“slug” – passengers (1995)

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Life is vast and full of contradictions. We all experience emotional complications that contrast with what is going on around us. It can be a feeling of isolation while out with friends, or laughing during a tragic moment. We cannot control how we feel. Though, I believe we can control how we react to things. However, I have a hard time accepting that as an absolute truth sometimes. There are two reactions to every feeling: one we feel inside and one we show the world.

“Slug” by Passengers was inspired by the brightly lit Tokyo cityscape when the sun goes down. Within that city, there are millions of people living there lives. In a city that is a live with hearts beating and electricity flowing, some live in desolation. It is interesting to think how surreal it must be to walk through all of those flashing lights with a feeling of disconnection. In such a sprawling megalopolis like Tokyo, it must be easy to have complete anonymity and isolate yourself from the west of the world.

Passengers served as a one-time side project for U2 and Brian Eno. During the mid-1990s, the music charts were dominated by singles from movies. Eno proposed the idea to create a soundtrack compilation of songs and music for films that never existed elsewhere outside of Eno’s imagination. U2 were then brought on to collaborate when they were pitched this album would serve not as a ploy for radio airplay, but rather as a spoof.

Written about a desolate soul existing among celebration, “Slug” is a musical treat with the potential to enhance visual storytelling within the mind’s eye. “Slug” is an excellent example of visual music. Leading the production, Eno crafts a deep mosaic of melancholy and awe. The music comes together offer flashes of neon light and darkness as you trek the damp, city streets looking for refuge. The sounds fluctuate and breathe as they move around you leading you to the unknown. The pulsating rhythms are hypnotic with subtle pitch changes that draw you in further.

Bono’s singing is subdued and pained throughout. There is a struggle in the lyrics. Feelings of loneliness and regret emanate from the words as our song’s lead falls further into the urban void; an orgy of light and sound that has the power to enlighten as well as dehumanize. The lyrics are repetitive as though they are trying to convince the listener, or even the singer, that everything is alright. The denial and meandering truth engulf the whole piece within a mystery. This city has its secrets and you’ll never know where to find them without losing yourself.

While the concept of the album was to create a collection of songs for fake movies, three of the tracks did become featured as centerpieces for soundtracks (i.e. “Miss Sarajevo”). “Original Soundtracks 1” is an entrancing nighttime record. It is dark and brief shimmery glimpses of life beyond the blackness. An admitted contradiction of life within a void.

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