Quick Review (LP): War by U2

U2
War
Island; 1983

My Rating: A- (83/100)

Best Tracks: "Sunday Bloody Sunday", "New Year’s Day", "Drowning Man", "Seconds", "Two Hearts", "40"

NOTES:

– I’ve always thought the drums sounds like CANNONS on this record. I love Steve Lillywhite’s production.
– "40"…A brilliant way to end an album. One of the great closing tracks.
– "The Refugee" is the only significant misstep on the album, and even then it’s a big cheesy goof of a song that has the potential to be a lot of fun live. It sounds very dated.
– One of the best album covers ever. Pure poetry.
War can safely be called U2’s "heart-on-sleeve" album. Witness "Like A Song…", which is quite possibly the most intense track the band has ever produced. "A new heart is what I need/O God make it bleed!"
– My only significant gripe with this record is that it is so intense that anything in the way of a sense of humor or lightness seems completely removed. I’m sure that’s the feel they were going for (after all, war is hell), but the result is that for a great record, it is not very suitable for repeated listening. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it is not exactly delightful in the way that The Joshua Tree or Achtung, Baby! is. This was the pinnacle of U2’s early sound, and it was a wise move to leave the intense, "Love and Peace or Else" phase behind them.
– U2 definitively makes the case here that they had what it would take to become the biggest rock and roll band in the world. "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "New Year’s Day" are both wonderful in every way imaginable.
– "The newspaper says it’s true/We can break through/Though torn in two/We can be one." That line always leaves me speechless.
– "Drowning Man" is a beautiful, austere change of pace. Just great.
– DELUXE EDITION HIGHLIGHTS: "Endless Deep"

ATTRIBUTES:
Cohesion (4.5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consistency (4/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Songs (4.5/5)

My review of Boy by U2
My review of October by U2

Quick Review (LP): October by U2

U2
October
Island; 1981

My Rating: C- (40/100)

Best Tracks: "Gloria", "October", "Tomorrow", "I Threw A Brick Through A Window"

NOTES:
– Some of it feels a bit directionless, though not awful, only as if the band is trying to find its way ahead but not having much success. ("I Threw A Brick…")
– The Edge’s guitar sounds great as always, especially on "Gloria" and "I Threw A Brick…"
– Conceptually at least, it is one of their best – the problem is apparently that Bono lost his lyrics and had to improvise a good bit. Witness "With a Shout (Jerusalem)" which is lyrically woeful.
– "Tomorrow", with its insistent refrain, probably captures the spirit of this album best, and is certainly one of the band’s best early tracks.
– In retrospect, this album fits nicely into early U2’s catalog, forming an interesting arc in terms of theme (Boy – coming of age; October – spiritual longing; War – faced with harsh reality; UF – re-embracing hope in spite of reality).
– "Scarlet" is a perfect example of the meaningless sort of excess that they’d often include in early albums, "passage" pieces that really do nothing for the record as a whole except slow things down and dull the effect.
– All in all, it’s pretty amazing the band was able to recover from such a big sophomore slump.
– Adam Clayton looks RIDICULOUS on the cover. Just sayin.
DELUXE EDITION HIGHLIGHTS: "Trash, Trampoline, and the Party Girl", "Gloria (live)"

ATTRIBUTES:
Cohesion (4.5/5)
Consequence (3.5/5)
Consistency (3/5)
Concept (5/5)
Songs (2.5/5)

Quick Review (LP): Boy by U2

U2
Boy
Island; 1980

My Rating: B+ (79/100)

Best Tracks: “I Will Follow”, “Twilight”, “An Cat Dubh”, “Out of Control”, “Electric Co.”

U2’s debut is both desolate and muscular, with huge doses of the boyish optimism that would send them out of the stratosphere in the years to come. This is their “coming of age” record. Conceptually, it’s one of their best LP’s, and although not well known, it features some of their best early material.

NOTES:
– “I Will Follow” is one of the band’s best opening tracks. Gotta dig the glockenspiel.
– The whole album is shrouded in a sort of dark and unfathomable mist, sort of this unsettling weirdness in the background.
– “Shadows and Tall Trees” reminds me of early Cure.
– “An Cat Dubh” is one of the best things they’ve ever recorded, without a doubt.
– As immediate as the record is, it’s also quite atmospheric and dreamlike (“Another Time…”)
– For me, “Stories for Boys” is the thematic heart of the record.
– The cover is brilliant. Minimalist, but full of wonder and depth.
– Steve Lillywhite’s work with U2 is some of my favorite.
DELUXE EDITION HIGHLIGHTS: “11 O’Clock Tick Tock” (one of The Edge’s best guitar riffs), “Touch”

ATTRIBUTES:
Cohesion (4.5/5)
Consequence (4/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consistency (4/5)
Songs (4.5/5)

Tracknotes: “Lemon” by U2

Big Lemon Of U2’s albums, the record that has grown on me most over time is undoubtedly Zooropa. The record that nipped at the heels of the classic Achtung Baby!, Zooropa was heavily steeped in a European irony that made it, in terms of U2 albums, almost inaccessible to American audiences. After all, the debut single from this album was “Numb.” But there are some great tracks on Zooropa (“Stay (Faraway So Close!)”, “Somedays Are Better Than Others”, “The First Time”), and chief among those is the epic kraut-pop of “Lemon.”

