U2 – “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of”

Released: 10.23.01

Peak: #52

Poor Michael Hutchence. Posthumous accusations of autoerotic asphyxiation are one thing. Having Bono lecture you on the radio when you’re too dead to tell him to take off those bug-eyed sunglasses–that’s real indignity. But U2 has always had a knack for singing about dead guys, and the most human-scaled single of their career–even the choir is less ostentatious than on “Angel of Harlem”–masterfully triangulates “Everybody Hurts” and “You Are Not Alone” in the service of one mighty bear-hug of uplift. And it helped the band unstick itself from its own aesthetic jam to boot.

If alt-rock accomplished nothing else, it sure confused the fuck out of U2. After casting their lot with the Boomers by the close of the ’80s, as though the End of History were indeed nigh, they miscalculated that an MOR Madchester hybrid might float them through the next ten. But the shaggy jumble of earnest sarcasm that flooded into Lollapalooza capsized the triumphalist worldview of a crew who had championed epic sincerity as sheer sensation. Grasping about for a clue, U2 were hardly alone in mistaking irony for a technique rather than an idea.

But an extended wander through the desert befits a band so biblical, and their detour through irrelevance and embarrassment was rejuvenating. Recovering the ground ceded to Radiohead, U2 ushered in the ’00s with the most consistent, U2-like album of their career and a newly hard-won element to their sincerity. Even those of us who don’t need our optimism to be pretentious or our arena anthems painfully reconstructed from an infinity of electronic shards could feel our hearts explode along with “Beautiful Day.”

And for them as don’t find the day beautiful? Well, Bono’s one-sided argument on “Stuck in a Moment” won’t talk anyone out of the noose. In fact, the verses perfectly encapsulate the inability of the non-suicidal to understand the self-destructive impulse (of the many things he is, a suicide is not a “fool,” for starters) and, as such, forge a bond of confused sympathy among survivors. But the chorus gets right to the point, and if, like all rock and roll, it won’t save your life, it might just alleviate your garden variety sadness for a spell.

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  • Pete Scholtes  On July 14, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    This is really great, particularly what you say about “fool.” I think the song really is about intense temporary sadness and despair rather than the kind of feeling that leads to suicide, which it’s hard to imagine Bono has ever felt.

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