Musically, the track benefits from Bono’s vocal restraint — no overly demonstrative whinging or raspy attempts to sound like an old bluesman — as well as the production skills of Steve Lillywhite, who virtually defined the widescreen sound of ‘80s post-punk on the band’s early albums.
But the video’s most striking feature is its paper-cut and stop-motion animation by the Israeli graffiti-art collective Broken Fingaz Crew, which seamlessly conveys the bold simplicity of ‘60s pop-art, the sun-drenched nostalgia of orange crate labels, and the unsettling allure of Day of the Dead imagery.
“Get Out of Your Own Way” is actually Broken Fingaz’ second video for U2. (The first was a one-week rush job to accompany last year’s “American Soul.”) This one opens with an ambitious zoom shot that takes us through a meticulously crafted city block, complete with incandescently lit buildings, before reaching a high-rise from which a Roy Lichtenstein-style woman stares out blankly. The video then cuts to an array of two-dimensional images that include a bursting heart, a guerilla rebel, and a minimalist rendering of the band itself.
In less skillful hands, a later scene of Trump opening the White House drapes and seeing hooded Klan members marching past the window would have been portrayed in grotesque caricature. Here, the animation conveys a sense of near-innocence — if anything, Trump appears taken aback — which serves to make the scenario all the more disquieting.
Like their British counterpart Banksy, the collective’s members employ pseudonyms — Unga, Tant, Kip, Desco — to protect their anonymity, having no desire to be jailed for their illicit contributions to the urban landscape.
“The video addresses the current political situation,” the crew noted in its “mission statement” for the work. “2017 for us was the year fascists worldwide felt confident enough to raise their heads again, encouraged by Trump and other world leaders, who use people’s fear to build more walls and segregation.”
Through the years, U2 has released a number of animated videos, which has to be a relief for four musicians who’ve never been particularly good at reinventing themselves musically or visually — which can be interpreted as a hallmark of indomitable authenticity, or careful branding, or both. With 67 videos under his belt, Bono can only wear so many dark shades, and brandish so many white flags, before he begins to tire of his own public persona.
As of this writing, “Get Out of Your Own Way” has been up on U2’s Vevo channel for only a week and is fast approaching a million views. It deserves every one of them.