These guys are from England and who gives a shit?
* special introductory paragraph!
* Boy
* October
* War
* Live Under A Blood Red Sky mini-lp
* The Unforgettable Fire
* Wide Awake In America EP
* The Joshua Tree
* Rattle And Hum
* The Hits/The B-Sides
* Achtung Baby
* Zooropa
* Passengers: Original Soundtracks 1 (with Brian Eno)
* Pop
* All That You Can't Leave Behind
* How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb
* No Line On The Horizon
Okay, that was kind of an obscure reference. If you caught it, pat yourself lightly on the arm. Otherwise, at least refrain from sending me corrective e-mails - U2 is in fact from Ireland, I'll be the first to admit. What I won't be the first to admit, however, is that U2 is the most consistent band in the Universe. Please do read on.
Reader Comments

colmcosgrove@esatclear.ie (Colm)
Since when are U2 from England "These guys are from England and who gives a shit?" Get your facts right please - Not only are U2 Irish (From Ireland) they are the greatest band in the world!

This is an example of people not reading the page. Any questions?

So you are trying to see what kind of folks: (1) listen to Negativland; and (2) read U2 reviews. I have a hard time joining Hosler/Wills/joyce in the Shaggy-jamming -- after all, the man introduced me to "You Shook Me All Night Long" and "Train in Vain." The only time I heard these songs was their one-apiece ATF airings. The only time I heard the Specials was as background music on a 60 Minutes segment. Growin' up in a small town blues: teaches you how to keep your feet on the ground and to keep reachin' for them stars.

emerybored68@msn.com (Annie)
I have to tell you this -- if you are going to rag on someone at least get your facts straight........U2 is NOT - I repeat -- NOT from England . If you don't understand refer to your opening statement on this web page.

Luv Ya

goodegg@fastermail.com (Conrad Eggers)
Hey Mark,
I would just like to comment that these people are obviously not familiar with Negativland at all and still feel the need to correct you despite their ignorance. How pompous.

Boy - Island 1980.
Rating = 8

Some early-ass stuff, but nice! They sound kinda serious and distant, like a New Order-ish type thing, but the singer really oversings everything like he's in a musical, so it gives it a "larger than life" quality that you wouldn't expect in such an understated "postpunk" style of music. Fresh production and a crisp sound lets you know that they're a young band - old men don't play music this simple and repetitive and wanky blues solo-free (at least, in 1980, they didn't....).

A great guy named Chris Crowson once told me that this is the only U2 album he can sit all the way through, and I can definitely see why. There are no egos here. This isn't radio-ready overproduced rock - it's rough-around-the-edges art rock in the vein of early Public Image Limited (with more emphasis on guitar) - a darned fine attempt to combine the amateurish feel of punk with the emotional moodmaking of all those silly types of music that aren't punk. And no, this isn't "punk" in any sense of the word, but it sure is exciting in its own way. The melodies are just beautiful ("Into The Heart," "An Cat Dubh," "Out Of Control," others), and it's so refreshing to be able to sit down and listen to really creative music that sounds like it was made by the kids who live downstairs. That's what this is all about. And it was only a matter of time before this lovely style got them too much attention and their egos began flailing wildly out of control, but hey.... You can't feign innocence forever.

Please buy this one. Then try to convince me that "One" is a great song. No. It's not. I'm sorry. Unless you're referring to that Metallica song, "One" is NOT a great song. It's hardly even good. "I Will Follow" - now, there's a good song!!! And no, I'm not gonna argue that every track on here is a winner. That's why I only gave it an EIGHT! But it's a fantastic first attempt, and there's no way you can listen to it a couple of times and then turn to me and tell me that U2 never deserved all that media attention. Know what I'm saying? Mmm? Mmm? How's about a Fresca? Mmm? Mmm?

Reader Comments

dswalen@concentric.net (Doug Swalen)
Not bad. "One" sucks! "I will follow" rules, but for some reason early U2 brings to mind Thin Lizzy and very very early Dead Kennedys. The DK may be a bit of a reach, but Thin Lizzy, that's another matter. Thin Lizzy were from Ireland and just go listen to the Jailbreak album and you'll pick up the pieces of the building blocks U2 used to build their career.

strider@redrose.net (David Straub)
I think "An Cat Dubh" and "Another Time Another Place" are pretty damn amazing for a band of 18 and 19-year-olds. The Edge is already a true original on guitar here, even if he is buried in the mix every now and then. And even so-- how about that production anyway? Obscure wannabe punks from Dublin? This stuff still sounds really fresh and Lillywhite built a well-deserved reputation on this record. I will never get tired of listening to this album.

Weigelda@aol.com (Dave Weigel)
One hell of a debut album. Sonically, Mark hit the nail on the thumb--it sounds like really melodic punk with clangy guitars and a singer who oversings (in a good way, not in a banal Hootie way) everything. There's no ego, no dull ballads (not to say U2 ballads are dull, but it's cool when they're not there, y'know?), and no stupid techno. I'd call it the best debut album of the 80s if 'twerent for the Pixies's Surfer Rosa. Otherwise, it's their best album until The Joshua Tree, and a good one to hook people who don't like U2 on. Their first three albums rule!

This is one hell of an album. Boy is so f***king creative, innovative, interesting... and it's not even their best. As for that "new sound," damn right, but they still have it, just in a different form.

jason69@sprynet.com (Jason Carter)
Interesting, the Thin Lizzy comparison, since Henry Rollins - a Thin Lizzy fan - hates these fuckers. But BOY is their best one. Some of their best SONGS are not here, mind you, but it is definitely their most cohesive RECORD. You don't sit there wondering what political angle old Bono is coming from or why the Edge keeps trying to cover up his male pattern baldness with those silly hats.

bish24@erols.com (JTB)
"I Will Follow" is one of those tracks that I still am not tired of hearing. This is an amazing record when you realize these guys were barely out of their teens when it was released. Hell, when I was their age I was drinking beers and not doing much in the creative department!

grimlock@vt.edu (Charles Calhoun)
I've never heard this album... I dunno, I think my ex-roommate playing POP every day for a couple months has left emotional scars... but a brief note on that Rollins thing Jason brought up. From what he said at a spoken word show (go), it seems Hank only hates them because they started out sincere, and immediately turned into cynical, commercial shit. Like they can't play the old shit anymore with a straight face, because it was a different front.

Boy is one of the most goddawful albums I have ever had the misfortune to hear, and yes, I listened to it all the way through, and yes, I quite like some later stuff by these tossers. It's consistently overblown, like Bono has to prove how soulful and passionate he is, but he just sounds like he's having a particularly long and painful shit. You Yanks just don't get it, do you? The band are bloody awful, like any bunch of 16 year olds trying to work out how to play solos for the first time, and only Steve Lillywhite's production saves it from sounding like total dreck. It's posey, pretentious in the worst possible sense (unlike, say, Pere Ubu) and it is occasionally quite embarrassing to listen to. These people needed to grow up desperately, and thank fuck they did, although a move from Jesus H. himself to God the Almighty stinks of careerism, if y' ask me!!

wilkinso@muskingum.edu (Meredith L. Wilkinson)
"One" is a fine song!

Henry Rollins hates U2? I saw him host MTV countdown of all-time best songs, and when he introduced New Years Day he said "that was the brilliant song New Years Day by U2" I don't call that hate. As for the album, it ranks among the best debuts album of all-time, ranking with REM's Murmur and Pixies' Come On Pilgrim or Surfer Rosa if you don't count COP because it was only 8 songs, they both were great. Out of Control is my favorite though.

jgwilson@DELTA.IS.TCU.EDU (Jeff Wilson)
as a matter of fact, henry rollins does hate u2......when he went to dublin to perform, he was bitchin and complaining about them the whole time... ayways, i think all of their albums are great including BOY..

9402992h@student.gla.uc.uk (Dan Hackney)
Boy is weird. It's a very cold record. It has an immensely passionless guitar sound (and player) with some kid trying his damnedest to cover it up with deep and meaningful yelps...and it sounds fuckin' mint! I challenge anyone to play a guitar that slowly and simply and badly with anything approaching the same glorious detachment. It just sounds amazingly pure and crystalline. No wonder he uses so many effects now to try and give the impression of depth. He needn't bother, it was amazing as it was.

cynderelli@techline.com (TAD)
I agree agree agree. But has NEbuddy ever figured out what Bono sounds so UPSET about? I mean, he's so INTENSE! 4 yrs I thot it was some kinda homosexual confusion, should-I-or-shouldn't-I type of thing (Cms pretty clear from some of these songs).

Doesn't matter, of course. This record has GORGEOUS ringing guitar work, and the songs R mostly pretty damn brilliant, especially the 1st side (tho the middle of "An Chat Dubh" drags a bit when I'm not in the mood). Love practically all of it, especially "I Will Follow," "Twilight," "Into the Heart," "Out of Control" & "The Electric Co.," & sometimes "Stories for Boys."

But I worked in a record store when this came out, & we couldn't GIVE the damn thing away. We only ever sold about 4 copies. People just don't know what's good 4 them. Guess U2 had the last laugh on that 1....

I do like this album, but it seems sort of blatantly off the mark to name it "U2's masterpiece"-- it's really just a bunch of distant arena-rock songs mixed in with a few soft ballads, and just because it's more sincere than anything else they released later doesn't necessarily mean it's better. Plus, some songs are just boring and annoying, like "An Cat Dubh"(why the hell does that song go on for so long?). No matter what I say, though, the album is pretty consistently rocking, and I'll stand by "I Will Follow," "Twilight," "The Electric Co.," "Out Of Control" and "A Day Without Me" until the day burglars enter my maximum-security mental hospital cell and steal the album from me while I'm tied up in my straight jacket. I'd give the album a 7.

eklawitter@earthlink.net (Edward Klawitter)
I think for a bunch of ninetten and twenty year olds (never the less a debut album), this is a pretty peice of work. Sure, the only one that actually knew how to play at the time was drummer Larry Mullen, but the others fake it nicely. The Edge displays a distant sound and fully avoids ear-drilling solos, (most thought he was being modest, but in actuality, he couldn't play that well at the beginning), Adam Clayton gives a rumbling bass, Larry does an impressive job on songs like 'I Will Follow' and Bono makes you feel the pain of his lost mother and fucked up childhood. Songs like 'A Day Without Me', 'I Will Follow', 'Electric Co.' and 'Out Of Control' tend to recieve the "play it till the record is ruined" treatment and, though greatly flawed for sheer inability play so early in their carrer, is a testament of their talent and a omen of things to come.

imoss@northernlight.com (Ian Moss)
I really really really like this album. Yeah. Hey, this was another one that turned out to be WAY better than I expected. So consistent! The songs do sound similar, yes, but not so much that it's annoying. Even half-songs like "The Ocean" are quite evocative in their half-song-ness. All of the songs are good, but "I Will Follow," "Twilight," and "Another Time, Another Place" especially rule. And Bono's oversinging works well, methinks--he sounds really good! An underrated singer if you ask me. An underrated album, if you ask me twice. 9, if you just have to ask me three times. Glutton!

zaanpunk@hotmail.com (Michiel Heinicke)
My favourite U2 Album!!!, me being into Punk Music and well, this is a PUNK album, and not a ROCK album. I mean, almost every song is up-tempo, the guitar is loud. The reason most people dont think this is punk is because the edge doesnt play powerchords, he justs plays high-one-string notes the whole time. And well Bono is no Johnny Rotten of course. But listen to the bass and drums and compare it to a Ramones-album. Pretty Clear. And well the production also took away the sharp edges. Listen to the pre-boy singles and u'll understand me. (connect to napster and search for em!!) Fact: U2 Started playing Ramones Covers before writing their own material! 9/10

alanhaw@hotmail.com (Alan Hawkins)
Call me crazy but I'm gonna give this one the 10! it's got to be one of the most exciting debuts I've ever heard! Mesmerizing guitar sounds, tons of energy and every single song is either wonderfully catchy ("Out of control" "another time, another place") or dropdead georgeous ("The ocean" "Into the heart.") The creepy, acoustic closer "Shadows and tall trees" is just unbelievably cool.

I also heard Henry Rollins hates this band,and he should,they really,really suck!

jaimoe0@hotmail.com (James Welton)
A great debut by this band of Irish lads who don't sound a thing like Thin Lizzy, thank you very much Doug Swalen. I've always felt that this album had a very strong thematic unity, that theme being the transition from boy to man, and more universally, from child to adult. Songs like "Twilight," "Into the Heart," "A Day Without Me," and "Shadows and Tall Trees" seem to me to all address the fears, confusion and possibility attendant with that time. Considering that the band members were all in their late teens when these tunes were composed and recorded, they were in an excellent position to comment on that state of flux knowingly and without the least bit of condescension. Being only a few years younger than the band members themselves when the album came out, I connected with this release very directly and intimately. It's one of those albums I grew up with.

While I hear the sort of detached, antiseptic sound in the instrumentation and production, I don't find it chilly or without passion and emotion. In fact, songs like "I Will Follow," "Out of Control," and "Electric Co." are unabashedly enthusiastic and rocking. They would never sound this sincere and genuinely engaged again, I think, which isn't to say that U2 didn't have a lot of great music left in them, but there's no sense of naivete or first-time wonder in any of the later releases. But why should there be? You only get one debut, right?

jdecuir@satx.rr.com (Uncle Buzz Records)
Did you go back and edit that silly "Should I or shouldn't I ?" bit out? Guess you figured out that "Twilight" was more about that awkward period in life where you're neither a boy nor a man, not making ass plans .

This record rocks. Mainly because Adam Clayton plays bass like Cliff Williams: that relentless dunh-dunh-dunh-dunh-dunh-dunh-dunh-dunh-dunh-dunh... keeps the album movin' ever forward. That's right, AC/DC!!!! Think I'm kiddin' ? Check it out! It's all over the place. Listen to the segue into "Out of Control" , the guy can hardly wait to start pluggin away! Ocassionally he'll start a song with some kinda riff, but by the end, it's back to dunh-dunh-dunh-dunh-dunh-dunh-dunh-dunh-dunh-dunh... again. It works! It rules! It kicks ass! And it probably saved them a lotta money on studio tricks ' cause unlike later releases, this album is driven by U2's energy.

As far as them other 2'ers go: the drums sound smackin' and Lillywhitey. The Edge still has one. Bono's vocals are really good , especially 'cause they're mixed down with the rest of the music! He's merely started a landslide in his ego here, it hasn't yet blossomed into a full-on flag-wavin', marchin'-mullet-headed ego yet. And then there's the BELLS! No one is given credit for playing them. They just appear.....on almost every song. How cool. They give Boy a great starry-night-timey feel none of the other albums have.

I saw these dudes live around the time this album came out. They played at Randy's Rodeo in San Antonio , the place where the Pistols played. There were only about 200 people in the audience, but the band were in-flippin'-credible. They definitely had a certain something. Glad I caught'em when I did, 'cause I'm not too crazy about what they later became.More power to y'all who like the later stuff. Must be something there. But this is the one for me. I played it recently for a friend who thought U2 have always totally sucked & he had to admit.............

I bought this album thinking it was a Pete Townshend album..ill leave that at that!! But imagine my surprise when I discovered that it's actually a Gary Glitter album..I mean U2, shit what's up with the title of this album neway?????? Ah well thank god this album has Bono on it. Seeing as Bono is the only man alive to have fucked the Pope, Nelson Mandela and every American president from George W Bush, Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, Madonna ..Fuck it!! every president who ever existed had an affair with Bono!! except Jimmy Carter coz he didn't dig punk music which Bono invented!! (along with a number of other minor things like stadium rock, psychedelic rock, "cool" sunglasses, Bob Geldolf, Boy Bands, Girl Bands, Gay Bands and Irish messiahs who aint drunk and pretend to be god, Bono is the real deal, man.!!) And for that reason alone every U2 album should receive a 10!! Sure the music might be pretty crap, a little rough around the edges(HA!) and it's kinda dull.but Bono H. Christ sings on the album so its 10 all the way. That's right 2.

Sounds like they bought a xylophone the same day they bought their guitars.

Outstanding album of songs. Fresh faced rock(not punk) of the new wave of bands of the time. And yes, Bono and Adam were 20 years, Edge was 18/19 years, and Larry was 18 years, - not yet 19, during the recording of the album. Edge was already a very gifted guitarist at this time, and was already quite accomplished and skilled for a rock guitarist, though not as much in the blues and Page/Clapton/Hendrix realm, though check out Edge's solo work on Street Mission from 1978, and the speedy solo on The Speed of Life from 1980, and more..... Edge was a solid guitarist for his rock guitar style, and wasn't too involved with power chords overall. Very creative guitarist, especially with the effects pedals, particularly modulated delay(ElectroHarmonix Memory Man Deluxe pedal), even at the time.

Benjamin Burch
It took me a while, but I think this is the best U2 album until "The Joshua Tree." I agree that there's no ego, no overproduction, no stupid electronics, and that's why I love this album. Sure this album is home to "Into the Heart" (beautiful melody yes, but it gets boring) and the totally unnecessary "The Ocean" (belongs on the next album) but it also has the terrific " I Will Follow," "Out of Control," "A Day Without Me," "Another Time Another Place" and "Twilight." I've also grown to like "Shadows and Tall Tress" and that cool guitar passage at the end ("Saturday Night"). So yeah, U2 never sounded so fun ever again after this, and the whole pop/post punk/rock thing gives off a great atmosphere. 8.5/10.

Add your thoughts?

October - Island 1981.
Rating = 7

This one just doesn't grab my attention as well as the other early records. It's real similar to Boy, but a lot of the songs (probably due to production) seem kind of musically empty ("I Threw A Brick Through A Window," "Is That All?," "Stranger In A Strange Land"), and Bono is already madly in love with the sound of his voice, so the end result is rather dull and annoying. It just doesn't have the life of the first record. It does have some of that echoey Edge guitar that would soon become the band's trademark, but the dabblings with serious art music just drag and drag some more. Oh ho sure, there are some fantastic songs on here. "Gloria," "Rejoice," and "I Fall Down" are lovely and rockin', for example. They'll be stuck in your head for days. Still, they would have benefited from some tougher War-like production. But who knew???? In short, not a bad album at all. But not up to the standards of early U2, if you ask me. Maybe it was just time to grow up and start sounding like a real FM radio band.

Reader Comments

strider@redrose.net (David Straub)
Some of these tunes are very good ("Gloria", title instrumental, "Stranger in a Strange Land") but this album is really pale in comparison to the ones on either side of it.

Still, trade in your copy of Zooropa for this today!

