Why Listen? For a near-perfect structure; excellent exposition; to see how to make the personal universal.
Few bands polarize like U2. On the one hand, dedicated fans act as though Bono and friends do no wrong, while on the other detractors rip them as being pretentious poseurs long past their prime. In reality, though, neither is quite correct. U2 faces an entirely different dilemma, one with which every artist must contend -- inconsistency. For every pitch-perfect hit, one can count a half-dozen lesser tunes with weak hooks or muddy lyrics. Yet occasionally the Irish act knocks the proverbial ball out of the park, and those songs deserve our attention.
"Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own" from 2004's How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb is one of these. It begins with Bono crooning over crystalline guitar riffs and muted drum-and-bass work, then slowly and relentlessly crescendos through the final chorus. A near-perfect structure for a painful subject, namely a broken relationship with a father. The topic could easily plunge into sentimentality, but Bono keeps things on the level by using subtle allusion and indirect exposition: "And it's you when I look in the mirror, / And it's you when I don't pick up the phone." With such lines, "Sometimes" makes the personal universal.