Talk about your rock n’ roll turnarounds. Starting off as a fresh-faced, young, peacefully Christian band, they eventually moved into some pretty strange areas, musically and image-wise. Bono wearing all black and sunglasses?? What the fck is that all about? Was it artistic freedom on display as they changed their image and sound so much by the time of ‘Achtung Baby’? Maybe. But I liked them a lot better when The Edge’s guitar rang out strong and pure, saving even the most inane Bono-produced lyrics from the garbage heap. Like here, for instance.
Let’s get to the two main points here. One, I like this widely dismissed album. Two, Bono has never written worse lyrics than he does here, and he probably never will. That being said, the question is why like an album whose lyrics range from competent-at-best to downright embarassing and grimace-inducing? Because even on the bad ones, The Edge chimes in with wonderful, crooked guitar noise. He’s never been as consistent in his playing before or after this album, and it is an absolute pleasure to hear his commentary. Too bad Bono couldn’t at least provide decent lyrics. Then this might be a classic (seriously!). Example- “Scarlet”, which has one word in it (repeated several times, and not for effect, but because Bono couldn’t think of anything else), but which is made by The Edge’s repeated, slightly altered call-and-response guitar.
(“I Threw A Brick Through A Window”)
The Joshua Tree (1987)
Well, they certainly know their good songs from their not-so-good ones. The four best start the album off, and make it worth owning even if the rest is old tat (and most of it is). Sadly beautiful, elegantly framed by The Edge’s guitar, their best album is a treat to listen to on occasion.
(“With Or Without You”, “Bullet The Blue Sky”)
The Best Of: 1980-1990 (1998)
“Best of” is, of course, a matter of opinion. I really don’t know why some bands call their compilations “best of” and others “greatest hits”. In either case, it’s generally untrue, whether based on opinion (everyone has a different idea about what the absolute best is) or based on absolute fact (if you call an album “greatest hits”, you should probably put all their…wanna guess? RIGHT! All their GREATEST HITS on it). Invariably that doesn’t happen, as the band chooses to slap on an album cut they like and stiff you on the other HIT you thought you paid for. This is not, in my opinion, the best U2 album that could have been constructed from 1980-1990 material. I’d stick three or four different songs on it, including of course “I Threw A Brick Through A Window”. But I’m just quibbling for the sake of padding out the review. It’s a great album, no question. I could have made an A+. They apparently are content with a slightly lower grade. Fine. See if I care. Sniff sniff.
(“With Or Without You”, “Desire”, “I Will Follow”)