Weigelda@aol.com (Dave Weigel)
Funny--I always liked this album. It was the last U2 record I picked up. I kept hearing all this crap about it having a "religious theme", and that kinda steered me away. But when I picked it up, I loved it! "Gloria", "I Fall Down" and "With A Shout" kick ass, the title track and "Tommorow" are beautiful, and well, everything else is pretty great too. It's a lot more mature than Boy, but not quite as great. I'd say it's about as good as War; 8/10.

October is a good and creative album, but I'd say it's one of U2's worst (which isn't saying much; it's still damn cool). It does have some great rhythm and beat, though, and it still has that special something that makes U2 my favorite band ever.

markc@javanet.com (Mark Cybulski)
Is it just me, or does the production on this album sound shitty? It's always sounded kind of murky and not as clear as Boy or War. That's why I think it's the weakest of the first three.

bish24@erols.com (JTB)
I had heard that Bono and the boys had a whole bunch of material ready to go for their follow up to Boy, but it all was lost or stolen or something. They then put their heads back together and came out with October. Put in that context, this is another incredible record. I only imagine what the "lost" stuff was like......

This one isn't as good as Boy or War, but it is still very good. After this album came out and didn't sell as well as Boy, the band almost broke up. That was close.

jgwilson@DELTA.IS.TCU.EDU (Jeff Wilson)
its true, bono DID lose the lyrics, and the other material a week or so before going into the studio to record it, so he had to improvise and try to remeber the lyrics as they went along.

charbono@hotmail.com (Charlene Granger)
Wow, I love your site and have recommended it to lots of people. However, I feel that it is now time for me to have my own say!

From the opening "Gloria" (IMO their best live song) to the unsettling "Is That All?", October is simply beautiful. It's not "pale", it's just... sensitive. It sits in the corner and thinks. It's not loud or brash like War or R&H - it's a very introspective album.... it's message is more personal than the social commentary of War. It has moments of grief (Tomorrow) and also moments of great joy (Scarlet). Although it does get a bit religious at times, I see it as more of a spiritual album, rejoicing in self rather than the almighty ("I can't change the world... but i can change the world in me"). "October" the title track is not the sort of thing you'd get down and boogie to, or sing at the top of your voice (in fact "Gloria" is the only anthem on here) yet it is a powerfully moving song, both in music and lyrics. IMO October is a stronger album than either War or Boy, not in spite of it's understatement but because of it.

I actually think this one's better than the debut. To me it seems like another case of Reggatta De Blanc syndrome, i.e. since the album was quickly rushed out after a successful debut, people assume that it HAS to be inferior, when, in truth, it's actually a superior album. "Gloria" is the classic, of course (and in typical pretentious U2 fashion, the title isn't a girl's name but the Latin word for "glory"), but I'm also extremely fond of "Fire," "Tomorrow," and pretty much all of the first seven tracks plus "Is That All." "With A Shout" just strikes me as an aimless rambling disguised as a rocker (so no ordinary folk would notice), but most of the rest is top-notch. However, the highest notch would soon be raised on the following album..... Anyway, this one's an 8.

eklawitter@earthlink.net (Edward Klawitter)
The incorpperation of religion into rock and roll can be a messy business and October reveals this. Though songs like 'Gloria', 'October' and 'I Fall Down' can carry the album a little, you can tell that they were pressed for time on this one and you can also tell that Bono's lyrics were stolen before they got in the studio (they were). It seems Bono stutters through the whole album, (except 'October'), and even states in 'Gloria' that he can't get out what he wants to say.

This could have been a great album if U2 had been given the time. I'd say that Edge is forced to save the album with his guitar work, which have obviously improved since Boy.

Too bad the other three weren't there with him or this album could have been filled with songs like 'Gloria'.

imoss@northernlight.com (Ian Moss)
I also think that this effort was inferior to their debut, if only because their debut was so good. The highs are there, but the consistency is not. The second half of the album (except for "Scarlet") can go eat its own feces for all I care. OK, that's not entirely true. Album sides do not produce feces, and they do not eat anything. Regardless, I stand by the gist of my original statement. Disgusting as it may have been.

Moving on to more important matters, the first side of the album is every bit as good as Boy. "Gloria," "Rejoice," "I Threw A Brick Through a Window," and especially especially "Fire" (I thought any song with a name as stupid and generic as "Fire" would automatically suck, as evidenced by the Van Halen song of the same name, but Boy, was I wrong! Huh huh. Boy.). Hey, I just realized I ended that last sentence prematurely! It's not even a sentence! Fuck!

I forget, was "With A Shout" on side 1 or side 2? Well, anyway, I like that one too, despite the beating it has received so far. Sorry, I didn't mean to "take sides" on this whole side 1/side 2 issue. Anyone can see that there are good arguments for both sides. Sighed? Psi-ed!

zaanpunk@hotmail.com (Michiel Heinicke)
Good Followup!!! Cant say its boy 2, it does have some of those up-tempo punky songs. But there's a classical touch on this one There are Piano and Bagpipes on this one. A darker album. People say that Bono lost his lyrics one week prior to recording, but if i wasnt told id never known, cuz Bono sings good. They didnt put any song on Their 1980-1990 Compilation, because cept for Gloria, there isnt any Charbuster here. An underground U2 Album. I guess they didnt put Gloria on the compilation cuz its so simular to I will Follow. 8/10

alanhaw@hotmail.com (Alan Hawkins)
Another great album, the sound is a bit murky in places and it kind of sounds as if they ran out of ideas half-way through side two, but it's still a heck of a lot of fun. Bono had such a great voice back then, and the addition of piano on some tracks is a really nice touch. I give an 8.

jaimoe0@hotmail.com (James Welton)
Where the debut is a great album, this is merely a really good album. I think the main problem with it can be attributed to the loss of the lyric sheets prior to recording. Musically, I think they take tentative steps forward, and the addition of keyboards here and there is a nice touch, kind of expanding the instrumental sound, but the production isn't as crisp as the last album, but still manages to be detached and, in this case, downright cold. Only exception to that statement that I hear is the exuberant, first-album sounding "Gloria."

I guess the problem is that some of the tracks sound unfinished. "Is That All," for example, has rocking music, but it sounds like a good idea that was never finished. It's sort of repetitive - I know that repetitive, simple guitar lines were a major component of the band's sound, but this sounds like repetition through desperation, not design - and it just doesn't go anywhere. Bono must not have lost all his lyrics though, because "Gloria," "I Fall Down," and "Stranger in a Strange Land" are just fantastic songs. A very good album, but with some glaring flaws.

Benjamin Burch
For a band that had such a promising start, this is just ridiculous. You're right, Bono falls in love with his voice on this album, and it gets annoying. His wailing on the songs makes them very unpleasant. But more importantly, this is the most depressing album they ever did.

Despite all that, "Gloria" is on here, but it doesn't even come close to the better songs on "Boy." "I Threw a Brick Through a Window," "With a Shout" and "Is That All?" are pretty good songs too. There are others that are okay, but the bad songs on here, ("October," "Scarlet" and "Strange Day in a Strange Land") are pretty awful. This is a much more complicated and a less accessible album than its predecessor. But for all its shortcomings, I'll give it a 7.

Add your thoughts?

War - Island 1983.
Rating = 8

Rock and roll!!!! Well-produced driving guitar rock. Pretty much what they were playing on the first two albums, except mixed much better and without all that artsy crap. I should give it a nine, but I despise "The Refugee" and I swear the disc starts to peter out at the end somehow. I mean, I like "Surrender" and "40" when I sing them to myself, but "Red Light" just kinda floats on by... Ehh, I'm losing my train of clarksville.

What I'm getting at is that this is a REALLY GOOD early-'80s album that finally let the world in on the fact that U2 was a force to be reckoned with. The funky "Two Hearts Beat As One" was the first U2 song I ever heard (and I liked it!), the marching "Sunday Bloody Sunday" is still a radio classic, and "New Year's Day" is, in my opinion, the greatest song they've ever done. I've heard it over a googol times, but it still brings annoying little bumps to my armskin. It's fast and pounding, the echoey piano is eerie and threatening-esque, and the delay-repeat guitar just whickles and thraps all over the top as if The Edge actually deserved such a silly pseudonym. Bono's overblown vox even FIT the mood this time, believe it or not! Amazing song. I love that bit where he goes, "Newspapers say.... say..../SAY IT'S TRUE!! IT'S TRUE!!!!" That part kicks my ass about halfway across the living room, which in and of itself is only about 5x1, but when you're speaking in turns of an energy source as weak as "audio," well then it doesn't seem quite so small now, does it? One bad thing this album does is it kinda makes you wonder if U2 isn't gonna totally corn out and become a weakass radio band who eschew art for cash. They didn't. Time saved us from going into that argument here. If Pop was made for cash, I'll eat my shoe.

I won't really eat my shoe, but have you ever heard that Rancid Hell Spawn song "Eat My Shoe"? I like it a lot. They sound like a guy playing punk rock on a Casio keyboard through a distortion pedal. Just thought you, a big U2 fan, might like to know.

Reader Comments

dswalen@concentric.net (Doug Swalen)
I consider this the best they've done. And with "Sunday Bloody Sunday", and "New Year's Day" on the same album, can you blame me? But I'll go out on a limb and say "Sunday" was better than "New Years"...

khrystynah@hotmail.com (khrystynah foster)
this is by far their best album, and also the first one that i ever owned. it's so raw and rough. i love "sunday bloody sunday". it still gets me worked up.... and if i were in a punk band... i would cover it. and the edge is gorgeous; how could you look into those eyes and not give him whatever he wants??

strider@redrose.net (David Straub)
10. One of the better records of the 80s... Agreed on "New Years' Day", but I might like a couple of tunes on the next one even better...

I wish I could play the guitar like the Edge was at this point. What an awesome sound.

Yeah I have to agree as well, the album is really good, I think it's their best early 80's album as far as I am concerned. It's so good, that I still listen to it today.

Weigelda@aol.com (Dave Weigel)
This was the first U2 album I bought, but it's not my favorite. It has the band's best songs up to this point ("Sunday Bloody Sunday", "New Year's Day", "Two Hearts Beat as One"), and none of it is bad. But some it is really second rate. I love "Like A Song..." and "40", but the other half of the album is mediocre. Besides these complaints, I must admit that all the melodies stick in your head and the record is sequenced perfectly, allowing it to become more than the sum of its parts. Hmmm. Maybe it is better than October. 9/10

This is a beautiful album, especially with songs like "Surrender" and "Drowning Man." It's tragically moving if you listen to the lyrics, and downright devastating when you absorb the music. It's a wonderful album with great writing, and probably is the best thing that came from the 80's until '87, with The Joshua Tree.

wilkinso@muskingum.edu (Meredith L. Wilkinson)
"Sunday Bloody Sunday" still chills me, but I think I like the live version from Live Under a Blood Red Sky better.

This is a great album, I echo precious "Drowning Man" sentiment, of course "Sunday" and New Yar's Day", "40" ad nauseum were great songs also...a complete album, very nicely done...

jltichenor@earthlink.net (James L. Tichenor)
This is, as far as im concerned, the only good u2 album. I totally agree with you on "New Years Day". So never say mainstream 80's didnt produce something good till youve had it out with this album kiddies.

cbunnell@ix.netcom.com (Rich Bunnell)
GREAT album. Still extremely raw compared to some later U2 albums, but the rawness is what makes songs like "Sunday Bloody Sunday" work so well. "Two Hearts Beat As One" is also a wonderful song, and the rest of the album is highly anthemic rock, such as "Like A Song" and "New Year’s Day," two of U2’s greatest songs. It’s a bit too raw to reach the full 10, but it gets darn close. 9.5/10

eklawitter@earthlink.net (Edward Klawitter)
This album brought U2 into the mainstream. They now had a sound and a lot of people liked it. They still do as this is one of the fans' favorite U2 albums.

It's a great album and it's messages are all too clear. Peace in Ireland! It sounds really unlikely writing it here, but Bono belting it through 'Sunday Bloody Sunday' makes you think for a moment it could happen.

Larry Mullen (drummer) takes a strong hold in this album, banging out martial beats and practically being the whole band on the song 'The Refugee'. Bono has finally got some good song writing going on this album, but Bono says now (in the year 2000) that he can't listen to that album anymore for one reason...he says he screeches through the whole album. Personally, I don't think so, but it sounds so angry sometimes that I have a hard time not getting a little ticked at the things wrong with the world when I listen to it. 'New Year's Day' is one of the only songs I hear stray from that, but it [War] still U2 in their element and a very good element!

imoss@northernlight.com (Ian Moss)
I'm very glad that so many readers think that this is U2's best album. I would have to cough up the 10 and agree, because this is just about as good as it gets from the goofily-named quartet. No, it's not perfect (I agree with Mark 100% about "Refugee" and "Red Light"), but the highs ("New Year's Day") are SO high that they obliterate any imperfections with the rest of the album. For me, no track is quite as luminous or powerful as "New Year's Day," but I have a great fondness for ""40"" as well. Not entirely sure why--it's only a fragment after all, and I can't even understand the words, but my! those harmonies are gor-gee-uss. Anyway, aside from the two slightly lackluster songs mentioned above ("Refugee" and "Red Light," not "New Year's Day" and ""40"" (Damn, I just completely removed the need to refer to those songs as "the songs mentioned above" since I just mentioned them)), this one's a beaut. If you think U2 is just The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby (not that those are bad albums, either), check War out and see how wrong you are. And how ugly you are too.

zaanpunk@hotmail.com (Michiel Heinicke)
A combination of the punky Boy and arty October. But that doesnt make this a better album. No. There are good songs here, of course the famous Sunday Bloody Sunday and New years day, but also Like a song and Two hearts beat as one. But hell some songs here are Crap!!! Seconds, The Refugee, Red Light, Surrender... eww no this is the first time u2 produce shitty songs. 7/10

alanhaw@hotmail.com (Alan Hawkins)
This one was diappointing, you're right - it is straightforward guitar rock, and that's what bugs me, I really miss the arty vibe from the first two records. Also, a lot of these songs just are n't very memorable, "Two hearts beat as one" totally rules though! "Surrender" starts off great, but then just drags on for way too long, I give the album a 7.

Awesome record. Definatly one of my favorites. The production is dark and dreary, pretty much just like the messages in most of these songs. "New Years Day" (i agree, that one bit in this song is amazing), "Sunday Bloody Sunday", "Two hearts beat as one" being the main classics, and also being my favorites on here. Other songs i really like are "Seconds", "Like A Song" and "40". I also dig "Refugee" for some reason, although ill admit its pretty dumb. Only song that doesnt do much for me is "Red Light", but besides that, not a bad song on here. 9/10.

An 8, mr. P? I've been a major U2 fan since '83 just after this came out, I've heard all their discs a thousand times each and I can boldly say that nothing before or since can touch this one. J Tree is excellent, as is Achtung Baby (you blew it on this one too Mark) and there are prolonged moments of greatness on almost all of the remaining discs, especially Boy, however, never again would they produce such a brilliant string of pertinent, passionate, heartfelt, well-written SONGS, yes real songs that are catchy and they make you think and want to get up and slap around those who believe that violence will solve anything. In fact, it is of Sticky Fingers magnitude, and I don't say that lightly. Sunday Bloody, New Year's Day and Two Hearts are major classics, in fact Sunday nestles nicely among the top 5 songs of the decade. Red Light, Drowning Man, and Surrender are second tier only because the first tier is way too good, on their own they would make any other album a classic. Seconds, Like a Song... and The Refugee round things out and give the disc a battle cry feeling that fits the era and the overall theme. 40 is typical U2 finishing their disc with dignity. There is no pretentiousness here, no egotistical deviation that really started growing with Unforgettable Fire and reached its climax with Zoopoo and unfortunately continues to be their Achilles heel to this day (2005). On the contrary, it's clearly a group effort, with Larry taking a stand. It's got a personal touch to it that reaches out to each fan and inspires; all of which were reflected in their live shows of the time. Totally outrageous. 10/10.

rockylisa@yahoo.com (R)
The only U2 cd I ever gave a rats about. I guess AchtungBaby was ok. Ide take the Cure albums or Poisons first record over most U2. U2 War is a good record.

Benjamin Burch
Yep, all that artsy crap from "October" is gone, and they started pumping up their sound. This album starts off promising, but kind of peters out at the end. I agree "Red Light" is nothing, "Surrender" is annoying and "40" is boring. I also used to like "Two Hearts Beat as One," but that was until I heard the remixes on the deluxe edition.

But "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "New Years Day" are miles better than any remixes. They are actually better than anything on "Boy" and deserved to be the big singles off of here. "The Refugee" takes a lot of shit from people, but I love it. Those three and "Seconds" are the ones I really go for. "Like a Song" and "Drowning Man" (one of their worst songs) are lame and incredibly boring and really drag this album down. I'll give it a 7.

Add your thoughts?

Live Under A Blood Red Sky mini-lp - Island 1983.
Rating = 8

A whoppin' crank-em-up of a shittin' live record, hey you! Hey you! The four biggest shittin' U2 hits yet, which we in the business call "Gloria," "I Will Follow," "Sunday Bloody Sunday," and "New Year's Day," plussin' two lesser but still gosh i like 'em you know songs entitled ""40"" and "The Electric Co." which is funny cuz he says "Co" instead of "Company" which is pretty funny and there are two songs that weren't on the other records! How else to make a live record worthwhile? They're usually just shittin' greatest hits records with weak unproduced renditions of formerly good songs. Not here! Where did "11 O'Clock Tick Tock" come forth hence? It is a very good song that would have fit right in on Boy! I miss it! "Party Girl" doesn't rule, but it's still decent, and at least better than that Zooropa yak. Good stuff! Bono Vox gives it his all, and The Edge gives it his ball. Adam Clayton Jr. gives it real tall, and Larry Mullen gives it The Fall, featuring Mark E. Smith on vox. I like it, excepting "New Year's Day" doesn't quite possess the masterful grandeur that it did back in '62 when first recorded by Perry "Prissy Nips" Como. It's still good, though. Good! An adjective.
Reader Comments

Weigelda@aol.com (Dave Weigel)
"11 O'Clock Tick Tock" was the band's first single, released (I think) in 1979.

A damned good album. One of the best live albums I own, and probably the best U2 live album there is. All of the songs are good, the instrumentation is played well, and the non-LP songs are very good.

