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U2

 

Talk about your overly popular bands. Sure, U2 were good, and wrote some incredibly catchy singles, but let's face it -- their albums (with an exception here and there) weren't exactly what you'd call masterpieces.

In case you're just reading this page for the first time, yes, I'm not spending much space on these albums. That's because U2 aren't the most exciting band around.

lineup: Bono (vocals, guitar, stupid sunglasses); Adam Clayon (the bass player); The Edge (shimmery digital delay guitar, keyboards, vocals); Larry Mullen Jr. (the drummer)

review index: Boy / October / War / Live Under a Blood Red Sky / The Unforgettable Fire / The Joshua Tree / Rattle & Hum / Achtung Baby / Zooropa / Pop / All That You Can't Leave Behind

missing albums: none that I know of

apex: War
nadir: Zooropa
overlooked: Pop


Boy - 1980

Rating: ***
Best songs: I Will Follow, Twilight, Out of Control
Worst songs: An Cat Dubh/Into the Heart, Shadows and Tall Trees

 

Bla bla bla early album. For some reason, people really like this one. I don't see why. Maybe it's because it's one of their "pre-popularity" albums, i.e. the "I liked them before they were popular" hipster argument. Fuck hipsters. Irony is good when used to humorous effect, but poisoning your entire outlook on life with irony is just stupid. Like something because you enjoy it, not because you can smirk about it.

Sorry, I know I don't rant very well. Shall we talk about the record?

Okay. "I Will Follow" rules, despite the annoying clinking noises persistent throughout. The other high-velocity rockin' tunes also are pretty cool ("Twilight", "Out of Control", "Stories for Boys", (p)et(er) cetera). And the slower songs tend to be borin' as hey (i.e. "An Cat Dubh", "Shadows and Tall Trees"). Whatever. U2 sucks!

No, wait, that's Drowning Pool. "Let the bodies hit the floor", what the hell ever.


October - 1981

Rating: **1/2
Best songs: Gloria, Rejoice, October, I Fall Down
Worst songs: I Threw a Brick Through a Window

 

You know, these early U2 albums aren't terribly exciting. This album's digital delay-soaked uptempo number is "Gloria", and this album's "An Cat Dubh" bore-fest is "I Threw a Brick Through a Window". There's also a couple pretty piano-based tunes, most notably the title track but also that other one. "I Fall Down", that's it. Really not a whole lot to say. I don't know why everyone knocks this one while praising Boy, the two albums seem pretty interchangeable to me.


War - 1983

Rating: ****
Best songs: the first four tracks
Worst songs: The Refugee

 

Holy crap! Where'd they pull this one from?

Yes, U2 have fused their bombastic, echoey-guitar sound with consistent songwriting! Very clever of them to catch on after only three albums! You've heard the hits -- "New Years Day" and "Sunday Bloody Sunday" -- and may also be familiar with "Two Hearts Beat as One". Now familiarize yourself with the other songs: "Seconds" is an almost-funky cautionary tale of nuclear weapons, "Two Hearts Beat as One" is catchy as a softball, and most of the rest is pretty good too.

Except for "The Refugee", which is just terrible. Reprehensible. Logical. Fanatical. A liberal.

And side two is kinda dull -- "40" would be done a whole lot better on the live thing that's underneath here, and I can't really remember much about those other two songs. Shall we move on? Perhaps, perhaps.


Live Under a Blood Red Sky - 1983

Rating: ***
Best songs: Sunday Bloody Sunday, New Years Day, I Will Follow, Gloria
Worst songs: Party Girl

 

Live album! Well, mini-album, anyway! This thing's only a half-hour long! Why would you want to spend...uh...[checks alldirect.com] eight bucks on that?!

Well, here's one good reason: if you get this, you can pretty much skip the first two albums! It's got "Gloria"! And "I Will Follow"! Screw the other songs on those albums! Also, completists will be happy to know that two early U2 songs, not otherwise available on albums, are included here! That would be "Party Girl" (sucks!) and "11 O'Clock Tick Tock" (uh...okay, I think, I can't remember how it goes)!

Shall I continue with the other stuff on the album?! Okay! There's "Electric Co." (ehn, not that great)! The two hits from War (awesome!)....and...."40"! It totally kicks the ass of the original studio version, with the crowd singin' along!

Actually, now that I think about it, just a half-hour of live U2 is probably a good idea! Might get dull after a while! Also, if you look, you can probably find it on vinyl for a buck! That's what I did! And look where I am now! Reviewing it on my very own website!!!


The Unforgettable Fire - 1984

Rating: ***
Best songs: Pride (in the Name of Love), Wire, Bad, The Unforgettable Fire
Worst songs: Elvis Presley and America, A Sort of Homecoming

 

Look, another album! This time, featuring the hit single "Pride (in the Name of Love)", which is your typical anthemic chimey-guitar U2 song. Hell, that's what most every song on here sounds like. Not bad, but kinda monotonous.


The Joshua Tree - 1987

Rating: ***1/2
Best songs: well, the first four, obviously
Worst songs:

 

Man, was this album ever big. This was one of those records that people who don't buy records bought! If that makes sense to you.

Anyway, this was driven to prominence on the merit of the beautifully ethereal singles "Where the Streets Have No Name", "With or Without You", and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For". And they kick ass, as does the radio staple "Bullet the Blue Sky", which really sounds out of place here, but still is cool. Hooray for commas!

So what about the last seven songs on the album? Well, that's a good question. Everything after the opening four-song suite is rather underwhelming, because they're mostly quiet pensive little tunes. But hey, "In God's Country" is a lovely acoustic guitar-driven song! And "Running to Stand Still"! Electric piano! Quiet songs! Can't...think...straight...must...reach...utility belt!

