My trinity of music is as follows: U2, sloan, Oasis. None is necessarily greater than the other, all accentuating different aspects of my love of music. Music in three parts, all in one.
I fell in love with U2 in the late 80’s, just before I went into High School. My initial exposure to the band was Joshua Tree albums, with I Still Haven’t Found What I'm Looking For and With or Without You all over the radio, but I didn't really get interested until I saw Rattle and Hum in the theater. This movie changed my life. I couldn't believe there was music like this, which was so refreshing from the teen pop, hair metal and new wave I had listened to before. I immediately bought the tape (remember cassette tapes and the huge anti-theft packaging?) and played it over and over and over and then went back and bought War, which had some really great tracks. Over the years my love of the band has come and gone. I really loved Achtung Baby but didn't really like another album until Atomic Bomb. Yeah, there were some good tracks, but sorting through the waste and excess and experimentation was time consuming and mildly aggravating.
I've seen them three times in concert. The first time was the Zoo TV Tour at the Pontiac Silverdome, which was memorable for several reasons, with Wayne and Garth cutting into the concert from the MTV Music Awards being at the forefront. Next was the PopMart tour, again at the Silverdome, at a show that my future wife missed because she lost her ticket. As a spectacle it was beyond belief, but the concert itself was just ok. The last time I saw them was at the Palace of Auburn Hills during the Vertigo Tour. Solid night of music, with the stage slightly stripped down, better selection of tracks to draw from, a more intimate setting. Right now I have tickets to the show at Spartan Stadium but am still debating whether to go. I would probably rather sit outside the venue and just take the music in (and drink) but we'll see. Note: didn’t go, but my wife went and was 176th in line, thereby getting in the inner part of the amazing stage set up.
Originally I was going to go through every album in detail in anticipation of the 360 tour, but I’m lazy and have been putting off this post for months, giving up on reviewing over 30 years of music and giving up on the concert. In the end, I decided to give a quick comment on each album and then go through some of my favorite songs over the years and try to narrow it down to a couple.
I wasn't really that familiar with this album (since I would have been 6 when it was released) but going back I found it was ok. You can hear the beginnings of their sound, especially with I Will Follow, which starts off the album. Twilight wasn’t that great and I’m not sure what they are going for on The Ocean. The other song they put out as a single, A Day Without Me, was just meh. I actually liked Another Time, Another Place better.
Not a great album to be honest. Don’t have much to say about other than I didn’t really feel that they were sharpening their sound, with most of the tracks having a lot of energy but not much direction. An album that rambles, with the only consistent the piercing guitar of The Edge. Gloria wasn’ too bad
This is when it gets good. Kicks off with Sunday Bloody Sunday and just keeps going with New Year’s Day, Like a Song, Two Hearts Beat as One, and Surrender. Each member is fine tuning their sound, providing a glimpse of what is possible with the band. The album finishes with 40, a track that continues to explore religion in their song writing.
The Unforgettable Fire (1984)
I totally forgot about this album. I went back and listened to it a couple of times. Pretty good. The tracks I like (A Sort of Homecoming, Pride (In the Name of Love), the title track and Bad) are really good and set the stage for The Joshua Tree and Rattle and Hum. The other tracks range from meh to awful. The end of the album really goes off the rails.
Anecdote: the precursor to Audio Adrenaline (A180) played this at a youth group event in like 1990 or 1991. Blew my mind.
The Joshua Tree (1987)
This album created a sound unlike almost anything else the radio was playing. Guitars that could pierce you or take you a place of peace; drumming that took what the guitar was doing and perfectly complimented it; vocals and lyrics that made you feel something. Besides the huge hit singles, I really like Exit, which starts softly, almost imperceptibly and crushes you at the end.
Rattle and Hum (1988)
One of my favorite albums of all time, not just of U2, I mean ever. A definite deserted island must have. I could play this record and watch this movie over and over again. It starts with a cover of Helter Skelter and takes the listener on a “musical journey” of uncompromising quality and range, finishing with a ponderous All I Want is You. I could do an entire entry on this album, with almost every song in the top 10 for me. Big faves are Hawkmoon 269, God Part II and Silver and Gold.
