Wherein a recording artist of mixed critical acclaim (but strong commercial appeal) is placed under my scrutiny.

Wow- long title. So in less than a week, I’m off. Wrestlemania-bound (points at WWE sign). So expect at least one wrestling-based post in the few days in-between.

But not today. Today is a post that stemmed from a throwaway list that I slapped together to fill out space constructed for your interest last week. A couple of weeks ago, I was giving my records a bit of a sort-out (with LPs and 12″ singles, I get into the habit of playing them, then instead of putting them back in the lovely IKEA box I got, just piling them on top of it. Except when the pile becomes double figures, it’s not good for the box.

So, sorting them out, I came across (amongst other things) my copy of U2’s 1984 album The Unforgettable Fire. Having not listened to it for a while, I decided to stick it on……and promptly remembered how good it actually is. Especially Side 2.

Now, I’ll often refer to The Unforgettable Fire as U2’s first good album- this is purely personal and subjective. Some may like their earlier stuff, but I think those first three albums do sound a little too much like their contemporaries- a poor man’s Bunnymen. However, with the help of music production mastermind Brian Eno, the group changed their sound somewhat, with emphasis on textures and atmospheres, in comparison to the abrasive-ish post-punk of Boy, October and War.

Now, I’m going to say something a little unconventional- even though it has reached the point of ‘every home has a copy’, The Joshua Tree isn’t that good, really. I mean, it’s not a bad record, but it doesn’t work for me, a couple of songs aside.

But in all fairness, they’ve made some fantastic LPs in their time- the entire 1990s output is such a good standard-  the celebrated Achtung Baby, the underrated Zooropa and the misunderstood PopPop has gone without love for some time now- it’s a departure from the ‘classic’ (read: boring) U2 sound, which since 2000 has pretty much been the norm. It sells records, it packs stadiums…but…it feels…lazy. Lazy, in the sense that every new album they produce has a lead single which is, well, boring. ‘Beautiful Day’, ‘Vertigo’, ‘Get On Your Boots’- hardly ‘Discothèque’. I think it’s why I raise Pop higher- at least it tried to progress somewhat. A bit like Dazzle Ships (see my arguement about OMD for more there).

Achtung Baby is one of those few albums that still get better with every listen. Zooropa is a  strange, cold landscape, dotted with some of the band’s finest songwriting. Pop, for better or for worse, is just fun. It’s a band, who ten years prior were seen as glum Charidee boys fueled by their own ego (funny how history repeats itself…) actually enjoying themselves. Something that has not been heard since.

U2BonoLive

It’s also a little odd that their ‘throwaway’ album, Zooropa is my clear favourite- recorded in various places while on the massive Zoo TV tour- starting off as a fanclub EP, more material was added until it became a full-fledged long-player in itself. I honestly can’t think of a single bad moment in that LP- even the weaker songs are saved by the sequencing. Compare this with their last two efforts- 2004’s How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb and 2009’s No Line On The Horizon. On each, there is only one song I liked. One song. They are good songs, I’ll give them that (‘City Of Blinding Lights’ and ‘Moment Of Surrender’, respectively), but for a band of this level of fame, acclaim and so on, it’s not enough, really. As I said, this is purely personal- I’m sure I could find many, many souls across the internet who will disagree.

So, at which point does U2 stop ‘sounding like U2?’. Here:

(At this point, I’ve realised I could bang on about this for AGES. Therefore, I’m going to do something logical. I’m going to end here, with a playlist/mixtape, and come back to this subject at a later date.)

Therefore:

EVERYTHING YOU KNOW IS WRONG: A U2 MIXTAPE

U2MixtapeCover

  1. Zooropa (from Zooropa)
  2. Discothèque (Pop)
  3. Zoo Station (Achtung Baby)
  4. Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me (Batman Forever Soundtrack)
  5. Lemon (Zooropa)
  6. Even Better Than The Real Thing (Achtung Baby)
  7. Slug (Original Soundtracks 1)*
  8. If You Wear That Velvet Dress (Pop)
  9. Numb (Zooropa)
  10. So Cruel (Achtung Baby)
  11. City Of Blinding Lights (How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb)
  12. Ultraviolet (Light My Way) (Achtung Baby)
  13. Gone (Pop)
  14. Until The End Of The World (Achtung Baby)
  15. Your Blue Room (Original Soundtracks 1)*
  16. Bad The Unforgettable (Fire)
  17. Miss Sarajevo (Original Soundtracks 1)*
  18. Moment Of Surrender (No Line On The Horizon)
  19. Where The Streets Have No Name (The Joshua Tree)
  20. Stay (Faraway, So Close!) (Zooropa)
  21. Running To Stand Still (The Joshua Tree)
  22. Mofo (Pop)
  23. Please (Pop)
  24. The Unforgettable Fire (The Unforgettable Fire)
  25. The First Time (Zooropa)
  26. Love Is Blindness (Achtung Baby)
  27. Dirty Day (Zooropa)
  28. All I Want Is You (Rattle & Hum)
  29. Always Forever Now (Original Soundtracks 1)*
  30. The Wanderer (Zooropa)

*- Yes, these aren’t technically U2. But I’m counting their Passengers side-project. Mainly because it’s brilliant.

You may have noticed a slight bias in my choices. If you were hoping for ‘Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of’, then I’m very sorry. Then again, you may be on the wrong blog.

This train of thought will be continued.

Popmart

(Dial Tone)

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