9402992h@student.gla.uc.uk (Dan Hackney)
There's a better "11 o'Clock Tick Tock" on the b-side of a 12 inch single, "Fire" I think. It just sounds slightly muggier, more live if you like. Judging by the crowd noise all of about nine people were there. Including the band. Which is amusing. Probably can't get it over there though. Ha Ha.

eklawitter@earthlink.net (Edward Klawitter)
Okay, U2 could have gone into the studio for a couple days, pull out some shitty live recordings and made lots of money. Instead, they decided to really work at it and set up a video of it as well. They even include treats like the impossible to find '11 O'Clock, Tick Tock' and the glorious and beautiful 'Party Girl'. I would argue this better than some of their studio albums only because this is where U2 belongs and always has. They're a live band. And a very good one.

Even more so is the fact that they let little stuff like edge missing a chord and Bono calling him a 'guitar hero' slip through, showing that they're human and make mistakes. The album pulls you through and down into Red Rocks all over again. My only complaint is that 'New Year's Day' sounds horrible. Adam is going to fast and something is off in Edge's piano. Despite this it's a must have.

zaanpunk@hotmail.com (Michiel Heinicke)
A fantastic "best of the first trilogy" compilation. Man theyre good Live!!! (or WERE comparing it to the later Expensive show crap) It has all my favourite songs, I will Follow, Gloria, New Years Day, etc. and there are songs not found on the albums! 11 o clock tick tock and Party Girl are beautiful! One complaint, Why do i hear the Audience almost blowing up my speakers at the beginning of every song???? should have kept the volume down, but hey we have to hear how much applause U2 gets. But the music itself is really well produced. Dont buy 1980-1990, buy this one!!! 10/10

alanhaw@hotmail.com (Alan Hawkins)
Great live album, I like how the opening riff from "Is that all" was tacked onto the beginning of "The Electric Co." - nicely done! I give it an 8.

mossinator@hotmail.com (Ian Moss)
Boy, Grandma, it sure would be nice if this album featured spacey guitars and songs that were all like 20 minutes long and sputtering saxophones and angry bass counterpoint and no singer and indie record distribution and the title "Swami Rock'n'Rollikenanda, Bitch!" and hairy armpits. But it doesn't. Therefore I give it a 1.

(four months later)

The Fearsome Foursome live up to their spy-plane namesake with this album, swooping in under the radar of my quality-album-consciousness and depositing a payload of live-action Steve Lillywhite goodness in my unsuspecting ear. Not that ears are known for their ability to predict spy-plane attacks, but tell that to my copywriter. Anyway, I enjoy listening to this album in my car, a 1992 Saturn SL1 with 86,000 miles, automatic transmission, A/C, AM/FM/cassette, power windows, power locks, front-wheel drive, and excellent maneuverability. Alternator recently replaced, oil changes every 3,000 miles, well-taken care of, no problems, 3rd owner. Record of all work done. This car handles like a dream! Enclosing my review I give my car a big fat 10. Too bad it's not for sale, suckas!!!!!!!!!!

(two years later)

Oh right, the album. "11 O'Clock Tick Tock" is exactly the same song as that other one on Boy, and Gloria, which means that it's great! "Party Girl" is about a girl named Party, if I'm not mistaken. You know how they always have those new sitcoms on the network and the title is some GOD-AWFUL pun on the character's first or last name, which itself was specially engineered in service of the grand PUN itself? Well, thank god they didn't try to make a sitcom out of "Party Girl," that's all I can say. Oh, wait, they DID!!!!

The others are okay, mega-#1-hits, best-songs-ever, ho hum. I could listen to "40" for about 40 minutes though. Seriously, in all seriousness here, I love that song. I wish I could wear it around my neck. And I wish Bono were some guy named "Ficus Mandellabaumanberg" and that he perfomed with a tree strapped to his back. But some things were never meant to be wished for, Virginia. That's why I'm giving this album an 8 and hittin' the road.

For some reason I used to hate this album. Can't remember why. Anyway, these are all louder and rougher than the studio versions, but not as good. Although that doesn't apply for "The Electric Co." There's also a cool version of "11:00 Tick Tock." Definitely a lot of fun.

Add your thoughts?

The Unforgettable Fire - Island 1984.
Rating = 8

Wipe that fear off your chin, Mr. Guy Who Frequents Prostitutes, 'cuz this beautyfull ringing collection of rings and beautiness makes it fargin' obvio that Bono, The Edge, and the two guys with actual names have not the slightest intention of selling out for the green. This is ART - so much so that it bored the crap out of quite a few former fans. Since I didn't become a fan until The Joshua Tree, it didn't have any impact on me at all. As such, I can see it for what it is - a WONDERFUL step forward for an already impressive outfit. Edgey is using his delay pedal for the cause of good, bringing forth moving stirring twinklings even in the midst of rock and roll chaos (I'm thinking of that cool "doo-dee, doo-dee" lead line of "Wire" in particular). Lots of low-key gentler stuff, too, probably cuz Eno produced it. This is what you might call the signature U2 sound - when they really kicked in the ambience and became a larger than life monster of social and spiritual conscience.

Plus, Bono became obsessed with America at this point, for some reason, and included songs about Elvis, Martin Luther King, and the 4th of July. Which reminds me - Do they have a 4th of July in Ireland? Of course they do!!! It's right after the 3rd. Anyway, cool your jets and smooth around to this lovely record that both rocks and lulls at the same time - even in the same songs!!!! The classic is "Pride (In The Name Of Love)," and, as I'd hope you'd agree, aside from the legendary lyrical flub (Marty died in the afternoon, not "early morning"), it's one of the finest songs recorded by an Irish guy ever. Including that fucking Van Morrison piece of shit. Fuckin' asshole goddamned shit.

Not that I dislike him, you understand. But with a first name like that, you'd think he'd rock a little harder, with guitar hammer-ons and crap.

Reader Comments

dswalen@concentric.net (Doug Swalen)
Okay album. I really do not like "Pride" at all. It's way too upbeat. Maybe they wrote it that way on purpose, as opposed to the serious as hell "Sunday Bloody Sunday". But it just gets sooooo much on my nerves, I wince whenever I hear it.

Weigelda@aol.com (Dave Weigel)
Sorry, but this one is way overrated. "A Sort of Homecoming", "Pride", "Wire" and "Bad" are all fantastic, but the rest of the record sounds like filler. Instrumentals? Nothing against instrumentals; hey, Husker Du's "Reocurring Dreams" is a great song, and that one doesn't have vocals. But I thought U2 outgrew 'em after October! I give it a 7/10; it's easily their weakest record pre-Zooropa. I can't see it for anything other than a dress rehersal for The Joshua Tree, right down to the prototype "desert" cover. The Joshua Tree is one of the best albums of all time, period. The Unforgettable Fire is just okay.

This record is one of their best, by far. All the songs are well written and blended, even the singles, and on "Elvis Presley and America," they take only 2 chords and make it sound awesome. Now that's art!

djonesl@flash.net (Doug Jones)
Are you listening? This is U2. This is what happens when the spirits of four guys meld. Hear their pathos, their Christ, find America, with all its beauty and treachery. This is where WAR was going, and from where THE JOSHUA TREE was slowly pulling away. Listen closely. This is the zeitgeist of the 1980s.

wilkinso@muskingum.edu (Meredith L. Wilkinson)
I guess maybe it is just me, but even though I love all U2, this album just hasn't grown on me much. Aside from "Pride," which I can't help but love.

cbunnell@ix.netcom.com (Rich Bunnell)
Half of the album is good (the first four songs and "Bad") but yes, "Elvis Presley And America" goes on for too long without supplying any sort of melody, and the other songs, while I know they were pleasant, I can’t remember how they sound at all. It’s certainly a pretty album, though, so let’s say a 7/10, i.e. I like it when I’m listening to it, but I’m rarely inclined to, much like every Dave Matthews Band album.

eklawitter@earthlink.net (Edward Klawitter)
This was a necessary leap for U2. Cut the overly political crap. U2 has a myth now, as political know it alls and it's time to leave that behind...Time to paint a picture. And a beautiful one.

'A Sort Of Homecoming' is the best start off on a U2 album that they've ever had. It kicks you right into it and immediately makes you wonder 'who is this? Where's the white flag waver we used to have?He's gone...but I still like it!'

It upset some fans, but they're true fans understood that the band didn't want to be a stereotype. Bono learns to write peotry, learns what a couplet is and learns how to sing again after shouting out his accusations on the last album. He's letting things flow and songs such as 'Elvis Presley And America' show this. Despite critics hating it, it's a beautiful song with lyrics (if that's what you want to acll them) that capture an important moment in the recording process. '4th Of July' is another one of these and, though the title comes from the day it was recorded and nothing to do with America, it displays the ability of U2's guitarists to work off each other.

It's a vibe album...an album painting a rather vague, but still intrigueing, picture. A damn good vibe album.

imoss@northernlight.com (Ian Moss)
Sometimes I wish this Fire were more Unforgettable. Unfortunately, the album does not live up to its title, and songs such as "Promenade" just slip into my head and slip right out again. "Pride" and "Bad" are good, and "4th of July" is a pretty little itty-bitty ditty, but the rest is sort of, well, bland. Except for "Elvis Presley and America," which is so bad it makes me cringe. I think a 7 is about right.

wiklesz@poczta.onet.pl (Leszek)
Unforgettable Fire is absolutely one of the most singular U2's work ever. First album of U2 I heard and still I just adore listening to it. Eno/Lanois just set the fire that will never be put out by any other album.

zaanpunk@hotmail.com (Michiel Heinicke)
U2's first adult work. No more 3 minute up tempo beats. Theyre rockstars now. The Edge's delaypedal is the only thing that hasnt changed. Pride, The Unforgettable Fire and Bad did well in the charts but man, they're beauties! And this time, the shitty songs are at the end. After Bad, take out the cd! 8/10

amcquill@home.com (Andrew McQuillan)
It has strong songs like 'A Sort of Homecoming', 'Pride', 'Wire', 'Bad', and the title track but the rest isn't too great to me. I think Joshua Tree is much better.

alanhaw@hotmail.com (Alan Hawkins)
Beautiful album! this was oviously U2 making the transition from their earlier hard rock sound into more ambient territory, The Edge was also at an absolute peak with his guitar playing here, and spins out tons of really clever, catchy little guitar lines (especially on the excellent "Wire") the title-track is probably one of my fave U2 tracks aswell. I would give it the 10, but that "Elvis..." song is just total crap, and at six and a half minutes - it's pretty hard to just ignore the damn thing, so I'll settle for a 9 out of 10.

uglytruth@hotmail.com (Hossein Nayebagha)
I got this album because I always got a kick from Edge's guitar. The result was the decision of never purchase another U2 album again (unless it's really fuckin' cheap).

One thing I notice is that "Pride" for some reason sounds out of place when you listen to the whole record. It's as if it was specifically produced to become a hit, and it did but, yeah, it's just odd.

There are some cheesy keyboards and just too much reverb, I know it sounds odd to say "too much reverb" about U2, their whole sound is based on that and it can be appealing, but I don't know, I guess there's a limit for everything. But, the main problem is Bono - he's a lousy vocalist, not that he can't perform well, he does a good job occasionally, but sooner or later, he'll ruin the song with his pathetic religious-style cries.

My favourite song on the album is the opening track. 6-7/10.

I'll give this one a solid 3.5. Only reason why this album is worth it is tracks 2-4. "Pride" is a song I loved even before I knew who U2 were, but I never knew what it was called or who it was by. Just a song I enjoyed listening to when it came on the radio. The rest of the songs are boring. Too atmospheric. Theres a version of track 1 on the deluxe edition that's better than this version. This is my least favorite by them. You'd think by such a promising third album they'd be able to follow it up with something good, and they failed.

Add your thoughts?

Wide Awake In America EP - Island 1985.
Rating = 7

An EP in at least four senses of the word, this EP contains two delightful live run-throughs of Unforgettable Tire trax (including a nine-minute version of "Bad"!!! Who can't but dig them crapples???) plus two outtakes from the record, one of which is pretty a-okay and the other of which might as well not even exist as far as me and my pal Bono are concerned. We hang out and he says, "I don't like that one song. You know - the one on side two," and I'm like, "That's cool, dude. I don't like anything you've recorded in the last five years." Then we touch each other gently in special places like Europe.
Reader Comments

"Bad" and "Homecoming" totally kick ass and make this EP worth owning all by themselves; these live versions are way better than the studio ones...

jacktobik@worldnet.att.net (Nate Tobin)
Hey Blademate where are you man. I think that Wide Awake In America EP is one of the best. I GUESS YOU AREN'T A REAL FAN.

eklawitter@earthlink.net (Edward Klawitter)
It's 1984 and with The Unforgettable Fire, U2 is finally getting some recognition in the States. 'Pride' top 40. U2 decides to release a little mini-LP of live stuff for the fans. A little four track EP for a reasonable price...for the fans.

I personally like it and have heard many a story for fellow U2 fans that the version of 'Bad' on this EP is what got them hooked on U2. It's a great live version. My beef comes with 'A Sort Of Homecoming'.

It's one of my favorite songs on The Unforgettable Fire, but the live version takes that punch it always had away. They get a grip on it by the end of the song, but the beginning of the song is sooo slow on Wide Awake... that I feel like yawning.

On the other hand, the two extra studio songs are very good. 'Love Comes Tumbling' could have fit just fine on The Unforgettable Fire and, though very simplistic, it has a creative magic to it. For some strange reason it has more appeal to me however when I hear on the B-sides album where you hear the band warm up slightly at the beginning before kicking into the song. Don't ask me, I don't even understand it. 'The Three Sunrises' sounds a little ackward and it definitely wouldn't fit on The Unforgettable Fire, (it might have it the whole song was like the beginning), but I still like it. Edge's guitar sounded different than what any of their fans were used to, but I liked it. And U2 has never really cared about the critics. All they care about is the fans and they made most of us pretty happy.

alanhaw@hotmail.com (Alan Hawkins)
The live renditions are great, especially "A sort of homecoming" which actaully sounds better than the original, the outtakes are okay, nothing great, I can see why they got left off. I give it a 7, and will say that this e.p. distinguishes itself by being their last decent record, before they lost the plot and started grovelling up to the Yanks.

jaimoe0@hotmail.com (James Welton)
"Started grovelling up to the Yanks?" Yeah, Alan, because us Yanks so fabulously dig electronic dance music, which explains why Aphex Twin and Oakenfold just fucking burn up the charts over here. U2's Pop... as American as they come, baby!

Fine live renditions of songs that were great in the studio. That extended version of bad really shows these guys off as the monstrously strong live act that they are. See them if you get a chance, even at this late stage. They really are great live. The studio tracks are mediocre... serviceable stuff, but not up to their standards to this point.

Add your thoughts?

* The Joshua Tree - Island 1987. *
Rating = 10

The perfect U2 experience. Sparkly production, reflecting sound waves on the axebone, melodies fit to be tied, a singer who hits notes you've probably never even heard of - oof, but there aren't many bands who can be both grandiose and understated at the same time. Understand? This is Beatles quality here, regardless of that whole playing on the roof crap. "Where The Streets Have No Name," "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," "With Or Without You," "Bullet The Blue Sky," "Red Hill Mining Town," "In God's Country" - you've heard all these, right? They're gorgeous. Like, in a clean uplifting spiritual way (well, "Bullet...." is kinda dark, but the others - hoo!). This isn't "rock and roll" - it's the wonder of tonality translated into the form of pop music. Of course, it's also really overblown, but you're old enough to deal with that, I believe. Aside from the hits, there's also plenty more prettiness, plus a bluesy American acousticy thing called "Trip Through Your Wires" and only ONE suck job (at least, I think it's a suck job) called "Exit."

So what? So the difference between this U2 album and those that came before is that they've mastered the creation of radio-ready art rock and somehow managed to make an album that doesn't kinda fall apart near the end ("Exit" is weak, but the album closer, "Mothers Of The Disappeared," is great). I think most folks consider this to be their best album - at least, I hope so. It's incredible. And NOT that by-the-numbers obvious melodicism that permeates the even more popular Achtung Baby. No sir, U2 were still all over it in '87. Lullabies for older babies. Bliss.

Reader Comments

I've noticed that "falling apart at the end" thing, too. What is that? Every single U2 album has two things--a second side that's weaker than the first, whether marginally (Joshua Tree) or completely (Pop). And then there's that syndrome where the last 2 or 3 songs suck ass. Joshua is really the only one that's good for the whole listen.

dswalen@concentric.net (Doug Swalen)
Call it a case of overhype or whatever but I probably would like this album a lot more if it wasn't so overplayed. Like Metallica's "Black Album", every radio hit hardened me to the album. The one exception is "Bullet The Blue Sky." That song is PHENOMENAL! I'll never get tired of hearing that one. Ever. It's the old U2, before they started believing all their press. It's the U2 of War. In short, it's the U2 that I remember.

This is the only U2 cd I have and i really enjoy it. I usually don't listen to pop, but i made an exception for this one. I really like "With Or Without You".

jamesd@elink.net (James Vincent Debevec II)
I agree completely with Doug Swalen. It is a good solid album, but I've heard it all so much on the radio way back when. A couple of real interesting songs, but U2 for everyman basically. Yawn.

I don't care what anybody says about that "falling apart at the end" thing, it just ain't true. "Mothers of the Disappeared" and "One Tree Hill" are two of my favorites on the whole album! Just because the second part doesn't have any RADIO SINGLES doesn't mean it's not good! Gimme a break! But as for the rest of the album, it's probably the best thing that happened to the '80's. Believe it or not, it's still not my favorite U2 album, but it's great.

pmtapia@worldnet.att.net (The Chameleon)
If you must get one U2 album this is the one to get....but that's not saying much because U2 pretty much suck.....like the last 4 songs on this album are such crap. So get it if you want a U2 experience.. just don't get Pop.

djonesl@flash.net (Doug A. Jones)
This is a fantastic album. Many folks see it as U2's best, but the formula packaging and commercial selling out lamented as beginning with or just after RATTLE AND HUM actually have their seeds here. It's very subtle, almost imperceptible, and maybe I just won't allow myself to think the mass public seeks out real depth, that I find universal popularity fundamentally irritating (well, it is), but I just think FIRE is a more honest, cohesive piece of art. No doubt it was at the TREE where the world, once and for all, caught on to just how important U2 was, but the blood simple honesty we found on FIRE was now a shade less spontaneous, more accessible, more sampled, less courageous. Before, we were "wide awake" in a post-modern, post-Elvis, Western world on the brink of the unforgettable fire of thermonuclear destruction, yet celebrating the ultimate sacrifice of love (MLK, Christ). Now, we acknowledged that we still couldn't find what we were looking for but no one cared, as long as it sounded like U2.