Achtung Baby (1991)
One of the first CD's I ever bought, I wore this thing out. Different from Joshua Tree and Rattle & Hum, this album starts the band off in a direction that takes them to away from their traditional sound before returning on All That You Can't Leave Behind.
Zoo Station kicks things off and this song was awesome live at the Pontiac Silverdome. Loud, energetic, with lots of attitude, it is followed by another high tempo song in Even Better Than The Real Thing, where The Edge just kills it. These songs were written for stadium shows. One slows things down a bit, and I loved it when it first came out but now not so much.
The Fly is one of my favorite tracks, with great a drum part and a unique guitar sound. Bono's falsetto on the chorus changes things up and adds to the song. Mysterious Ways comes next with unforgettable opening chords.
The album changes gears again with Tryin to Throw Your Arms Around the World (a great idea by the way), which I like for Bono's little rap during the bridge. Ultraviolet is another top song from the band. I'm usually not one to pay attention to lyrics but there are some great lines in this song, especially the last verse.
They continue to experiment with their sound, taking slivers of Achtung Baby and seeing where it would lead. There is a lot more production on this album, using sampling, loops, more emphasis on the bass and electronic sounds. They get out there, with more misses than hits, but the hits are totally different than anything that came before it. The title track is decent and Stay (Faraway, So Close) is fantastic tune. Dirty Day is a hidden gem, with tempo changes, interesting lyrics and a bombastic finish, which I could listen to over and over again.
At the time of release I was into electronic music so it was a fusion of a genre and a band, and the album went in some interesting places. I’m not one of those fans who hates this record. Discothèque is a track I love, especially the single with all of the remixes. Good times. This is followed by Do You Feel Loved, which is a good song. Then things go a little sideways before the chorus of Last Night on Earth and the guitar part of the end of Miami. I have passed out to If You Wear That Velvet Dress many times. Please is one my favorite tracks, especially towards the end.
All That You Can't Leave Behind (2000)
Along with October, my least favorite album and my go to comment on this album is: give me Beautiful Day and Elevation and you can throw away the rest. Beautiful Day re-launched U2's campaign to be the best band in the world with a great sound, each member really hitting the heights, and a song of tremendous commercial appeal. Elevation just plain rocks the house and Walk On isn't too bad. The album doesn't take the sound all they way back to Joshua Tree but it was definitely a return to a more traditional U2 sound, with too many mellow track for my taste, too many songs that would wear out my lighter at a concert.
How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (2004)
One of my favorite albums from the band, and of the few U2 records I can listen to from start to finish. Vertigo is pure pop but kicks ass. The rest of the album has tracks with great hooks and slightly edgier U2 sound for me. All Because of You is a driving song, which takes the sound from all that you can’t leave behind and amps it up
Crumbs from Your Table is a pretty good tune as well. This album got me back on the bandwagon and while it’s far from perfect, it was going in the right direction.
No Line on the Horizon (2009)
When I first heard it, I was disappointed. I actually railed against it and said it was worst than All That You Can’t Leave Behind. Several people whom I respect told me to give it a chance, and I’m glad they did. The more I listen to it, the more I enjoy it. Not as rockin’ as Atomic Bomb but more soulful, with Magnificent being my favorite track on the album.
Favorite U2 Songs:
All Because of You
Bullet the Blue Sky
Crumbs from Your Table
Do You Feel Loved
God Part 2
Hold me, Thrill me, Kiss me, Kill me
I’ll Go Crazy if I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight
Love and Peace or Else
No Line on the Horizon
Pride (In the Name of Love)
Silver and Gold
Stand Up Comedy
Where the Streets Have No Name
The Best of the Best:
I tried to stay away from overloading it with tracks from Rattle and Hum while sampling their entire catalog, which is thirteen albums, and range of music, which ranges from rock to poetic to political to contemplative to electronic. As usual, I couldn’t stay with just five, so here we go.
All Because of You
Do You Feel Loved
Silver and GoldWhere the Streets Have No Name