  • This song has a great back story. At one point in the early 1990s, a relative sent Bono an old home movie of his mother wearing a lemon-yellow dress as the maid-of-honor at a wedding. Bono was extremely moved by the footage of his deceased mother as a young woman, and the song is about the power of images to stir our memories and our emotions.
  • The video is intended to mimic the first motion picture ever created, a “moving picture” of a rider and horse by a man named Eadweard Muybridge.
  • The lyrics are deeply stirring: “She is the dreamer/She’s imagination/Through the light projected/He can see himself up close.” In my opinion, with this track U2 nailed the paradox that they were trying to capture in the 90’s, that of the extreme humanizing and de-humanizing effects of technology.
  • The guitar sound is amazing. The Edge apparently stumbled upon a gated guitar effect that went perfectly with a drum and bass pattern that he’d put together in the middle of a tour. Still, I think the piano interlude makes the song. It adds the “sehnsucht” to the track that is the key to any great U2 song.
  • All in all, this is one of my favorite U2 tracks. The unique sound of the song, the watery guitar effects, the gorgeous melody, the backstory – it all combines to make classic U2, and one of the most innovative pop songs I’ve ever heard.

5 Things: “Luv Goon” by Pearl Harbor

5 things I love about “Luv Goon” by Pearl Harbor…

1) That guitar – it’s the best of Peter Buck, The Edge, and Johnny Marr all rolled into one.
2) The blinding brightness of the song.
3) The siren song vocals – gorgeous, though I can’t understand a word…
4) Except the chorus: “Anything you want me to/I’m your love goon”
5) Gotta say I love that guitar again. Just fabulous!

What about you?

U2: No Line on the Horizon (2009)

U2
No Line On The Horizon; 2009
Interscope
My Rating: 50/100
Rock saints fall short…
So by now it should be apparent that I love and will always love U2 unconditionally. It’s the type of love an adult child has for a good mother or father.
Though the child is old enough to recognize his parents’ shortcomings, they owe so much of who they are to everything that is good about them. So it is with
U2 and me. THE JOSHUA TREE (aside from some early Amy Grant songs – *blush*) was my first experience of the mystical power of music. I was only 8 or 9 at the
time, but my elder siblings’ overexposure resulted in The Edge’s glorious, chiming guitarchitecture searing itself upon my impressionable young imagination.
At a time when the other kids were learning about the sleazy side of rock and roll from Axl Rose, Bono was my first impression that a rock star could be more
inspiring than degenerate. So that settles it; U2 are pop music saints in my book. That being said, their latest continues the string of disappointments that
really began with ZOOROPA. Sure, the band has managed to churn out more than a handful of great tracks along the way, but they’ve been slowly losing the plot
since ACHTUNG, BABY. I’m afraid that this has resulted in their weakest album yet. To be sure, “Magnificent” is the kind of old school rock hymn that has
made U2 U2, and there’s a handful of decent tracks, but otherwise, there’s not much here to get excited about. “Get On Your Boots” is utter garbage, and
“Stand Up Comedy” barely escapes that status. I won’t ever give up on U2. I’m particularly hopeful about the forthcoming SONGS OF ASCENT. But unfortunately
for this U2 fan, all I’ve got at this point is one great new song, their back catalog, and what tomorrow may bring.
TRACKS
1. No Line on the Horizon (4/5)
2. Magnificent (5/5)
3. Moment of Surrender (4/5)
4. Unknown Caller (3/5)
5. I’ll Go Crazy if I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight (4/5)
6. Get On Your Boots (1/5)
7. Stand Up Comedy (2/5)
8. FEZ – Being Born (3/5)
9. White as Snow (3/5)
10. Breathe (4/5)
11. Cedars of Lebanon (3/5)
CONCEPT (3.5/5)
CONSISTENCY (3/5)
CONSEQUENCE (4.5/5)
COHESION (4/5)