But even the sound was established on FIRE--the tonal depth, Edge's layered guitar, Bono's passionate, soaring vocals--not on TREE. Seen as the climax by some, to me THE JOSHUA TREE was instead a wonderful denouement, with RATTLE AND HUM becoming a fond epilogue. Aware of its own oversaturation and afraid of becoming a parody of itself, U2 summarily left the building and was replaced by some futuristic, technoscratching, cathode-driven horror show. Given the latter, I shouldn't quibble with those who see THE JOSHUA TREE as U2's best. It's a fantastic album.

cshin@aecom.yu.edu (Cathy Shin)
Nothing like listening to this album while driving through JTree itself on the way to climb. A dream come true. A Brit I picked up at a Houston youth hostel in 1988 wanted to find the tree on the cover in the Monument. we drove around for hours looking for it and playing the album. Pure blue sky. Wonderful music.

If you could only own three albums, The Joshua Tree is right there with Dark Side of the Moon and Abbey Road as THE essential albums of the late 20th Century.

wilkinso@muskingum.edu (Meredith L. Wilkinson)
This was not my first U2 album, nor my last, but is the only one I can never ever get out of my head. Yes, I play the entire album in my head sometimes. It haunts me.

Scott Oglesby
J-Tree was for me the worst U2 LP; it retained all the pretentiousness they've had since day one and threw out any interesting music. It seems like it's all the same four chords (and in "With or without you," it *is* the same four chords, over and over again, until the song finally tires itself out or you change the station). The Edge has that strumming habit in nearly every track that reminds me of a dog scratching itself. The album is sort of pioneering in that a lot of three-chord slacker crap has made millions in the following years. Weezer, Goo Goo Dolls, Green Day, Everclear, the Offspring, and many other "alternative" bands owe a lot to U2 for showing the way.

"Where The Streets Have No Name" and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" (along with WOWY) are the worst of the bunch, and of course got all the airplay. The U2 juggernaut crowded more interesting music off the air (the Kenny G effect). Between J-Tree and Rattle and Hum, which seemed like a plea for respect, I thought these guys were finished. Sure, they'd keep making records, but they'd all suck; either U2 had run out of ideas, or they had found a formula that works: cash out in a odd year, go for critical acclaim in an even one. Even if Bono singing with B. B. King sounds like the kid with his Fisher-Price bubble mover following his dad with the real thing.

But then Achtung Baby came out. I agree with your "7" (probably a C- on your curve) but at least some songs were interesting again. Now they're trying out different styles. They seem to have turned things around.

But that's all personal taste anyway. It seems that the people who liked J-Tree the best tend to like Top 40 music, watch a lot of television, root for the local sports team, jump on every bandwagon, etc. It's still interesting to read your page and the comments of others. Thanks.

swillhide@ocsnet.net (Susan and Brian)
You dont own this yet? You're just thinking about buying it? Come on! I hope you were looking at this review just to see what Mark thought of it, because it's only one of the best records ever.

Tell you what, if you're new at this, but you kinda like U2, and you want to get the good stuff, but you don't want to get burned, follow these directions:

1. Go to your job at Burger King or wherever. Clean the fryer out and scrape the grill some, go home; repeat.

2. At the end of the week go pick up your check. Tell them you're sorry, but you can't work today to cover for that chick that you hate, who called in sick.

3. Look at your check. $33.17!!! Just enough for two CD's!

4. Get your mom to drive you to the mall.

5. Walk briskly to your local chain-type record store.

6. Purchase this album, along with Achtung Baby, also by U2.

7. Tell the pimply chick at the counter that of course you already have these, but that you loaned them out to some jackass and you were afraid you'd never get them back. You can buy $33 dollars worth of CD's anytime, because you've got the dough to toss around. Get her telephone number and go on a date. Knock her up and get married. Have ten kids. Get audited and find out your twelve year old daughter is pregnant. Forget all these happy tunes and kill yourself.

It's really that simple!

See, I'm a big help.

malester@cpuinc.net (Lester)
"Exit" is the best song on the album!!!!!! and "Bullet the Blue Sky" is really cool too, with that spoken word bit at the end. the radio hits are the most mediocre songs on this album, too.

jgwilson@DELTA.IS.TCU.EDU (Jeff Wilson)
the last 4 songs suck???you have got to be kidding me!! two of their best songs are of the last four. EXIT kicks ass if u fast forward through the intro. and onetreehill is an excellent song....By the way, whoever said that u2 sucks, youre wrong. if they sucked so bad, they wouldnt have 80 million worldwide sales.

cbunnell@ix.netcom.com (Rich Bunnell)
Overrated—but isn’t EVERY album overrated (and underrated) in a way? Lots of people treat this one like the best album ever made, and I’ve also heard quite a few people deride it as underdeveloped and annoying. I wouldn’t give it a ten, but aside from the last two songs, which are still nice to listen to in a way, every song is good, even if messy ("Bullet The Blue Sky") or slight ("Running To Stand Still"). The first three songs are undeniable classics (well okay…people can deny them, but -I- love them) and "One Tree Hill" is also very well-made. I can’t help noticing that the "intro" to "Exit" is merely an acapella-ish 30-second reprise of the song before it. It’s still not the best album though, even though those who say it’s "gruesomely overrated" are going a teensy bit too far. 8/10

Aww...dammit. When I first heard this I said to myself "WOW! What a piece of work!!!" Then after reading the comments and listened to it again. Now I can't stand the second side, and I keep replacing this CD with "Achtung Baby" instead. The first three tunes are classics, "Bullet the Blue Sky" has some grrreat guitar work by the Edge but some amazingly stupid Bono lyrics and "Running To Stand Still" shoulda been a radio classic, but I guess four hit songs off one album is a bit too much; BUT HELL!!! IT'S MY FAVORITE U2 SONG EVER!!! HOW DO YOU LIKE THEM SLIGHTLY ROTTEN APPLES, HUH???!!!

bgreenstein@nctimes.net (Ben Greenstein)
Shame, Prindle. And I thought you were a real music fan. Sorry, this one just does nothing for me. Actually, that's not true - the first four songs are just beautiful, energetic, emotional pieces that knock me down every time I hear them. And - no surprise here - they're the ones that get radio play. However, after that, it seems that Brian Eno got tired of doing actual production, and just let the band do a bunch of weak songs without any energy whatsoever.

"Red Hill" is way overrated - a lot of fans like it, but it's actually quite boring. Maybe I'm just bitter because I expected it to have the "brass band" that the liner notes claim it does. And as beautiful as "Running To Stand Still" is, I'll have to say it lacks emotion - though that bluesy opening part is cool. "Trip Through Your Wires" is incredibly catchy, but, in all truth, I find it very irritating. "In God's Country" is even worse - now that's a piece of crap song. Sounds like Bono and Edge had both had lobotomies, or were on Prozac. Just disgusting. And "Exit" not only sucks donkeys, but blows them as well.

So that means the only songs on the second side that I enjoy are the beautiful "Mothers Of The Dissapeared" and "One Tree Hill." And as for what I said about "the first four songs" - I lied. Only three are great, "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" is kind of gross.

macdonaf@cadvision.com (Frank Mac Donald)
I am trying to find out some information of the song Red Hill Mining Town. Friends tell me the song is about a mining disaster in a small province in Canada. I think that in bunk, it seems to be a song about a relationship. Any thoughts or comments would be appreciated.

eklawitter@earthlink.net (Edward Klawitter)
They knew when they were in the studio for Joshua Tree they had a winner. But they never knew what it would really do to them...make them stars, celebs, but all that stuff would show up later on Achtung Baby. Until then, songs like 'With Or Withou You' grabbed them any pop fanantic's attention. The magic of U2 shines through on songs like 'WOWOY', 'Where The Streets Have No Name', 'Exit' and 'Bullet The Blue Sky'. 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For' is a true gospel song, U2 style, and 'Running To Stand Still' has incredible emotion, something missing for the music of 1987. Joshua Tree was great because it was so much better than anything else out there and it was U2's best ever. It is not U2's best album however. It comes close, though, and U2 is becoming well-known for not making the same record twice. Everyone is playing great. Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen have become an awesome rythum section, Edge is playing solos, (now that he can), and Bono has never sounded better. Enter Achtung Baby...

imoss@northernlight.com (Ian Moss)
Amazingly enough, I, a U2 fan (they're my 5th favorite band) do not own this album. But my parents do, and I've listened to it several times--and you know what, it's not worth my time. The first three songs are played on the radio endlessly, and with good reason (although I did find Ben's characterization of "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" as "kinda gross" to be quite accurate). "Bullet the Blue Sky," which is a GREAT song, is the only track on here that is a) infrequently broadcast over the FM airwaves and b) worth listening to on multiple occasions. Everything else...enh. "In God's Country" is OK, I guess. But the last few songs suck ass big time. Oh, about the petering-out at the end trend: absolutely right. It's true of every single U2 album (of the ones I've listened to, which is most of them) except for Rattle & Hum, where the opposite is the case. Oh, and the last two songs on War are good. But anyway...yeah. Get War or Achtung Baby instead.

msclguru@email.unc.edu (Michael J. West)
You know, I've tried and I've tried and I've tried and I've tried, but the Joshua Tree has just never done it for me. Of all U2's albums it's the one I pull out the least. Achtung Baby! Now THAT'S worth your money.

zaanpunk@hotmail.com (Michiel Heinicke)
I consider this album The unforgettable Fire part two. It also has the Beautiful hitsongs, this time: We're the streets have no name, I still havent found what im looking for, With or without you, In Gods country And i dig Bullet in the Blue sky. It makes me wanna break something! hehe. And well it has the same problem as The Unforgettable Fire, The lasts songs suck. (also songs 8,9 and 10!) 8/10

amcquill@home.com (Andrew McQuillan)
To the dude that said they don't suck because they sold 80 million records, the Spice Girls and Backdoor Boys probably sold that much, it doesn't make them good. It's the music that makes a band good. The Pixies didn't sell much but man are they awesome. Exit, Running to Stand Still, Red Hill Mining Town and With Or Without You are the best.

tgoodwillie@hotmail.com (Timothy Goodwillie)
Wow! I have never read such inciteful album criticisms! "The last four songs on the album suck." Great depth, thanks a lot.

The Joshua Tree was the first CD I ever owned and remains my favorite to this day.

In response to the person that said people that love this album probably like the top 40 radio hits...you are sadly mistaken. Read what REAL album critics have to say and talk to some REAL fans who own the album, or maybe even go a step further and trully listen to it. I realize by now its probably too late...you've already made up your mind about this one, but it's worth a try. The Joshua Tree was an artistic masterpiece. Get past the first four tracks, and you'll find where the album really shines. "One Tree Hill" is far and away my favorite on the entire record, with its passionate, surging tune.

Just because many of the songs are simple do not make them bad. Other than "Bullet the Blue Sky," with its excessive lyrics, the album is beautifully arranged and is packed with solid tracks throughout. It's one of those albums that I like to listen to on headphones in the dark.

Being a huge fan of U2 and rock in general, I just want to say that the album is THAT good people.

And hey, if the album doesn't "speak" to you, don't go writing that it sucks. Explain what sucks and why it sucks...it will make your comments valid and effective!

alanhaw@hotmail.com (Alan Hawkins)
My god, this would have to be one of the most boring records I've ever heard. "With or without you" was a very good, and well-deserved hit - but the rest of this album is just painful to sit through, no energy, no melodies, not even a vaguely interesting atmosphere to any one song. An utterly worthless album, I give it a 2.

jesushchrist@seductive.com (Pig Millions)
U2 are IRISH you ignorant jerk. This may seem like a strange dedication request, but recently there was a death in our family, he was a little dog named Snuggles. No, start again. This is bullshit. No one cares. It's a lot of wasted names that don't mean diddly shit, this is bullshit. It's portable, too. It's been getting stronger all the time. Snuggles, he was a little dog named snuggles. THIS is American Top 40, this is bullshit. Fuck you. Here we go with the shit trying to find it. You couldn't find your fucking ass hole if you're fucking butt wasn't connected to it. You never have given out his correct address or a description of a car or what he looks like and all that information. You got someone there, I don't know who, but why don't you go knock on his door. It's impossible to make all those up tempo transitions and then you got to go into some dog dying. I don't understand it. Why are we doing these instrumentals, 'cause we got 'em? Would someone find out the goddamn answer? In the '60s there was a song called "Louie, Louie" they played it upside back, backside up looking for the dirty message. Hail Satan! Satan, Hail! I don't think the satanic message is there. Fuck. Snuggles. I'll be wearing a red and white baseball cap, ok? I'll whoop your fucking ass. I want a goddamn concerted effort, I want someone to use his fucking goddamn brains to not come out of an uptempo record every time I do a goddamn death dedication. This is American Top 40, right here on the radio station you grew up with Music Radio 1380 Fuck.

agalperi@midway.uchicago.edu (Andrew Galperin)
Am I the only one to notice that "Where the Streets Have No Name" is a complete and total ripoff of the Who's "Baba O'Riley"? And I don't mean just minor hooks - half the song sounds identical. Might I add that Baba O'Riley is more original-sounding, as well. Next point: "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" and parts of "With or Without You" both sound extremely similar to the opening track. So, that makes three ripoffs - one from the Who, and two from themselves. And they're the three best songs on the album, as far as I'm concerned. And this is on par with the Beatles? You've gotta be kidding me. These guys don't even hold a candle to Radiohead.

U2 trying it`s damndest to place itself in the "Rock in roll Hierarchy" of Beatles,Stones,Dylan,... And with "Joshua Tree" they come close. Great songs that are as powerfull today as when first released. All four band members are superb,with Bono leading the way singing,screaming,crying all the way. This is an album which represents an outsiders view of America, The Massive promise of hope it holds for so many. The suffocating weight of living under America`s shadow, it really is an amazing album no american band (save bruce springsteen) might even attempt.Special honors must go out to the man who created the "SOUND and TEXTURE" of Joshua Tree the always overlooked Daniel Lanois. One of the 80`s best.

This is the album where U2 cease to become relevent and begin their transformation into cartoons.

Hugely melodic? Yes. Catchy? By-golly yes! Well-worded!? Yes! Produced by Brian Eno!? I THINK! Self-important? Well.... yeah. A bit lost? Yeah, but that's understood. The greatest fuckin' album ever made!? .... no. The greatest album of the last 25 years?..... no. The greatest album of the 80's? Not even close. The greatest album of 1987!!?? ... well, no, not really. My point is that U2 may be a talented band and The Joshua Tree may be an exhilerating listen but there is a bit more to rock 'n' roll than that........ but........ will I give this album a good review for the hell of it? Yes. An 8 1/2. Ok, ok a 9. It's a legendary album for a reason-it's pretty damn good. I'd take Sign 'O' The Times, Born In The U.S.A., Graceland (oh my GOD GRACELAND! Now THAT'S an exhilerating listen!) Rain Dogs, Imperial Bedroom and a few others over it (as 80's albums) though. It's still excellent.

fishpaste35@hotmail.com (Mark M.)
The guy who said 'Exit' sucks and blows donkeys is a genius. Back in the day, as those urban types would say, U2 & The Joshua Tree were so ubiquitous that you really did walk away from the Dire Straits and Simply Red racks to get them. I had tJT, and enjoyed it. Hands up. But God yes, it sucks and blows pompous 80s donkeys now though. Sepultura do Bullet The Blue Sky live and even they show it up to be the political turd that Bono has made a career out of hatching. Everything since Achtung Baby is just toilet. I cannot bear the arch, knowing, preening horror of it all. And the schmoozing with the Illuminati! Here's yer Nobel prize Bono, now get back to yer golden tower and don't make anymore records. Satan's not heard your Atomic Bomb album yet, so he'll have you a few juicy torments lined up for when he gets around to it. ipod-peddling, middle-aged, and irrelevant. Just like me, except for the ipod bit.

… The Joshua tree is a good album, overrated, but good. It gets a bit boring after “Bullet the blue sky” and to tell you the truth, I find “The unforgettable fire” to be way more interesting and enjoyable. But that’s just me…

I take back all I said before! A Beautiful album!

P.S. And why the hell does Edge have to play his guitar like a complete fag ALL the time, why do I always have to hear him playing a million different chords at once? WTF is that?

(several months later)

God..... what a great album. Mothers of the Dissappeared (however the FUCK you spell that word) is so great. Damn.

10? Are you kidding?! Not all the songs are so great - "Red Hill Mining Town" stinks out loud, and "Bullet The Blue Sky", whilst a good song, sounds completely out of place on the record. "Exit" is definitely the most interesing track on the record. It gets between a low-8 and a medium-9.

PS you like U2 and not Echo & The Bunnymen? Ocean Rain is WAAAAAAAAAAAY better than The Joshua Tree. In fact; Crocodiles beats Boy (the debuts); Heaven Up Here beats October (sophomores); Porcupine probably beats War (you see where I'm going); and Ocean Rain thrashes The Unforgettable Fire. In terms of release dates, U2 only wins on the fifth effort (I'll admit that The Joshua Tree is quite a bit better than Echo & The Bunnymen's eponymous).

So, in conclusion, U2 is overrated because they sold alot of records, just like The Beatles (< The Kinks), The Clash (< Buzzcocks) and Pearl Jam (< Soundgarden).

It's a shame my roommate decided to turn himself into a tree and make u2 name their breakthrough after him three years before he was born, but thank goodness for small blessings.

I don't like this band that much. And I should. Their songs are bombastic, their guitar tones are echoey and pretentious, and they don't shy away from techno things. Plus they have Eno on their side, and you can't go wrong if you have Eno on your side (unless you're U2, apparently).

But gadnavvit, this album just doesn't do JACK for me as a whole. Sure, we all love the first three hits. They were hits, and are therefore good. And as two-note-melody simple as "Bullet" and "Running to Stand Still" are, their arrangements (fire-and-damnation and piano-and-salvation, respectively) make the cake. But WHAT IN HOLY HELL ARE THEY DOING on side two? Happy country? Wannabe R.E.M.? MORE two-note melodies? Sure, "Mothers of the Disappeared" is soothing and all, but do we have to sit through five mediocre songs to get to it?

"Second Best Album Of All Time According To Wall Of Sound Magazine." Pfft. Whatever. To each his/her own.

In conclusion, I would like to thank Mark for not bringing out the tired old stupid old ass-old boring-ass-old "Sure, this was the best album of 1987, but what was the competition?? I ask this rhetorical question because I have listened to no '80's music at all besides Michael Jackson and Motley Crue. NO I WILL NEVER LISTEN TO RAKIM EVER NEVER EVER IF YOU ASK ME TO LISTEN TO THEM AGAIN I WILL KILL YOU." cliche.

Also, I would like to pay a second short tribute to Matthew Byrd.


