will define you/ Make then interesting, because in some ways they will mind you/ They're not there in the beginning, but when your story ends/ Gonna last longer with you than your friends."

    Bono "Yeah. Yeah. They're are going to be closer than your friends. They are going to shape you."

    SOH Are you singing from experience here?

    Bono "In a way, I guess. I think one of the things that has set our band apart is the fact that we chose interesting enemies. We didn't choose the obvious enemies - The Man, the establishment. We didn't buy into that. Our credo was: no them, there's only us. Think about it. Every other band was us and them. The Clash, our great heroes. Then U2 arrived and it was no them, only us.

    "What that means is that we picked enemies that were more internal - our own hypocrisy. The main obstacle in the way of our band we always saw as ourselves and our limitations. We never blamed the record company. We never blamed the radio [laughs]. You never heard that from us in 25 years. It was always, can we be better? Can we make the song better, the show? What you're really dealing with then are the obstacles to realising your own potential. They are nearly always of a psychological, if not a spiritual, nature. The spectres that hold you back, they were our enemies. It was always, 'You're supposed to be in a rock'n'roll band. You're supposed to be rebellious, but you don't rebel against the obvious.' And we'd go, 'No, we don't. That's the point.'"

    SOH In that way, your success ran counter to the course of rock'n'roll. You sang of the joy as opposed to the angst.

    Bono "Yeah. I mean, the mark of succeeding for us is.... erm, let me try and get this right because it's important. Joy, for me, is the spilling over of a life well-lived."

    "But to get back to the last lines of the record. We were talking about peripheral vision at the start of this conversation. That's the theme of the record. And, in one sense, it's a very tough-minded theme, even, some have said, bleak, but I don't think so."

    Bono "It's like, well, you think of the heartache of the invasion of Iraq, or the heartache of taking on heroin, which we've known from friends who have taken that drug, and you think of the wasted energy in a life that comes from just taking on the wrong fight. It could be with your lover. There it was and you blew it. You just didn't know what you had. That's why I love the opening of the album - No Line on the Horizon. There's no end in sight. It's infinity, it's optimistic. [sings] 'I know a girl who's like the sea.' The sea and the sky become the same colour and you lose the horizon line as it disappears into infinity. Infinity is a great place to start.

    "You know, it's like that thing that people said about U2, that most bands start off writing about girls and end up writing about God, but we started off writing about God and ended up writing about girls. But we found the God in the girls, that would be my retort."

    SOH OK. I need to process all this stuff.

    Bono "Anyway, that image is very optimistic - no line on the horizon, whether about a band, a girl, the future. Life itself. It's like I say, the future needs a big kiss."

    The wanderers, Sean O'Hagan, The Observer, Sunday 15 February 2009

    Chris Taguchi chris@taguchi.ca (4th of March 2009)