NoLineU2PromoU2
No Line On The Horizon; 2009
Interscope

My Rating: 50/100

Rock saints fall short…

By now it should be apparent that I love and will always love U2 unconditionally. It’s the type of love an adult child has for a good mother or father. Though the child is old enough to recognize his parents’ shortcomings, they owe so much of who they are to everything that is good about them. So it is with U2 and me. THE JOSHUA TREE (aside from some early Amy Grant songs – *blush*) was my first experience of the mystical power of music. I was only 8 or 9 at the time, but my elder siblings’ overexposure resulted in The Edge’s glorious, chiming guitarchitecture searing itself upon my impressionable young imagination. At a time when the other kids were learning about the sleazy side of rock and roll from Axl Rose, Bono was my first impression that a rock star could be more inspiring than degenerate. So that settles it; U2 are pop music saints in my book. That being said, their latest continues the string of disappointments that really began with ZOOROPA. Sure, the band has managed to churn out more than a handful of great tracks along the way, but they’ve been slowly losing the plot since ACHTUNG, BABY. I’m afraid that this has resulted in their weakest album yet. To be sure, “Magnificent” is the kind of old school rock hymn that has made U2 U2, and there’s a handful of decent tracks, but otherwise, there’s not much here to get excited about. “Get On Your Boots” is utter garbage, and “Stand Up Comedy” barely escapes that status. I won’t ever give up on U2. I’m particularly hopeful about the forthcoming SONGS OF ASCENT. But unfortunately for this U2 fan, all I’ve got at this point is one great new song, their back catalog, and what tomorrow may bring.

Cohesion (4/5)
Concept (3.5/5)
Consequence (4.5/5)
Consistency (3/5)

TRACKS

1. No Line on the Horizon (4/5)
2. Magnificent (5/5)
3. Moment of Surrender (4/5)
4. Unknown Caller (3/5)
5. I’ll Go Crazy if I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight (4/5)
6. Get On Your Boots (1/5)
7. Stand Up Comedy (2/5)
8. FEZ – Being Born (3/5)
9. White as Snow (3/5)
10. Breathe (4/5)
11. Cedars of Lebanon (3/5)

U2: Achtung, Baby (1991)

u2-achtung-babyU2
Achtung, Baby; 1991
Island Records

My Rating: 10/10

In the four years between THE JOSHUA TREE and ACHTUNG, BABY, the world around U2 radically changed in a hundred different ways. Corrupt political regimes were falling all over the world, disparate cultures were beginning to converge in a universalist mish-mash, and the old guard of rock and roll was forgotten in favor of fresher, more idealistic sounds. U2 certainly faced the possibility of their own extinction – if it could happen to others, it could certainly happen to them. But like fellow alterna-rock heroes R.E.M., U2 somehow managed to not only find its own place in the music revolution, but to ride said revolution to the top of the charts with another classic album. In fact, ACHTUNG, BABY not only achieves classic status, but manages to capture the international zeitgeist of the early-90’s like no other record, combining sounds as disparate as garage rock, euro-pop, and world electronica into a completely cohesive and romantic aural experience. The collision of worlds – in this case post-modern relativism with a definite hunger for spiritual experience – is once again U2’s thematic recipe for success. ACHTUNG, BABY is doubtless one of the band’s top 3 albums, and in the opinion of this humble reviewer, probably their best.

1. Zoo Station (4/5)
2. Even Better Than The Real Thing (5/5)
3. One (5/5)
4. Until the End of the World (5/5)
5. Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses (5/5)
6. So Cruel (5/5)
7. The Fly (5/5)
8. Mysterious Ways (5/5)
9. Tryin’ To Throw Your Arms Around the World (5/5)
10. Ultra Violet (Light my Way) (5/5)
11. Acrobat (4/5)
12. Love Is Blindness (4/5)

U2: The Joshua Tree (1987)