Gang Starr Step In The Arena--Sixteen high-energy three-minute rap nuggets, one after another. Okay, so it's jazzy mellow "socially conscious" bore-rap, and Guru isn't the best "spitter" who ever "spitted," but upon reflection, there's not a bad tune on the whole album.

Portishead Self-Titled--Dummy gets all the ink, but this is the album where they went really DARK, as opposed to merely cool-daddy or dark heroin secret agent-y. But did Beth Gibbons split into two different people or something? I SWEAR there's more than one woman singing on this.

Moby Everything is Wrong--The man stops being a Prodigy rip-off and finds time to squeeze in two hardcore punk (!?!) songs and end the album with the most depressing tune ever written. Plus he samples no blues or soul on here, which is a good thing since he is a white man with pale skin who is not allowed to sample blues or soul ever because he is a honky Caucasian.

(As you can tell, Mark, I've been "subtly" trying to get us into a public back-and-forth on the dude. Come to think of it, he has about four or five EPs from his early years that suck ass-badly, so it would probably be more trouble than it's worth.)

U2's best album is War, and it's just decent. Simple Minds are a better band.

Joseph Visco
I got into U2 after I saw the live “Sunday Bloody Sunday” video on MTV. Since then, they’ve been my favorite band. And the fact that they’re still going strong is amazing to me. Yes, this is the masterpiece, the 10 star woah! F&*in awesome album. The only song that really irks me is With or Without You. Maybe being an old school fan, maybe seeing them hit the big time with this song damaged my inner rock and roll elitist, but lyrically, WTF? Bono decided that the old “Women…can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em” saying was a worthy lyric? Really? Other lyrically funny moments include Bono’s mentioning of a Chia Pet in Bullet the Blue Sky. Also, his monologue in that song is slightly great, but also slightly embarrassing (“One Hundred, Two Hundred” – damn…he’s pissed!) But overall, this is the one album I can say is my great album, the one that converged with an amazing time in my life and defined what my musical tastes would be for the rest of my life. Listening to it again now thanks to you, Prindle. Also, cause I’m bored at work

You're right about this being overblown. I can't take tracks 2 and 3 anymore, they're overplayed to death. Sure they have great melodies and the build up to on track 3 is pretty cool. I first heard Track 2 when I watched "Rattle and Hum", and eventually I grew to like it a lot after that rude introduction. But like I said its too overplayed and there are much better songs not only by U2 but also on this album.

Track 1 took me a while to get used to, but nowadays I think it's perfect. "Bullet the Blue Sky" would be perfect if not for that "outside it's America" bullshit during the middle. The rest of the songs are all top rate U2, except the last two songs. Never really knew what to think about those two. They sound like leftovers from the previous album. I recognize they don't suck, but I just gotta be in the right mood for them. This seems to be the most popular U2 album, and though I can totally see why, it's probably my third or fourth favorite. I'll give it an 8.5.

The reason why I didn't name check tracks 1-3 is because I didn't feel like typing out their long titles.

Add your thoughts?

Rattle And Hum - Island 1988.
Rating = 5


Oh, make fun of me if you want to. This is U2's America obsession taken to a ridiculous extreme (a Dylan cover, gospel choirs, shuffly acoustic rockabilly, a duet with BB King - all kindsa crap like that), but it's so FUN to listen to!!! It's not like U2 are lousy at this type of music - "Angel Of Harlem" and "Desire"? You know those hits, right? Sure! Why not? The Beatles cover isn't that great, but all this stuff - you know, it's a different sort of record. It's a movie soundtrack, with some new songs, and some live reworkings of old songs, and - oh, I dunno - it's just a fun record. I hate the crappy BB King duet, but "All I Want Is You" is as touching as anything they've ever done - including "The Fly"!!!! Plus, this is the last album they made before they changed their image and became jackasses with no ideas. Do I sound bitter? I don't know that they're jackasses. I wholeheartedly take that back. I'm just a crybaby upset that a former great band gave it all up to "experiment" or whatever it is that they're doing....

One final thing about this album - it contains the most preposterous sentence ever spoken by Bono - right in the middle of "Bullet The Blue Sky," he starts preaching about those awful televangelists who steal money from the weak and the old, and in a thick Irish accent, his bile risen to its boiling point, he exclaims "Well, the God I believe in isn't short o' cash, MISTER!!!"

Maybe you'd just have to hear him say it....

Reader Comments

strider@redrose.net (David Straub)
The obscure tracks on this record make it worth it. "Hawkmoon" and "God Pt II" are really great. And yeah, "All I Want is You" is quite lovely.

Even my Dad likes the movie. As cheesy as some of it is (Larry sitting on Elvis' bike? COME ON) the performances are fantastic. I love it when Bono gives Adam a big hug at the end of "Bad". And Mr. Hewson's tirade during "Sunday" is just so cool. Fuck the Revolution!

This is simply a damn good live album. This proves even more than Under a Blood Red Sky that U2 can really play live. It's just a good rockin' collection, with one exception: the gospel choir must go. (This is the only real criticism I've EVER given U2.) But BB and Dylan kick ass... that's all there is to it.

markc@javanet.com (Mark Cybulski)
This is at best, 5/10. The album (and the movie) was nothing more than a real ego trip for these guys. They tried to potray this image as being a rootsy rock n' roll band. Didn't wash well with me, especially in light of the groove heavy Achtung Baby they put out three years later. This is way overrated.

wilkinso@muskingum.edu (Meredith L. Wilkinson)
I love "All I Want Is You" and "Hawkmoon" but most of this album seems rather bizarre and pointless to me. One complaint I have...they should have put the "Sunday Bloody Sunday" tirade from the movie on the album. It is one of my favorite U2 moments, and I'd like to hear it more often.

Hey, I LIKE this album, it has some really sweet moments; again, they really shine as a live band, "Bullet" is at least as good live as the studio version, IF NOT better...the choir shit could have stayed on the cutting rom floor, "Sunday" added, and this would've been classic. Instead...just good.

streb@mail.sssnet.com (Dan Streb)
Why the hell are you calling "a duet with BB King" CRAP?????? "When Love Comes to Town" is one of the best songs they've ever done. Maybe it's just the fact that you and your Cows and even your own damn band LuMP suck at guitar and BB King is one of the greatest guitarists in all the universe.

sorry. just had to burn off a little steam there. I actually like Cunning Stunts and I bet your LuMP albums are way better than Live In Cook County Jail.

BTW Roger Waters' The Pros and Cons of Hitch-Hiking IS the worst album ever made.

swillhide@ocsnet.net (Susan and Brian)
What do you feel is the stupidest thing Bono says on this album?

Is it:

a.)"This is a song Charles Manson stole from the Beatles... We're stealin' it back!"

b.)"Am I buggin you? I dont mean ta bug ya- Okay Edge- Play the blues!!!"

c.)"...well, the God I believe in isn't short 'o cash, mister!"

I swear, this album is all over the road. If this record was driving home on a friday night, then it could count on getting asked to walk a straight line for the fuzz.

The live cuts here are so-so. Well produced, well played, but not as stunning as the originals, plus Bono is very nearly unbearable with his bullshit speeches in the middle of almost all of them.

The new songs are hit and miss. The big hits are all good, plus I like the BB King thing, plus one of the others is good. The problem with these songs for me, though, is that aside from the hits and the BB King thing, they all sound the same. I guess that's great if you like this particular stage in their career, but to me, it just sounds played out.

Obviously, the band thought so too, because they took like a year off to create a fresh, new sound, and then another year fine tuning thier next record, using three or four cool producers and recording in Berlin, instead of some hole in the wall where Elvis and Johnny Cash used to record in the dark ages.

This one gets a six from me. It's a dead horse. When you flog it, sometimes it does something funny, but the rest of the time it just lays there.

How do you flog anyway?

Rattle and Hum is U2's worst. I'd give it 7/10. I hate the live versions of classic songs for some reason. They should have included the live version of Where the Streets have No Name instead. The 10 studio songs are mostly awesome though, it's just some of them are a little too "country" for me. A note: When this came out, a big U2 backlash came about. Sure it still sold very well, but the movie bombed and the media started to hate U2. Everyone accussed them of being pretentious and way too serious. SOO, they made Auchtung Baby which perfectly satarized pop culture. It showed they had a sense of humor after all. Don't get pissed at them because they changed, we the public caused it. Now, they're taking it too far with POP, but it still is good music. POP caused the second media backlash at U2, they were accused of being too trendy with "electronica"(come on, anyone who's listened to it knows there's only two dance songs on the entire album) They're in the studio now, how much you wanna bet they'll come out with something completely different without a trace of sytnesizers. Why would they just release a compilation of classic 80's U2 songs, I think they're forshadowing a big return to form.

melodie83@aol.com (Joe)
I grew up on this album in the late 1980's. I agree that the album should of been a studio disc only and not a live album then it would of been a classic. Desire Angel of Harlem everyone knows but there are other great songs Hawkmoon269,Heartland,God Part2 Love Rescue me are great songs All i want is You is great also .the live songs are okay I Still Haven't Found is cool except for the lady who shows off at the end singing is supposed to be fun not to show who's better.the Dylan song is okay but Pride is pretty boring .I give it an 8

DABaker@cadet.vfmac.edu (Darryl Alan Baker)
What's wrong with the B.B. King duet? I love that song.

charbono@hotmail.com (Charlene Granger)
Heheheeh.... Bono's kick-ass speeches are my favourite bits of this album. I don't have much time for the BB King duet either, but "Heartland" alone makes this album worth buying. And to the guy who reckons that Pride live has "no passion whatsoever" - ?!@#!? You need to watch the movie. They play SBS (featuring infamous Fuck The Revolution speech) - which on it's own is totally mind-blowing - and then go into the most gorgeous version of Pride (on the album, they place Pride after Silver And Gold, when in reality it occurred directly after SBS) which is healing, and goosebumpling, and oh-so incredibly passionate... i can't believe they put in such an energetic performance right after that incredible version of SBS. Overall this is my least-favourite U2 album, but i'd still recommend it ;)

eklawitter@earthlink.net (Edward Klawitter)
America loves you. Praise left and right for Joshua Tree. Critics hailing you as geniuses. Millions of love fans. Rattle And Hum...hey, where'd all our fans go?

For some reason they act like you hit a nerve. Irish guys trying to be BLACK AMERICANS? Trying to play rythum and blues? Dylan? B.B King? The Beatles? Are they insane?

No, they aren't. They're musicians...they're learning, living. Okay, so they made a movie...it was good. Not real revealing, but good. Maybe not theater good. It had it's moments...it was really for the fans, not the critics. Which is good 'coz the critics don't like it. They think they're egomaniacs and the antichrist. Good God, it's just an album! No need to crusify them. So Bono said that thing about Charles Mansion and the Beatles. It wasn't mocking the Beatles in the slightest. It was looking up to them. 'We're fans too!' U2 says and the critics reply, 'Not if I can help it!' It's a great album. It's not the album their snubbing, but U2's image and the mania around them. 'God Part II'? Incredible! 'Angel Of Harlem'? It's okay. 'Desire'? A rock and roll masterpiece!

Rattle And Hum tells you less about U2 and more about the critics.

imoss@northernlight.com (Ian Moss)
To me, the last four tracks on this album make it all worth it. First you got Jimi's "Star-Spangled Banner," which has nothing to do with U2 but is great in any context. You got yer live "Bullet the Blue Sky," which isn't quite as good as the studio version, but comes close. You got yer "God Part II," a really COOL little song...I can't really think of anything more to say about it. Hmm. And finally, you got "All I Want is You," a rare example of the non-smarmy-but-still-heartfelt-love-ballad. All in all, about 17 minutes of pure musical joy. Add that to 45 minutes of muddled, inconsistent U2 and you get a 7.

alanhaw@hotmail.com (Alan Hawkins)
I don't own this record, but I've heard most of it - and it just sounds like U2 giving America one huge blowjob. Pathetic.

I've got to comment on this band just once because I think they are the most overrated band ever.Why do people buy their albums? They all sound the same! Basically U-2 have been making the same record for 20 years,except for maybe that ZOOROPA which also sucks a big one,please,somebody tell me what makes this band so great,I want to know.

junghans@hms.harvard.edu (Richard Junghans)
"when love comes to town" - was this song with bb king a collaboration only on the performance or the writing too? who are credited with writing the piece? i dont have the recording to check the liner notes.

Prindle-esque Bad Joke Inspired By The Above Review:
U2 were dubbed "The Only Band That Matters" in the rock press (a phrase originally given to the Clash); but after hearing Bono's "My God ain't short on cash, Mister" I think that should be "The Only Band With Bad Stage Patter."

I actually like this record, overblown as it is, in which U2 touchingly tries to become Amercan by surrounding themselves with black people. I especially like the part where Bono exhorts Edge to play the blues, whereupon Edge launches on a single note solo that sounds not remotely like the blues. (It ain't even in 12 bars). Can you imagine Mick ever exhorting Keith to play the blues? Rattle and Hum sounds like the band woke up and discovered our roots music at the age of 28, when prior to that, most self-respecting limey (or Irishy) bands knew that stuff better than we did when they were teenagers.

I remember a couple months ago you told me this album was "just ridiculous" and why that seems to be the reason you don't like this, it's the reason I like it. The movie was pretty weak, and I think the real low point of it (or U2 in general) was when they hooked up a gospel choir on track 2 of the last album. I got the impression they did that because they wanted to show the world they were down with black people. That whole "Freedom for My People" bit was awful too. "God Part II" might be a precursor to what was about to come, but I don't like it that much. Part I wasn't so hot either.

This album has pretty much everything a U2 fan (or at least a U2 fan like me) would want: fun pop/rockers ("Angel of Harlem"; "When Love Comes to Town"; "Desire") ballads ("Heartland"; "Van Diemen's Land"; "Love Rescue Me") and a couple of live tracks. Sure Onob's rants are annoying (especially the one on "Bullet"), but there's not much live U2 out there to begin with. Also, this version of "All Along the Watchtower" is fucking awesome. Final rating is 8.5.

Add your thoughts?

The Hits - Island 1998.
Rating = 9

The B-Sides - Island 1998.
Rating = 7

Released post-Pop in 1998, this greatest hits compilation pleased and surprised classic rock fans everywhere by including NO tracks after Rattle And Hum (yay!!!). What does this mean? Well, according to a recent Edge interview, the U2ers are retreating to their mid-80s sound for their next album, giving up electronics altogether. This is nice, and would be really exciting if not for the fact that it doesn't seem like their hearts are in it. It seems like they're doing it to please the old fans who have deserted them over the past few "experimental" years. Plus they're all about 75 years old now. But let's keep hope.

Now then, about this compilation. It was released in two forms; a single disc of hits, and a double disc that also includes a B-sides disc. The hits disc is great, of course, except for a couple of weird decisions -- NOTHING off of October, but FOUR tunes from Rattle And Hum? Come on, not even "Gloria"? And where the hell is "Two Hearts Beat As One"??? That was the first U2 song I ever heard! And it kicks buttock!

And the b-sides? Man, but they had some surprisingly good b-sides! If you've got the extra marijuana, pay the dosage wank for the pisser. Some of the b-sides should definitely have been on the LPs -- they're just that good! Holy maloney!!!!

Reader Comments

bgreenstein@nctimes.net (Ben Greenstein)
A pretty decent starter collection (it worked for me), but it's missing a bunch of important songs. "Bullet The Blue Sky" is one, "Gloria" is another. And what the hell is up with all that crap from "Rattle And Hum"? "All I Want Is You" is pretty, but wasn't a hit, and "When Love Comes To Town" makes at least 75% of U2 fans cringe. They should have done a little research into chart positions and fan popularity before assembling a collection of hit singles and popular favourites.

charbono@hotmail.com (Charlene Granger)
Argh, now this gives me the shits. Of course, they're all great songs but they're not "The Best". What is the deal with leaving off "Gloria"?!?!? And that bloody remake of Sweetest Thing... the original is soooo much better. I have the same grouch with the B-sides. They include stupid "Love Comes Tumbling" but totally ignore the studio version of 11 O'Clock!! (not to mention Boy/Girl, Touch, Things to Make & Do, A Celebration....) *grrrrr*

eklawitter@earthlink.net (Edward Klawitter)
You have to give something to the fans while they wait for the new album. A Best of could work...how about a B-sides collection? Why the hell not?

Too much Rattle And Hum. Dead on it's obvious that U2 is trying to erase October ('October' is squeezed in as an extra track after 'All I Want Is You', but who wants to listen through that yawn-inducer for it?) and glorify Rattle And Hum. Rattle And Hum was glorified to death. That was the problem and the reason for the U2 backlash.

'Bullet The Blue Sky' was a missing Joshua Tree link...'Unforgettable Fire' (title song) seemed a little out of place and is aging badly, but it had been released as a single in Europe so... Over all the selection's a little ify, but it still captures most of the U2 that was important. And it's worth it all for that incredible new version of 'The Sweetest Thing'.

B-sides? A masterpiece! Easier and more fun to sit through than the Best Of! 'Party Girl'? 'Spanish Eyes'? Bring it on!

zaanpunk@hotmail.com (Michiel Heinicke)
Could have been a good compilation if they had just left out the shitty Rattle & Hum songs, included Gloria and called it "Best of the Dublin years". Cuz face it, after they got so obsessed by the USA, they produced shitty albums. And including B-sides is a nice thing, but include a little more early work. Like 11 o'clock tictoc, Boy/girl A Celebration or Another Day. Under a Red Blood Sky is still their best compilation CD. 5/10

Add your thoughts?

Achtung Baby - Island 1991.
Rating = 7

On first listen, this one screams with joy and wondrous balladry, but unlike The Joshua Pee, multiple listenings reveal what I might call melodic laziness if it weren't for my nagging doubts that the band could have created another Moshpit Gee even had they TRIED. No sir, the overriding concept here was to change the band's image - give up the social conscious hard-workin' Irish lad thing for overblown rock and roll dance Gods. They called it "irony," but there was no irony involved, as is obvious by the fact that they've dragged this ZOO crap on for six years and running. So what's the deal? Well, there are some nice little sound effects on here, but it's a very electronic and fake-sounding album with little of the guitar-driven glory of the previous releases. There are still some darn fine songs, my favorites being "Ultra Violet (Light My Way)," "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses," and "Until The End Of The World," but most of the other ballads are generic and kinda dull, and the discoey "Zoo Station" and "The Fly" are just lame.