Uh...where was I? Oh yeah, the last few songs aren't that great. Who can remember how "Exit" or "Mothers of the Disappeared" goes? Huh? Huh? Not me!

And where's the brass band in "Red Hill Mining Town"? If they credit a brass band, I damned well better hear it.


Rattle & Hum - 1988

Rating: ***
Best songs: Van Diemen's Land, Desire, Silver and Gold, Angel of Harlem
Worst songs: Love Rescue Me, Hawkmoon 269, Heartland, I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

 

Finally, a U2 record that doesn't sound like a slightly more refined version of the previous one! This one's a double album, featuring both live and studio tracks.

First let's talk about the live tracks. There are a couple mediocre covers: "All Along the Watchtower" and "Helter Skelter". There's a version of "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" that's marred by a gospel choir. Decent version of "Pride (in the Name of Love)". Hilarious rant in the middle of "Bullet the Blue Sky". Fine version of the awesome non-album track "Silver & Gold".

That was easy, wasn't it? Okay, now onto the studio tracks. "Van Dieman's Land" is a wonderful, wonderful tune written and sung by The Edge. "Desire" and "Angel of Harlem" are catchy as fruit baskets. (?) There are several crappy tunes on here, though: "Hawkmoon 269" (yawn), "Love Rescue Me" (co-written by Dylan? who friggin' cares?), uhhhh, "Heartland" (yawn again), and so on. Luckily there's also a couple other good tunes, namely the BB King duet "When Love Comes to Town" and "God Part 2". Is that every song on the album? No? Oh yeah, there's also "All I Want is You", about which I have no opinion, and a couple snippets of other peoples' songs. Pointless, that last one. Bla bla bla doodley doo laaaaaa!!!

Oh, crap, is this thing still on? Shit, turn it of


Achtung Baby - 1991

Rating: **1/2
Best songs: Even Better than the Real Thing, Zoo Station, Mysterious Ways, Love Is Blindness
Worst songs: uh, the slow ones?

 

The desire to branch out rears its ugly head. In U2's case, that means throwing on a bunch of dance beats and synthesizers and stuff. The guitars are still there, but they're usually processed to frig. This new approach works well on some tracks, particularly the thumpy rockin' (in a subdued, techno-ey way) tunes that are the first three listed in the "best songs" category. "The Fly" kicks butt too, I don't know why people knock it.

Oh yeah, now I remember, because people are people. Thank you, Depeche Mode, for clearing that up!

There's also a crapload of slow, quiet songs on here that I don't particularly care for. "One" is a mega-maxi-smash hit that gets played in the background of every episode of Behind the Music. You know, when something bad happens, like the drummer loses a foot or the singer quits for the 38th time or the band's album only goes gold. Oh, one exception: "Love Is Blindness" is awwwwwwwsome!

Did you know that U2 merchandise included Achtung Baby condoms? It's true. I wouldn't make something like that up just to amuse you.


Zooropa - 1993

Rating: **
Best songs: Numb, Lemon, The Wanderer
Worst songs: Daddy's Gonna Pay for Your Crashed Car, Dirty Day, The First Time

 

Ooh, dance music! EX-PER-I-MEN-TAL!

Hey! It's not as bad as everyone says. "Numb" and "Lemon" are damn catchy tunes, and I love the Johnny Cash vehicle "The Wanderer". Also, the title track really comes alive in the last couple minutes. The rest of the album ranges from not bad ("Babyface") to dull (most of the second half).


Pop - 1997

Rating: ***
Best songs: Mofo, Discotheque, Staring at the Sun, If God Will Send His Angels
Worst songs: Wake Up Dead Man, Miami, The Playboy Mansion

 

Hey! Now this ain't bad at all! In fact, it's quite good! They've figured out a way to use the electronic bleeps and bloops in conjunction with, y'know, interesting music! Several catchy "dance" style tunes (the opening trio of "Discotheque", "Do You Feel Loved", and mofoin' "Mofo"!!!), some ballady type stuff ("If God Will Send His Angels" -- absolutely gorgeous tune -- and "Staring at the Sun")... Wow, I sure didn't notice it, but the first five songs on here are awesome! "Last Night on Earth" is pretty good too!

Well, nothing's perfect, this album included: the second half kinda sucks. In particular, "Wake Up Dead Man" and "Miami" are about the worst songs they've done since "Daddy's Gonna Pay for Your Crashed Car". Okay, so that's just from the last album, but it was four years previous. Insert humorous ending sentence here.


All That You Can't Leave Behind - 2000

Rating: **
Best songs: Beautiful Day, Wild Honey. Elevation
Worst songs: uh, most of the rest

 

Oh, goody, a "return to their roots" record. Actually, this really isn't much of a return to the 80's U2 sound -- the mood is so sedate, you'd think you were listening to Zooropa with guitars. Aside from the top-notch opener "Beautiful Day", this record doesn't register much of a pulse at all.

Which wouldn't be a problem if the songs were of a sufficiently high quality. They aren't. Okay, a couple other tracks are pretty nice: "Wild Honey" is an acoustic (!) guitar-driven song, and "Elevation" is okay, but it features the most obvious rhyme pattern ever: sky, fly, and high. When will people learn that these words should not go together just because they rhyme? But the rest is quite dull.

note to 80s synthpop fans: doesn't it sound like Bono should sing "the sun always shines on TV" after the "touch me" part on "Beautiful Day"?


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