joshua treeU2
The Joshua Tree; 1987
Island Records

My Rating: 10/10

THE JOSHUA TREE (1987) – 10: With THE JOSHUA TREE, U2 ceased hinting at greatness and became great. While atmospherics of THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRE almost engulfed the band in a holy chorus of angels, THE JOSHUA TREE lets the foursome spread out in the wide open American West. The reason this album is so great is that you follow the band on a journey through all of the ghost towns and forgotten hollers of the wasteland. Everyone knows the first three tracks, stacked like the Yankees’ batting order, and other tunes like the gentle “Running To Stand Still”, the road song “In God’s Country”, and the flowing “One Tree Hill” are gloriously mystical in the vein of UNFORGETTABLE’s better moments, but without the claustrophobic production. There are a few less than great tracks here: “Bullet The Blue Sky” aims high and falls flat, and the closing medley “Exit” and “Mothers Of The Disappeared” don’t quite do the job they should, but the rest of the album is so good that you won’t be bothered by it one bit.
TRACKS:
1. Where the Streets Have No Name (5/5)
2. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (5/50
3. With or Without You (5/5)
4. Bullet the Blue Sky (3/5)
5. Running to Stand Still (5/5)
6. Red Hill Mining Town (5/5)
7. In God’s Country (5/5)
8. Trip Through Your Wires (5/5)
9. One Tree Hill (5/5)
10. Exit (3/5)
11. Mothers of the Disappeared (3/5)
With THE JOSHUA TREE, U2 ceased hinting at greatness and became great. While the atmospherics of THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRE almost engulfed the band in a holy chorus of angels, THE JOSHUA TREE lets the foursome spread out in the wide open American West. The reason this album is so great is that you follow the band on a journey through all of the ghost towns and forgotten hollers of the wasteland. Everyone knows the first three tracks, stacked like the Yankees’ batting order, and other tunes like the gentle “Running To Stand Still”, the road song “In God’s Country”, and the flowing “One Tree Hill” are gloriously mystical in the vein of UNFORGETTABLE’s better moments, but without the claustrophobic production. There are a few less than great tracks here: “Bullet The Blue Sky” aims high and falls flat, and the closing medley “Exit” and “Mothers Of The Disappeared” don’t quite do the job they should, but the rest of the album is so good that you won’t be bothered by it one bit.

TRACKS:

1. Where the Streets Have No Name (5/5)
2. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (5/50
3. With or Without You (5/5)
4. Bullet the Blue Sky (3/5)
5. Running to Stand Still (5/5)
6. Red Hill Mining Town (5/5)
7. In God’s Country (5/5)
8. Trip Through Your Wires (5/5)
9. One Tree Hill (5/5)
10. Exit (3/5)
11. Mothers of the Disappeared (3/5)

U2: War (1983)

U2’s first great album, WAR began the long u2 tradition of writing five or six mind-numbingly great songs and adding in a few stinkers to round it out. The reason this one gets such a high mark is that there are two absolutely classic cuts (“Sunday Bloody Sunday”, “New Year’s Day”) as well as at least four great album cuts (“Seconds,” “Like A Song…,” “Drowning Man,” “Two Hearts Beat As One”). Still, the album as a whole undoubtedly lives up to its name. From the stark production to the explosive drums to the barbed-wire guitar, U2 and Steve Lillywhite crafted a masterfully anthemic group of tracks, all rounded out by Bono’s Celtic war-cry. However, WAR’s longevity is owing far more to its underlying spiritual themes than any political trappings. When Bono declares “I won’t wear it on my sleeve!” he ties together punk and Christian sensibilities, forging a way ahead for an entirely new breed of rock and roll. It’s true – back then, no one else was writing music like this. No wonder U2 became the biggest rock band in the world.
TRACKS:
1. Sunday Bloody Sunday (5/5)
2. Seconds (5/5)
3. New Year’s Day (5/5)
4. Like a Song… (5/5)
5. Drowning Man (5/5)
6. Refugee (2.5/5)
7. Two Hearts Beat As One (5/5)
8. Red Light (3.5/5)
9. Surrender (4/5)
10. “40” (3.5/5)

U2_War_album_coverU2
War; 1983
Island Records

My Rating: 9/10

U2’s first great album, WAR began the long u2 tradition of writing five or six mind-numbingly great songs and adding in a few stinkers to round it out. The reason this one gets such a high mark is that there are two absolutely classic cuts (“Sunday Bloody Sunday”, “New Year’s Day”) as well as at least four great album cuts (“Seconds,” “Like A Song…,” “Drowning Man,” “Two Hearts Beat As One”). Still, the album as a whole undoubtedly lives up to its name. From the stark production to the explosive drums to the barbed-wire guitar, U2 and Steve Lillywhite crafted a masterfully anthemic group of tracks, all rounded out by Bono’s Celtic war-cry. However, WAR’s longevity is owing far more to its underlying spiritual themes than any political trappings. When Bono declares “I won’t wear it on my sleeve!” he ties together punk and Christian sensibilities, forging a way ahead for an entirely new breed of rock and roll. It’s true – back then, no one else was writing music like this. No wonder U2 became the biggest rock band in the world.

TRACKS:

1. Sunday Bloody Sunday (5/5)
2. Seconds (5/5)
3. New Year’s Day (5/5)
4. Like a Song… (5/5)
5. Drowning Man (5/5)
6. Refugee (2.5/5)
7. Two Hearts Beat As One (5/5)
8. Red Light (3.5/5)
9. Surrender (4/5)
10. “40” (3.5/5)