This is just me talkin', you understand, but (and I said this about R.E.M.'s Monster too) I feel that overprocessed '90s production is no substitute for actual songwriting, and half the time, it seems like that's what U2 is trying to do here - pull the wool over our eyes with some snazzy studio tricks. I don't fall for it. The "rockers" are dull and most of the ballads are completely unnecessary in the grand scheme of the universe. I wouldn't be bitching so much if it weren't for the fact that this album, for me, signals the beginning of the end of this fine outfit. It's actually a good album, basically. But not up to Yoo Hoo's standards as set by me and nobody but. Classics include "Even Better Than The Real Thing" (which isn't, but it's got a neat guitar run in the chorus), "One" (a popular ballad that bores the shit out of me personally), and "Mysterious Ways" (which is okay and might make you shake your butt, but sounds stupider than the word "kedge" when placed next to "I Will Follow," "New Year's Day," "Gloria," "Pride," or any of their other earlier driving classics). Go ahead and buy it if you want. You'll probably love it. Everybody else does!!! Damn fools.

Reader Comments

Well this album is good for the 90's and probably their only good album in the 90's aside from the "Hold me, Thrill me, Kiss me, Kill me" single. It's some pretty good work. They came into the 90's very well with this album.

deeeeter@aol.com (Christophe Juliet)
I have heard U2 as they progressed to one of their best, the joshua tree. Loved the hits, "Bullet in the Blue sky" was a great rock song. But i gotta tell you, what really turned me onto this band was this incredible album. Not just a rock album but a great mix of rock and some techno aspects mixed in in the right amounts. My first listen to this album didn't leave me that enthused even though i had heard the many singles from the album on the radio. A great many listens to this one though brought out all the attention to detail that you pick out listening to these tracks. Ok, i know this reviewer is just into heavy metal so you are getting a jilted version of how good this album really is. As far as i am concerned it is one of the best you can buy. If it is any consolation to him, i also would consider back in black from ac/dc to be one of the best albums of all time as well.

Sometimes when you expect a band to sound a certain way it biases how you review a subsequent album that has totally changed style. In a perfect world all our favorite bands would keep up the quality and the style. Well, U2 definitely changed their style here but the quality sure didn't change. If you are looking for an album to buy, I guarantee this one will not disappoint and maybe even open you up to a new genre, it did for me, ...seriously. This one should be a 10! (And yes, i like ac/dc as well).

Weigelda@aol.com (Dave Weigel)
It's a step down after The Joshua Tree, but Achtung Baby is still U2's third best album. It took me a while to appreciate it, and I do feel they could have edited it down to 10 tracks, but I still love it. The greatness is in the non-hits; "Ultra Violet", "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses", "Acrobat", "Love is Blindness" and "So Cruel" are all amazing. And I kinda dig "The Fly", too. What about that part where Jeff Goldblum picks out his teeth! Ewwww. 9/10.

7 out of 10??? ARE YOU CRAZY??????
This is, without exception, the greatest album EVER CREATED. The processing isn't to pull the wool over our eyes; it's to ADD TO THE ART! The combination of brilliant songwriting, playing, AND processing is what makes this album such a piece of art! On a scale of 1 to 10, i give this album a 30! Every song is good; the cover and lyric photography and presentation is masterful and intriguing; the processing gives to the band what they couldn't have before, and opens up a whole new level. THIS IS ART! (By the way, it's also my favorite U2 album.)

pmtapia@worldnet.att.net (The Chameleon)
I'd just like to say here to anyone that's reading this column to disregard what blademate says about every U2 album. What the hell is wrong with you anyway blademate? What's with this "wool over our eyes" crap?? And "add to the art" crap you throw in here with your reviews?? Next time you do a review would you mind telling us what your definition of art is. Because this is just another crappy U2 album; they're just a band, not musical geniuses that want to "add to the art". "Add to the art", "art", "processing"..just give a fucking review in a language most people understand. Get your head outta your ass and don't try to sound like you know what you're talking about by using big words..and metaphors...you're talking in circles and not really supporting yourself for why you think this is the greatest album ever..you just keep trying to sound all bad ass by saying "adding to the art", "processing"..next time give good reasons..the only logical reason I see behind your review for Achtung Baby was "brilliant songwriting, and playing"..that's it..next time tell why it's good.don't talk in circles with all this art bullshit and your fucked up "wool over our eyes" crap..dumbass.

jason69@sprynet.com (Jason Carter)
"Ultra-Violet (Light My Way)" - why was this not released as a single?

Blademate, settle down--it's all good. I thought I was the only one who couldn't get enough of "Ultraviolet" that song is just so incredible; this album has it's moments, but I hated "Horses" and heard "Mysterious Ways" until it drove me to convulsions.


7 out of 10

swillhide@ocsnet.net (Susan and Brian)
What's wrong with you? I love your site and reviews, don't get me wrong, but you're so far off the mark on this record that it hurts.

Tell me this, would you really have liked it better if U2 had sat around and cranked out three or four more albums in the same vein as the last three? You'll probably say yes, but you'll know you're lying, because one of your most common complaints is that most bands ride a formula into the ground until they are no longer relevant.

If you can't tell that the pattern was getting played out by the time of Rattle and Hum, then you're blind. Never before has a band really recreated themselves as totally and as surely as this. When a band gets weak, they usually start doing live albums and greatest hits sets, but for this one, they took a look at themselves, saw what they were, and became a complete opposite of themselves.

This is probably one of the top ten albums of all time, in addition to just the nineties. No other album has half the energy of this one. Even the jacket is an explosion of color. No other U2 album has a cover half as interesting as this, and really, none of them ARE as interesting as this. Disagree all you want, but do it alone. The reason everybody loves this record is because it's so right. This is the best music this band ever did. This is the freshest music most people will ever hear.

I agree that the albums that come after are lacking... Something, but even ZOOROPA is great in ways other albums and bands will never be.

And giving OCTOBER a better review than this is just a slap in the face.

Maybe you should listen to this one again, and reconsider. I know you feel guilty for loving it, but you and I both know you've caught yourself singing "Mysterious Ways" in the shower.

And trust me, Bono's lyrics will never be as good as these again. "Every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief; they kill their inspirations, then sing about their grief".

jgwilson@DELTA.IS.TCU.EDU (Jeff Wilson)
this album is just pure genious. i think its far better than JT. i rate this album based on how good it is, not how many sold. even though this album did not sell as much as JT, it is way better. i dont find myself falling asleep on this one.

Shellb2k@aol.com (Tim Shellberg)
As a fellow critic, I've admired your often sardonic take on almost everything you've read, but on Achtung, we's got a problem. Full-on reversal of texture and outline, with a result as revolutionary as War and Treee.

Too honkin' tired right now to counterpoint you, but I'm accredited as a music covering writer. Would love to discuss this matter further and verify my credentials...

I'm at Shellb2k@aol.com. This album needs a counterpoint. You're WAY OFF!

Love what you're doing here.

cbunnell@ix.netcom.com (Rich Bunnell)
EXCELLENT. Even if the band is supposedly trying to "pull the wool over our eyes" as you say, the thing is that you have to look at it this way—even though the songwriting would sound weaker without the studio dancey gimmickry, that’s the POINT—WITH the gimmickry, the songs sound great. If the songs didn’t have lots of studio stuff, then there’d be quite a reason to complain. As for individual songs, "One" is actually a really good buildup song (though not the best song ever), and the "lame" stuff like "Zoo Station" and "The Fly" sounds good enough to me. The only time so far when U2 has successfully used dance grooves and synthesizers. 10/10

THE GREATEST ALBUM OF 1991 AND POSSIBLE THE ENTIRE DECADE. You should go out right now (regardless of what the clock says) and buy this, just so you can actually hear a U2 album that is lyrically unpretentious (seems like that whole Rattle & Hum thing showed Bono how NOT to write songs) and clever at the same time.

All the melodies kick ass; "Zoo Station" is a great industrial rocker, "EBTTRT" is, as Mark said, another great showcase for Edge's otherworldly guitar solos (plus the music video for this song rules), "One" has some of Bono's best words and singing (and that organ part in the beginning gets extra points), "Until the End of the World"...it sounds like Edge is litterally ripping his guitar apart in that solo, love that opening part of "Wild Horses" and "So Cruel" is slow and overlong, but the woman in the song is uh ... SO CRUEL (Oh! Now I get it!)

Second side: "The Fly." Was this a #1 song? It should have been! The best cut off the record. "Mysterious Ways" is a great blend of hip-hop and Eastern melodies, "Trying To Throw Your Arms Around the World" is an underrated classic, "Ultra Violet" a stunning rocker, "Acrobat" kinda gets lost in the shuffle, but is another excellent cut and "Love Is Blindness" has a really creepy church organ in the beginning and is a disquieting way to end the album.

By the way, what's with all this sexual imagery? A lot of it's pretty dang disturbing; sounds like the members were all having romance problems while making it. Even the title sounds like some German "marital aid."

Interesting sidenote: this was recorded in the same studio where David Bowie did his brilliant Low/Heroes/Lodger trilogy. U2 and Bowie even used the same guy--Brian Eno!

Melodie83@aol.com (Joe)
One of U2's most entertaining records one of there best records because it's so diverse you have a mix between ballads and rockers Zoo Station and Even Better Than The real thing are terrific rockers back to back One is an incredible song Bono's vocals are wonderfull his falsetto gets a real work out here also very touching lyrics some of his best,then you have Wild horses which is a U2 classic great chorus and vocals by Bono also the Edge really smokes on the ax on this one So Cruel is a okay not great side two is almost as good The Fly has great vocals by Bono Mysterious Ways is catchy but tired after hearing it about a million times on the radio ,Trying To Throw Your Arms is also quite catchy but UltraViolet is the best song on this side Bono's falsetto cries and the Edge's backup harmony are great the only downer is the last two songs other than that a great album I wish U2 could make an album half as good as this compared to there last few a 8 rating from me

bgreenstein@nctimes.net (Ben Greenstein)
The single best album the band ever put out. Doesn't sound one bit fake to me. Actually, it does - "Zoo Station" and a few others are shameless attempts to imitate "experimental" stuff like late seventies David Bowie. But, dammit, I like late seventies Bowie, and I like this stuff! "Beauty And The Beast" kicks it's ass into orbit, but I quite enjoy its several imitators present.

And a lot of the tunes aren't fake, or "electronic" for that matter, at all! "One," for one, is a super song - really emotional. It is beyond me how people can LOVE "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," yet call "One" boring. And I really like the funky "Mysterious Ways" - it may not be P-Funk, but it grooves along with the best of them.

I also think that the guitars on "Even Better Than The Real Thing" sound kinda middle eastern (and cool!), that "Until The End Of The World" feels like, well, the end of the world (but cool!), that "Wild Horses" is just okay (but still cool!), and that "The Fly" is the kickin-buttest song on here! How can you not love that awesome guitar riff, that silly falsetto, those cool lyrics (in my opinion, the only great lines Bono ever penned)? "The Fly" is a great song!

And check out those last two - dark and atmospheric, like I like 'em. I find this album immensely enjoyable. 10/10.

charbono@hotmail.com (Charlene Granger)
This is simply the greatest album ever made. This entire record is one poetic burst of emotion after another. Swillhide is right - they *could* have brought out a Joshua Tree II and III and IV - but then what? Instead, they did what only U2 could do - totally changed not only in musical direction but a complete image makeover. They were already getting flack when R&H came out, about being "pompous". They changed from a band who were put up on a pedestal by the media, (c'mon, you know they got soooo much criticism for being serious!) to a band who made fun of themselves. Since JT Bono had been portrayed as arrogant - so what does he do, but invent THE FLY, the embodiment of all he was accused of being. When put into the context of the times, the change from 80's to 90's U2 is almost predictable. But anyway, about the music. It's the best they've ever done. It's haunting, it's passionate, it's bold, it's intense, it's moving and it absolutely rocks. Bono's lyrics in Achtung are the best ever (every song!). Really, even The Joshua Tree is mediocre when compared to Achtung. EBTTRT is just as exuberant as I Will Follow, and Love Is Blindness' disturbing darkness is on a par with Exit. It's just pure genius. "So Cruel" is a *perfect* song - unimprovable. The drum and bass pulse liike a heartbeat, Edge's piano complements the rhythm - and then Bono's voice enters. Yet this album's strength is not it's lyrics - or it's guitar solos or bass or drums or vocals. It's in the perfect merging of these four individuals' talents, to form the complete whole essence of U2. Not a note out of place; this album is THE BEST.

eklawitter@earthlink.net (Edward Klawitter)
Once again stereotypes have taken over the band and America is fully sick of U2 and their serious man face. Time to "Dream it all up again". So where do you go? To a newly reunited Germany...Berlin in fact. The famous Hansa studios, where Bowie made history. Okay, so the place hasn't been used since then and is this close to being condemned. There's no deterring Bono. Berlin it is! The recording is going horrible, the studio's crappy and Larry [Mullen-drummer] says he doesn't want to be the world's most stylish and expensive juke box anymore, so another Joshua Tree is out of the question. Time for a change, but nothing's happening and Edge is almost ready to give up when BAM! There's 'One', a true gem. And everything comes far from easy then on, but at least it's coming. Time to chop down the Joshua Tree...ACHTUNG, BABY! 'Mysterious Ways', 'The Fly', 'One', 'Even Better Than The Real Thing'...wow, has U2 changed! 'The Fly' comes through radios and people think they're going deaf. This is U2?

Yeah, and isn't it kick ass?

"Damn straight" as the poet says.

imoss@northernlight.com (Ian Moss)
I LOVE "The Fly"!!! It's one of my favorite songs by anyone! I love the big riff, the way everything is low-down in register but because of the production you still get some menacing squeaks and hisses at the top, the way it totally but seamlessly changes character during the "angel" part, the way Bono sounds so damn EVIL, and especially that incredible guitar solo--the one that launches off of the aforementioned angel parts, starts winding and twisting its way through ridiculous phasing effects and heavy reverb, until towards the end of the solo there's this one moment where the phasing kind of "breaks over the top" and it sounds like the crest of a wave coming down from the top of some harmonious heaven. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!!!!!

And there's plenty else to like, too! With the album, I mean. "One" is very sing-along-able, "Mysterious Ways" is catchy (although not one of their greatest), "Even Better Than the Real Thing" is nice. I like some of the non-hits too, like "So Cruel," "Tryin' to Throw Your Arms Around the World," and "Ultra Violet." Don't much care for "Wild Horses" or the last two songs, though. Petering out at the end again. That's why this only gets a 9.625. There was a one-tenth deduction for slipping on the balance beam. A little too much movement on the uneven bars, if you know what I mean. Not quite enough to vault into place as the band's best record. But damn, the floor exercise was good!

csarcher@hotmail.com (Cameron Archer)
Anyway, just have to add a comment on U2's Achtung Baby. I don't see it as their best, and it sure as hell isn't utter shit like Zoorapa or Pop-A-Bono, but come on. In my opinion, too many producers spoiled the broth. THREE producers are credited with producing or co-producing the album. It's obvious which way the three producers were going. Brian Eno wanted to reinvent U2 as a synth-based band, much like he did with Talking Heads. He comes up with most of the good songs on this album. Steve Lillywhite did a good job with the one track he produced ("Even Better Than The Real Thing") and kept "Who's Gonna Keep Your Wild Horses" from stinking too badly. That said, most of the blame for the hit-and-miss that is Achtung Baby falls upon the shoulders of Daniel Lanois. It's obvious that most of the tracks he produces himself orco-produces with Eno suggest that he wanted to turn U2 into a ballad-heavy band, which unfortunately encompasses more than half of the album. Unfortunately, a few good tracks does not a good album make, but it was a necessary retrenching from the mistake that was Prattle And Bomb.

Good Songs: "Even Better Than The Real Thing," "Until the End of the World," "Mysterious Ways," "Trying To Throw Your Arms Around The World," "Acrobat" (mainly because Bono dedicates it to Lou Reed)
Iffy: "Zoo Station," Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses"
Lanois-Induced Crap: "One," "So Cruel," "The Fly," "Ultraviolet (Light My Way)", "Acrobat," "Love Is Blindness"

IMHO, 5/10. The last decent U2 album. Can't beat the Boy/October/War era, though. They should have stopped after The Unforgettable Fire. Oh, I'm sorry. Did I piss off all you Joshua Tree fans? Well, that's too fucking bad. Ha ha. See yuh.

Look, I really enjoyed your reviews till I got to Achtung Baby

This album is THE BEST RECORD EVER by anyone anywhere anytime. And I think only All That You Can't Leave Behind could ever come close to this.

This album it's almost prefect - well, there's no such thing as perfection, and The Fly is only halfway perfect, because the verses tend to get a bit annoying, but it's wonderful nonetheless. And Edge's solo is just brilliant. Which brings me to another point - Edge's playing is the backbone of this record, and not the electronica which has almost the same value as the costumes in a porn movie. it's there, but it's not something this record (or the listener) focuses on.

Moreover, I think all the of the Beatles should feel pretty damn fucked by this record. I'm a huge Beatles fan, yet I'd rather have Achtung Baby than Abbey Road, Sgt. Pepper and the White Album any day of the year. Including February 29th. It's THAT good.

By the way, have you noticed the symmetry of it? both sides feature six tracks - two rockers, a ballad, two rockers, a ballad. well, maybe Acrobat isn't really a rocker, but it's fucking intense anyway. I hate to repeat meself, but this is definitely the closest any rock album could ever get to perfection , and I haven't heard anything as fascinating in ten years. I know it by heart, from the rough sounds that open Zoo Station to the echoes that end Love Is Blindness, going through every single note played by Edge and every single word from Bono, and I still can't get enough of it. And I know I never will. If it were legal, I'd marry this record. Well, if it'd have me but anyway. If anyone still thinks it's not such a good album, I say listen to it again (LISTEN carefully I say - this is not bubblegum music), and if you're still not convinced, I'll give you a refund. Then again maybe you're just plain dumb, in that case, don't bother, it's not for you.


I don't really like U2's Achtung Baby. and it's not because i find it generic, and it's not because i real the songwriting has detoriated, instead i just think that it sounds boring, and it is boring, except of course for "whose gonna ride your wild horses" (yeah bono keep it cuming with the sexual metaphors!!!!!), "one" (a great ballad, with surpassingly good lyrics), "she moves in mysteries ways" (the energy!, the energy!), and "the real thing" (thought provoking lyrics). prindle is right about one thing these songs do sound cool and they are extremely danceable (i love me dancin'!!!)


i have this little theory about music...

what u like, is akin to your character...

so if u love the songwriting, passion, & atmosphere of the first three u2 records...u love fresh, *creative* songwriting, honest emotions(if a bit naive & simple in this context), & an atmosphere that is enveloping & otherworldy...

if u like joshua tree & achtung baby, u actually believe simple little "bendy one-note" riffs & "four note progressions right down the fretboard" constitudes good songwriting(i.e., maybe youre just not a very creative person), cite great lyrics as great music(obviously the lyrics to JT & AB are way more brilliant that the first trilogy...but this has nothing to do with the MUSIC, which is why u bought it(i assume...maybe some of u like to be preached to...a u2 strong suit...aw, are u believing in something "important", kids?), & u think songs that *strictly* have atmosphere are "poignant" & "deep"(but dont have moods that take u somewhere else, demanding to be listened to by their sheer brilliance like "bullet the blue sky" & "exit", & "acrobat" & "love is blindness", as well as note progressions that actually move & evoke something deep inside)

i mean, i cant even tell u how most of the songs on these two records go, they were that boring to me(u people who cite these as "masterpieces of alltime" have 1)not listened truly to the first 3 records...2)havent heard a lot of music...3)have fairly boring taste in music, or busy lives, so when the hype from both Big Critics & "the regular guy" say these are masterpieces---u try REALLYREALLY hard to like them---)

heck, pop was a better record than AUCLB...easily..."new york" was the only great song on AUCLB..."beautiful day" was pretty good...but pop had about 6 interesting things going on...

prindle, i'll get to u later for actually liking 1)everclear 2)joshua tree 3)not liking rush, depeche mode, or tool(or perfect circle)...& yet, seeming to have decent music taste a lot of the time(is it the whole "majestic personality/view of life" thing u dont seem to have, & therefore, dont respond to in music?...but u like the moddy blues, man! :o) are u only into over the top, treacly stuff too?(not sayin the moodies are bad at all) i mean, matt, u said after 9/11 that reviewing music was a trifle...NONSENSE!...& yet u borderline devote your life to it(u also admit to being a wuss...which maybe explains everything :o)

spiralofdivinity@yahoo.com (Ian Christopher)
The big YAWN!!!! Bono sings like he's waiting to cash his payday advance check he KNOWS he is going to receive when word of a new U2 LP hits the streets, and the rest of the band plays on auto-pilot (most achingly noticable in the performance of Larry Mullen Jr. ... like, what is his snare drum, a cardboard box???) OK, I'll give credit to the songwriting here, it is fresh and innovative both in lyric and verse/bridge/chorus structure; U2 are big boys and their mastery of song structure should be a given, but the whole sordid affair is the equivalent of sonic sludge, not unlike that bowl of molasses-drenched oatmeal that you refused to eat as a kid and left sitting behind your bedpost for days until Ma and Pa found it and gave you a whippin' .... the guitar is muted, not distorted, the drums are flat and tinny and the snare is almost non-existent, and Bono sings as if his only inspiration has been forced and repetitive listens to some tedious and atonal Brian Eno solo offering, as if Eno brainwashed him into thinking that an hour of repititive ambient sounds actual equals melody and harmony. The bass DOES sound pretty decent here, Adam Clayton providing a throb that tries to help some of these songs get up and go somewhere, but one badass bass player sadly does not a decent band make. In sum, the recording sounds like the visual imagery on the compact disc itself; a thick, gooey oil slick that blots out all musical brightness.

The mediocrity of this one aside, the album has it's moments, Bono occasionally raises his pompous arse off of his armchair, throws the Eno solo cd out the window, and takes a walk down to the neighborhood chapel for some REAL inspiration. The verses and choruses to "So Cruel" and "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses" ring heartfelt and soulfull, far more sincere than anything on Rattle And Hum, and although "One" is perhaps the BIGGEST yawn inducer on this whole disc, the lyrics are passionately beautiful and poignant. Furthermore, I'd rather listen to cumbersome ballads anyday than stiff attempts at dance music; remember, these guys are pale white things from Ireland. It must be stated though that the grooves provide a bit more ":thump to my rump" than the contrived nonesense on Rattle And Hum, but that is saying nothing at all really. I've heard tracks from "Achtung Baby" played at dance clubs, and the effect on the clubgoers is akin to someone yelling "fire" at the top of their lungs amongst the crowds; everyone sits down and chats, nobody can dance to this rhythmless dreck.

It must be said that we are truly blessed that U2 even exist, so that in and of itself warrants a minimum grade of 6 to this disc; U2 could make the most contrived and vacuous of sounds at least minimally interesting given their instrumental prowess and songwriting skill. But alas, Bono IS a pretentious ass, reagrdless of whether his inspiration is stale solo Eno or soulfll "down south USA" hymns, and that my friends takes off points. Down to a four, but I really like "So Cruel" and "Wild Horses", so I'll be generous and give this one a 5 1/2. Okay, if any other "no-name" group composed Actung Baby, the work would be worthy of a 7 ... back to my original grade of 6, but since I am in a generous mood, we'll say 6 1/2 and the only worthwhile post-"Joshua Tree" U2 release.

slayerrob@yahoo.com (Rob DelMedico)
Someone commented that the reviewer (Prindle) is only into metal. That's the biggest laugh I've ever seen. He may smell bad but sheesh, look at all the NON-METAL REVIEWS ON THE SITE. Metal comprises about 3%!

perhaps I provide the 1000th opinion here, but what Prindle said is just too stupid. He dosn´t like Eno, OK. Eno produced U2 in a way that made them sound fresh and experimental. Basically the song structures haven´t change since the early years. ´Acrobat´ is rather new, though. But The Fly and Ultraviolet is just 100% traditional U2. So let´s thank Eno for that lift. Joshua Tree was OK, but lame somehow and just too airplay friendly. Very mature, though. Rattle & Hum is crap. Why ? They are U2 and can´t be anything but U2. They can´t live up to the likes of B.B. King. The Edge can hardly play the guitar. The Fall (best band in the world) can´t pretend they are Defunkt, either. Because they are... The Fall.

pumpkinhead_27510@yahoo.com (Doctor X)
I agree with Mark. greatest album of all time? whatever. Zoo Station sucks. What's with that annoying swishy noise, and the distorted vocals? They make Bono sound whinier than usual. And on a lot of the songs, even some of the ones i like, it sounds like Eno and Lanios spent more time and energy on the production than U2 spent writing a decent melody. Songs like So Cruel and The Fly sound okay, but while the songwriting isn't bad, it could be a LOT better. For all the people who claim the 90's studio sound and the detail of Eno and Lanios's production "makes" the album, or that it's "the point"...yeah that excuse works for some songs, like Mysterious Ways where there are enough cool noises and awesome bongos and whatnot, and the guitar solo in The Fly, which is gorgeous, but it doesn't always work, espcially in the boooorrring repetitive So Cruel or Love is Blindness...the solo is that song sucks, sounds like the Edge dropped his guitar while playing it or something. it's still a good album, just overrated. A 7.

Wow. I just wanted to say that what Rich Bunnel is saying is profoundly true. It does not matter if the formula in which the music was created is not scientifically good. If it sounds good, then it is good! Oh, and yes, Bono's best lyrics ever are these. But it's okay, Mark. You're still alrat. I'll be in the bathroom whenever you're ready. Don't forget to bring the rubber ducky.

a low 8. I don't see why it's so highly revered. the production DOES seem to exist to (unsucessfully) compensate for the lazy songwriting on some songs. I kinda like "The Fly" though for some reason...the lyrics and chorus are very nice, and that guitar solo is gorgeous! "Zoo Station" is TERRIBLE though!!! Just a bad song...and what doesn't help is the unnecesary distortion on Bono's voice, the stupid swishy synth noises and the fact that it's the first song on the album, thus leaving a very bad taste in one's ear from the get-go. Tracks 2-5 are great, and are probably the high-point of the album, and there's a few there toward the end that really blow me away as well. I have mixed feelings about this album (and also about this band). There's no excuse for how overrated some of their shit is, but they certainly have talent, that's for sure. Songwriting talent mostly, even if that's a somewhat sporadic merit that comes and goes. So what, the Edge is NOT a great guitar player, but he gets the job done most of the time with his delay pedal and the various eno-isms. What the hell is that solo on "Love is Blindness" though? Did he drop his guitar in the middle of the take or something? Awful song. Right after the awesome "Acrobat" too. There's a fair amount of honestly good songs on here, but this album doesn't flow very well at all. It's kind of a confusing listen. For example, "Mysterious Ways" is a very mediocre song, but those bongos are really cool and the verse and bridge parts sound nice together, but the chorus annoys me and despite the cool noises and generally funky-fresh feel to it, it's nothing special. Oh well.

For all the horrible things that were said about this album in this review, a seven seems awfully high. I'd hate to compare you with Adrian Denning, but a similar incident occurred with him when he gave "War" an 8 and dismissed half the songs on it. What a loser. I was bummed that you didn't like this album that much but I was pretty happy to see you like Until the End of the World. It is a real shame how I might be the the only guy in the world who thinks its the best song they ever did, and it's not cool how they didn't release that one as a single. They chose instead to release the ballads "One" (which I like but don't think is a classic - kind of how you feel about "The Real Thing") and "Wild Horses" (the only song I don't like on this album, and therefore the reason it's not getting a 10). Even my other favorites on here: "The Real Thing", "Mysterious Ways", "Zoo Station", "So Cruel" ... don't even come close to matching that song in terms of quality. The only one that remotely comes close is "The Fly": my second favorite from this album (and might even be my second favorite U2 song).

I get where you're coming from about the songwriting. I've never really cared much for Bonos lyrics, and I'll bet if I actually sat down and read the lyrics to these songs I'll like this album a lot worse. The production of this album is really why I like it as much as I do, I can tell U2 put a great deal of heart and soul into this album and seemed to be really keen on getting their good reputation back.

Add your thoughts?

Zooropa - Island 1993.
Rating = 5

Whatever. There's hardly any guitar, and even when it's there, it's not really doing anything. This is mellow dance-ish stuff - not really bad at all, quite honestly, but still incredibly unexceptional. Wouldn't be bad as instrumental background music, but Bono's pop-happy voice doesn't fit smooth dance music AT ALL. I capitalized those words for emphasis! Sometimes I use italics, but in that instance, I chose to push down the "shift" key as I typed in the words. Don't worry! I'm okay!!! Heh heh heh. Anyway, the only hits on this one, according to memory, were "Numb," a hilarious little rap thing crooned by Mr. Edge, and "Lemon," which has a really great bass line, even I am forced to admit. Johnny Cash sings on one song, and that's kind of interesting. See, honestly I don't dislike this stuff. It's perfectly mediocre. But such a far cry from what this band used to be capable of. Where's the rockin'? Where's the goosebumps? No place, that's dang where!!!! This is "experimental"!

Say! Did I mention that "Babyface" is kind of a rip-off of "All Screwed Up" by The Ramones? Alright, I can't imagine that any member of U2 has actually ever heard the Brain Drain LP, but dammit, can't a guy lie????

Reader Comments

deeeeter@aol.com (Christophe Juliet)
Ok this album can be a bit slow towards the end grinding to a very slow drag with johnny cash with the last track but there are some incredible songs on here. One of the most incredible sounds is in "Daddy's going to pay for your crashed car" which has a very groovy tin drum smoosh sound. You can't listen to this song enough. "Stay" is also one of the best songs out there, beautiful. This album isn't consistently good but the songs that do make the album are not to be missed. They are unique and really make this album worth buying. No other band sounds like U2 on this album, too bad because they are so successful now with these latest albums that they won't have to record that often now, hence the wait for POP.

Weigelda@aol.com (Dave Weigel)
What a piece of shit. This was the first U2 album I genuinely disliked. "Oh", the critics say, "It's so futuristic!". Well, the Mad Max movies were futuristic too, but that doesn't mean I'm moving to Australia. The only good songs are that great run of tracks in the middle; "Numb" (stupid, but I like it), "Lemon", "Stay" and "Daddy's Gonna Pay...". The rest is like Bjork without the martians.

jamesd@elink.net (James Vincent Debevec II)
I think that this is their best album, and I went to my first U2 concert back in 1984 and have all their albums at one time or another. I have one friend that loves it too...everybody else has panned it. I think the first 4 songs are great, along with "Daddy's Gonna Pay", "Some Days are Better than Others" and Song #9.

I'd give it a 7. And I am a tough critic.

This is where the criticism gets ridiculous.
Zooropa is experimental; it's new, interesting, fascinating, ARTISTIC. That's what makes it good!!! While not my favorite U2 album, it is so far above other pop music albums of radio-happy bands that such criticism makes me sick. And Johnny Cash kicks ass! (At least on this album...)

markc@javanet.com (Mark Cybulski)
7/10. This album always gets a bad rap. If you like Achtung Baby, how the hell can you hate this? I know Zooropa is supposed to be more experimental, but it doesn't sound all that different than its predecessor. Still one of their weakest albums (I haven't heard Pop and I pretty much refuse to), especially with the hokey title. They had to stop getting off that "zoo" shit.

"Zoo-fucking-ropa, I can do anything and it will sell
zoo-fucking-ropa, this album does nothing well,
zoo-fucking-ropa, let's put out shit for a spell,
my lord, zoo-fucking-ropa, this music has nothing to tell!"

Best I can do, this is shit, sorry to those who like it...

swillhide@ocsnet.net (Susan and Brian)
I'm really in favor of U2's early nineties experimentation, and on Brian Eno's influence on this band over the years, so it's none too surprising to hear that I really dig this one too.

Mark has gone into detail about some of this albums weaker points, some of which I agree with and some of which I dont, but I think it's safe for me to tell you that it's not all that bad. I think Mark is a little sore at the gang for selling their soul and buying into the alternative boom, but let's not forget that they helped to invent it, love it or no, and that their not just riding the gravy train here.

Zooropa is a fun record. There's a lot of self indulgence here, where an already dangerously pretentious band flirt with their own images and play in their accumulated zeitgiest. There are a lot of semi-ambient sounds here, and some dopey techno, mixed in with other sounds that will clue you in that the band wants you to think they've stopped taking themselves so seriously, but that they really haven't.

I particularly like the flow of the songs. You'll find that unlike the Achtung Baby album, the songs don't jostle so much as they just slide on past.

The sounds here are pleasantly schizophrenic, and I'll bet you'll agree, after maybe a few listens, that it deseves an eight or so.

blppt@prodigy.net (Pat D.)
Ack! You gave Zooropa the same rating as Pearl Jam's Vs.? Vs. Was Great! Zooropa is easily one of the worst jobs of experimentation ever. Now, I could deal with some of the techno crap on Achtung Baby, but this is just absofreakinglutely awful. "Lemon" might be the only redeeming track on this album. Bono, you can't write techno for shit. Go back to the style of War or Joshua Tree, or at the very least Achtung Baby. Back when Dave Evans' guitar had BITE!

Prior to plunking down $18 for this shit, I originally had some respect for this vastly overrated band. And I don't mean that "overrated" bit as a dig against U2----its just that NO band deserves to be worshipped as gods.

AVOID ZOOROPA LIKE THE PLAGUE! If you have $18 to blow, save up a few more $s and get the gold disc of War. It sounds GREAT!

jgwilson@DELTA.IS.TCU.EDU (Jeff Wilson)
i think zooropa was a good album ,but not great. what do u people want, u2 to go mainstream? that would be the worst possible move for u2 to make. im glad this album wasnt like achtung baby, because then they would be repeating themselves, which is not a good thing.

They shoulda just stuck with "Lemon," "Numb," "Crashed Car" and "Stay" and made a fucking awesome EP. Everything else coulda been a B-side or been relegated straight to hell.

bgreenstein@nctimes.net (Ben Greenstein)
Yeah, I'll agree that it sucks, but it has a whole lot of good songs for such an awful album. "Lemon" kicks arse - still my favourite U2 song. If you don't like it, you're probably laughing at me, but every time I hear it it takes me on a little journey. "Stay" is beautiful - perfect song for those melancholy, hung-over mornings. Not that I would know, I don't drink - but I seem to always get it stuck in my head on days when I'm really tired. "Numb" is fun - a bit repetetive, but also hypnotic. "Crashed Car" does techno way better than that "Mofo" piece of crap from "Pop," and "Babyface" - well, that one's just lame. Wussy ballad pop, and that is coming from a rabid Billy Joel fan.

And - screw you all - the title track kicks. It's groovy and atmospheric - stupid and pretentious, sure, but pretty darn listenable. Every song after #6, though, is a complete waste of record space, especially that Johnny Cash song. I buy a U2 album, I expect to hear U2, not some desperate, washed-up old hick trying to sound cool. But the album is pretty underrated - there's at least enough great material to make it worth buying.

A low 8.

Ben really confuses me sometimes. It seems to me like he's grading albums on a scale of six to ten, with anything below that equalling anywhere from -6 to -1 on the Mark-O-Meter. I pretty much agree with your assessment of Zooropa-- it isn't a horrid album-- in fact, the majority of these songs are listenable. But even though I like a bunch of them, they're nothing spectacular at all. The one major exception is "Stay," a really great ballad that breaks from the formula for a second before the band goes into the hideous tin-drum wannabe-techno of "Daddy's Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car." The title track also stands out (great ending!) along with "Lemon"(which is much more tolerable after it really gets going and Bono's falsetto is less apparent), "Some Days Are Better Than Others," and "Dirty Day." "Numb" is fun, but I'd rather listen to the Weird Al version myself-- "I DO NOT LIKE GREEN EGGS AND HAM I DO NOT LIKE THEM SAM. I AM."

The rest of the album is pretty dismal. The Johnny Cash tune is an interesting novelty and better than I expected it to be, but still lacking in melody, and "Babyface" and "The First Time" are really really poopy and boring. It's a listenable album, but it's not experimental and it's not "dance"-- it's more like really streamlined, thinnly-written pop music. I liked the cool rock-dance fusion of Achtung Baby a whole lot, but here it isn't nearly as spectacular. A six.

charbono@hotmail.com (Charlene Granger)
Why is this album so underrated? I personally don't like Some Days and can't stand The Wanderer. Yet this album includes Stay (one of the most moving U2 songs ever), The First Time, Babyface, Zooropa, Lemon and the amazing Dirty Day. Most of you people all bag this album but you don't give a reason why! If you like UF for it's "atmosphere", well Zooropa is even better! Try listening to track 1 with headphones on, and your eyes closed.... it will blow your mind. Please don't forget that this also won the Grammy for "Best Alternative Album"! It's not mainstream and it's not meant to be... the release of "Numb" as first single demonstrates that! (on video nonetheless). It's time you stopped taking U2 so seriously and opened your mind a bit to fresh ideas. (And as to criticism of dance music.... Lemon is not just a groovy toon, but is about man's search for expresssion, communication and identity.... listen to the lyrics!)

savage1561@juno.com (Evan Streb)
How is Zooropa experimental? Because it sounds like techno? Because a former post-punk influenced band now has begun to embrace electronica? THIS WHOLE ALBUM SUCKS!!!!!! "Numb" is just some guitar noodlings, some "ahhh" sound effects, and a pretentious monologue. Just awful AWFUL stuff. If this is U2 for the nineties give me the eighties. This is a total piece of garbage. I give it a two. You want experimental?

Take the album title and replace the "oo" with "ai" and the "op" with "eek"!!!!!! WE HAVE THREE DOGS... THAT LOOOOOOVE TO CHEW STUFFFF UUUUUUUUPPP!!!

eklawitter@earthlink.net (Edward Klawitter)
They were one of the biggest bands in the world, but things were not completely okay. The ZooTV tour is having a three month break before hitting Europe and the band members are having some problems in their personal lives. Larry's going to move to New York when the tour is over and is scared beause his girlfriend isn't coming with him, Adam's dating Naiomi Cambell ('neff said!), Edge's marriage is over with two kids in the midst of it and Bono's wife doesn't want him to come home and upset their kids. So, they decided to go into the studio instead of facing home. What comes out is a experimantal peice of work...extremely experimental. Edge's guitar is almost gone on the outcome, a trippy album carrying the story not a man far past the one on Achtung Baby. On Achtung Baby the narrator merely tested how far he could get away from his home before losing his way or coming back, (licking his wounds). On Zooropa the guy went out in Nighttown, never came back and is trying desperately to remember who he was and what his name is. There are great songs on this album, songs like the affectionate 'Babyface', the monotone 'Numb' (with Larry singing for the first time and doing a first rate job), the hard-hitting 'Daddy's Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car' and the bass-driven 'Some days Are Better Than Others'. Then their are songs like 'Lemon'. Don't get me wrong. 'Lemon' could have been a great dance song, but Bono killed it with his "fat, black lady" voice. After only a couple listens you find yourself skipping it just because you don't fell like hearing Bono sing like one of the other members of the band had hit him in the balls. 'Zooropa' (title song) would have been better if it hadn't taken so long to get to its better half at the end. 'The Wanderer', (though I sure it wasn't the band or Johnny's intention), sounded like Johnny Cash trying to get on the good side of the younger crowd and vice-versa for U2. 'The First Time' rings beautifully and obviously struck true to Bono's relationship w/his wife (Ali), his brother (Norman) and his father (Bob), but it feels very out of place on Zooropa. I think maybe they should have saved it Pop or The Million Dollar Hotel Soudtrack (where it fit in perfectly). All in all, it was a growing experience for the band, a way of them seeing is anyone was still paying attention to the music and not just buying it because it had U2 on the cover. It was easy for them because it was made with no pressure on the band, no one was expecting an album so soon after Achtung Baby. I would say that the lack of pressure may have hurt the record (I think it did a little), but October proves that having that pressure can make it even worse. It's a good album, but not their best and a disappiontment after the phenomenal Achtung Baby.

msclguru@email.unc.edu (Michael J. West)
See, Mark, this phrase--

"There's hardly any guitar"

--is one of the sorriest complaints in exiistence about music. If all you're interested in is the guitar, then really, why bother with any of it but the singles, huh?

Zooropa has great songs, fantastic textures, and great melodies. Lots of colors, if you will. There's more to great music than guitars.

Wake up people ,they suck...always have ,always will!

Michael West put it best: "Lots of colors, if you like breasts." Okay, he didn't say that, but HAD to make it rhyme, ? Oh, (and everyone reading can answer this, too...just e-mail your responses to Mark) when you are typing something like "put it" and you accidentally press the space bar to early and the second word comes out as "tit", do you

a. laugh
b. feel embarrassed and ashamed for a split second and move on
c. realize that "tit" is what you were really trying to say in the first place and go put in a porno?

scoggin@ecnet.ec (Justin Scoggin)
Zooropa is the first u2 album that I just don't get, I can't understand the direction they are heading in or find any coherent ideas. The writing is erratic and random and the non-danceable techno stuff that surrounds it totally lacks authenticity and urgency. I feel like they are big stars hangin' in their comfy little lives talking about superficial stuff not really because they really care about what they are saying or anything, but just because they CAN. Pointless. Just listen to "Out of Control" or "Rejoice", "Like a Song" (or anything from War for that matter) "Bad" or "Acrobat" and then be disappointed by what these guys had become at this point. It does have some cool songs, though ("Zooropa", "Lemon", "Dirty Day") but the losers here hit rock bottom ("Stay", "Daddy's gonna...", "Some Days") for the first time on any u2 album and the rest just slide by except for the fun and gutsy "Wanderer", although it's limitations are apparent as well. I forgave these guys for Rattle and Hum just because they were obviously having a great time not really caring what the public or the critics would say afterwards, but here they actually take themselves seriously, and that is scary. 5/10

oliver@asaknowledge.com (Oliver Watkins)
There seem to be people who get this record or don’t. For those who don’t get it because there are hardly any guitars, go back to your Pearl Jam and Match Box 20 CDs. This record is art at its most post-modern and daring. People aren’t supposed to get it, and that is what makes this record work so well. Johnny Cash sings about redemption holding a bible and a gun over a cheesy synthesizer riff emmersed in an Eno soundscape. “But where are the guitars?” whine the pimply pubescent Pearl Jam fans. Where are the storm troopers in 2001:Space Odessy?? It’s like U2 decided to be completely non self-conscious about making this record or how they should sound, and just threw away structure and pre-conception. The Wanderer just sends chills down my spine. It is like the ending to 2001 – it makes no sense, beautifully surreal, tackily familiar with its country twang yet utterly upside down in a way that a Duschampe Ready-Made does your head in. The imagery in this album is amazing.


None of the positive reviews here comes out and says what makes this a good record relative to U2's canon (the only measuring stick possible) except to say they're "experimenting," or "making a statement." What the band failed to do is make an album. With songs. Just doing a 180 from everything the band stood for doesn't make the effort worthwhile if the album is an undistingishable miasma of crisco, bacon fat, lava lamp light, and jism with nary a melody line, tune, or lyrical hook in sight. All this record did was make me appreciate Pop all the more, at least that record sounds pissed off enough at the band's loss of faith so as to jump out of the headphones. Zooropa is the worst sort of musical novacaine.

I really gotta be in the right mood for this one. As with every U2 album, there are some wonderful tracks here (first two and "Stay"). But still, U2 were on a roll since "The Joshua Tree" and even though this is a 7, I expected more out of this one. There's still an alarming amount of filler here, and though I respect them for releasing "Numb" as the first single (who saw that coming?) I still don't like it that much. Other tracks I'm not so hot about are "The First Time" (booooooo) and to some extent "Lemon".

Add your thoughts?

Passengers: Original Soundtracks 1 (with Brian Eno) - Island 1995.
Rating = 8

I haven't the foggiest mountain breakdown whether the movies described on the insert of this CD are for real or whether these songs are actually from them, for them or neither (All Music Guide doesn't tell me, and my web is moving way too slowly tonight for me to waste time looking elsewhere). So let's cut to the chase.

No! I didn't say 'cut the cheese,' you pollydoodle! Now get that pile of intestines off my soda cracker!

There. Now I can go back to writing on my piece of paper. In HTML. So that when I paste the piece of paper to the front of my computer screen, it will automatically be formatted for the Internet.

No! I didn't say "In TURD Net," you filly-of-medallions! Now get that pile of festering shit off of my basketball! This is U2 and Brian Eno playing really good soft, dreamy, pretty electronic music together. Extremely evocative tracks like the gorgeous "Slug" and "Your Blue Room" certainly sound like they belong in these art films ("Par-Dela Les Nages/Beyond The Clouds"? More like "Ernest Dies Of A Heart Attack" to these uncultured ears!) if they aren't actually in them already. Slow-flowing, ever-soaring, mixing Eno's ear for ambience with U2's interest in actually making songs. Not all of the songs are DREAMILY evocative though, I suppose. "Ito Okashi" is pretty friggin SCARY! "Theme From Let's Go Native" has these really rockin' upbeat DRUMS! "One Minute Warning" is a boring pop song that gets really cool when Pavarotti comes in, BILL! "A Different Kind Of Blue" sucks the balls off of every single resident of a distant african VILLAGE! (kind of appropriate, considering how much the original Kind Of Blue sucks! Heh heh heh. But you already know how I feel about country/western.)

Those are just descriptions of different variations on the basic "smooth electronic sound" however. It's a seldom day when you'll hear a guitar on this record, and when you do, it's usually way in the background just ringing lightly. It's more about the pulsating electronic beats, the ambient notes and effects, the strange noises wavering in and out of the mix and Bono singing nicely without his usual self-important bombast. It's also about the best album that U2 made in the '90s! So why don't more people know about it? Zap that Pop right out of your brain! U2 are no Brian Eno. But on the other hand, Brian Eno is no U2 either, you see what I'm saying? And their differing strengths fit together like a horse and carriage. Keep on the mellow strip of digging, and you'd be fucking your mother not to like this CD.

No! I didn't say 'fucking your lover'! OH GOD I'M GONNA PUKE ALL OVERERQHBBFBDSFLBHLLL

Reader Comments

In the UK this was released as a Passengers LP, i.e. it was a one-off thing credited to an imaginary band. Bono isn't even on all the tracks, although he was on "Miss Sarajevo", which was a decent-sized hit in the UK for an arty one-off. I can still hum it and I don't own a single U2 record. It mentions East 17, a group I confidently predict you have not heard of. And you are no worse off for this.

Keep it up. I read you every day.

Miss Sarajevo, Ghost in the Shell, and Par-dela les nuages are all real movies; the others are fictional. The film "Heat" used the track "Always Forever Now," but it wasn't written specifically for the film.

An 8? Wow. I liked this a lot better than I thought I was going to. I wouldn't say this is better than anything else U2 did in the 90's, but this is a very good album nonetheless. Sure this album has some astonishingly low low points ("Elvis Ate America" - what the fuck is that), "Theme from The Swan", "Ito Okashi" and "Plot 180" are pretty lame too, but not to that extent. "A Different Kind of Blue" is okay, but not spectacular. My favorite here might be "Theme from Let's Go Native", can't quite figure out why. Maybe cuz it's the only one here that sounds like U2. Others I like include "Miss Saravejo", "Always Forever Now" and "Your Blue Room". You're right, more people should know about this album, and it especially deserves a lot more popularity than that silly "Unforgettable Fire".

Add your thoughts?

Pop - Island 1997.
Rating = 5

There are a few signs of hope here, like "Last Night On Earth" (which would fit in perfectly on War if not for the generic dancey drumbeat), "Discotheque" (the most interesting dance thing they've done so far), "Gone" (with a groovin' high-pitched noise that I think used to be a guitar) and "Staring At The Sun" (not as great as everybody seems to think it is, but still a fairly memorable ballad). However, like Zooropa, this LP is "experimental" and dance-based, so us rockers and me just have to kinda sit still and try not to cringe too much.

One thing I'll give 'em: this album sounds pretty good if you listen to it at night while walking through the streets of Manhattan. That's probably how they meant it to be listened to, anyway. But darn it, a real album would manage to create that nighttime vibe even in broad daytime. This one doesn't. It just kinda sounds dull and forced. If you're into dance crap and you can deal with Bonnie's voice, give it a whirl. I doubt I'll ever whip it out in public again, though. This whole genre gives me the creeps. Electronica? The hell's that? Some samples, some keyboards, and precious little energy. Fuck it up the ass. I want rock and/or something noisy NOW!!! By the way, sorry about using the word "precious" like that. That was a copout; I should have made up my own word. You know what else pisses me off, even though I do it too??? I HATE it when a record reviewer (or anybody at all, honestly) uses the word "save" as a synonym for "without." MAN, I FUCKING HATE IT SO MUCH I COULD GRAB YOUR KNEE AND SQUISH IT TO A BLOODY DIAMOND BETWEEN MY KNUCKLES!!!!!!!!!!

Reader Comments

I really like Pop; 10/12 songs are truly absorbing and catchy. If War gets an 8 with only 4 good songs (and the rest total crap), then Pop deserves a better rating. Don't let negative reviews by wistful, old rockers or sedentious indie-rock buffs discourage you.

Weigelda@aol.com (Dave Weigel)
Oh, why didn't they keep Eno? If they wanted to make this one "hip" and "techno", Eno would have made it sparkle! Instead, they have this Flood bitch, whose idea of futuristic is making it sound like it was recorded in that fucking disco ball. In other words, claustrophobic. Ah well...the songs are a lot better than on Zooropa, but none of it is really great. If it was just the first 8 songs and "Wake Up Dead Man" I'd give her a 7, but man, those three shitty songs near end have no melodies to speak of. They drag it down to a 5. A drag to sit through.

pmtapia@worldnet.att.net (The Chameleon)
ahhh this album is such a disappointment...Prindle says it best "listen to it at night while walking though the streets of manhattan" and i totally agree with that quote. This album is filled with the crappiest songs U2 has produced. Is this album meant to be a dance album? well if it is.... it fails at that too. When i buy an album i like to be filled with the energy the band puts into the songs and the album....this album gives shit. It's like U2 just wanted to put out another album out to just once again say "hey look we're still here". These songs grow old very fast.....and 2 other things...what's with these fucking dumb song names..."If you wear that velvet dress" and "Mofo" this is such a prissy little girl album...i'm convinced Bono and the Edge just became women before recording this album...and second...."Mofo" is the biggest piece of shit song i've ever heard!

jsj@swcp.com (Nima J)
Ok, i can stand the joshua tree and achtung baby, but this is total crap. After being totally silent after several years, U2 decides to throw together some crappy songs to tell the people that they are not dead. Pop is an extremely dumb album. the songs are terrible (have you ever heard "Mofo?"). and what's with "discotheque"? Is it a dance song, or just a plain ordinary sell-out song? i think it's the latter because i never hear it being played at a dance club. i give this album 4 out of 10

Who are you guys kidding this album kicks ass. Sure its not drenched in guitars like every other fucking generic bnand out there but it is a damm good album. From "discoteque" to "Wake up dead man" each song has a different feel and sound, infact there are so many differrent genres and sounds it's not funny.

If you want to go and listen to some crappy guitar playing rocking crap go listen to some Stones stuff. If you want a 90's rock record then this is the one to go pick up.

I have been a fan of U2 for a long time and when they released Zooropa, I thought it was crap, so I thought when U2 would release another album, or if they were going to, because in all their years of silence I heard stories that they were gonna break up, or they were gonna do one more album go on their biggest tour ever and then end it right there. But when I heard about their new album I was excited and getting ready to go and get it. I listened to it the first time, and I thought it wasn't bad, but then as I started to keep listening to it, it just became worse and worse. I then sat there and said this isn't the U2 group I've known over the years, and I even said that there couldn't be a worse album than Zooropa but I guess I was wrong. Bottom line POP is shit, and should never have been done. If this is the way U2 is gonna finish up their band then, I'll say it was a really bad ending to a great band.

csegrist@ricochet.net (Carroll Segrist)
Holy Geez. I give this album a 10 out of 10. It was my favorite album of 1997 and is incredibly inspiring to me. The lyrics are as intimate and incredible as anything they've done. Their live show kicked ass. I had never heard guitar sounds like the ones found on Pop. At first I didn't like the album when I bought it the day it came out but as I listened to it in my car I noticed a beautiful thread running through all the songs. This album has everything I love. Great production, great songwriting, innovativeness, lyrical depth, a schtick to go along with it and great interplay between all 4 players. There is no weak instrument on a single instrument. I can listen to this album on any day, anytime, any mood. I have every album by U2 except for October and I used to not like Boy and The Unforgettable Fire until I listened to every song on each album in a row. I believe if you listen to any U2 album in the context it was made for it can be a trippy experience. U2 is my favorite band of all time and The Edge is one of my favorite guitar players and my main influence on my guitar-playing. U2 is a band that never stays in their past and is constantly doing the unexpected. Don't whine about them not being the way that they used to. They and every other big band in the world are in a "damned if you do/ damned if you don't" situation. You people would bitch if they stayed the same on every album and because they don't and do what is creative and what they want to do, you bitch because they won't make the Joshua Tree II. Pop rocks.

POP was the best album of 1997. Intense, soulful and out and out beautiful. You can't deny a song like "Please" which has to be one of the best U2 songs ever. I own all their albums and love them all to pieces but POP is my favorite one because it's more than just rock by numbers. It's music and it's finest.

Opticnirv@aol.com (Stophe Juliet)
I think U2's new direction is a good one. Unfortunately, a lot of the songs on pop are just slow, boring, or un-enthused ....lifeless ...you get the idea. There are some good ones in here though, don't get me wrong, track 6 being my favorite. From what i have read, before mixing or recording these songs, bono made a decision to leave out a lot of the samples, effects, techno stuff, whatever its called that were meant to be included. Who knows what this album would have sounded like with the original production stuff intact. I think it would've helped. I believe they wanted it to be a more natural sound and supposedly that's what we got. I also think that the production of Brian Eno is missing here, he did a great job on achtung baby and could have really helped this puppy along. Still i have to say that no other band sounds like this and come to think of it, it is one of the better 1997 albums as others have stated. Maybe our standards are set too high for U2?

I'm just now returning to earth, anyone who liked this can't like the old stuff--how is that possible??!!?? It is offensive to ask me to sit through this whole album--like Kenny and Cartman when Streisand sings on South Park, I think I will die...(not worth the effort to rate, why do all bands put out bad stuff at the end, why must it end badly?)...

As Mark Smith once said 'Jesus would have thrown bottles of piss at U2'. For, despite the ironic playing around with Beezlebub's image, Bono is evil. The multimedia finery cannot hide or subvert, but only throw into relief the fact that Bono is in desperately in love with Mammon. Nor can the diabolically tedious and overblown sentiments that pervade U2's music penetrate the brain and heart of anyone but the bored.

P. Blaikock- Johnny Cash's flirtation with aforementioned cringing idiot clown only served to highlight the times when he was at his best, by contradistinction, so to speak. For Cash has very often 'kicked', higher than most, but not when he was around stinking Bono and his unpleasant horde. Same goes for W. Burroughs.

POP simbolises the best that U2 have ever been but it also shows that the boyz are capable of more than just "rock" they are capppable of being the most complete entertainment experience ever. POP is just the beginning of onr hell of a musiacal rollercoaster.

swillhide@ocsnet.net (Susan and Brian)
Y'know, years from now this will be regarded as U2's Goat's Head Soup.

The album all rock bands have that they never seem to return from: The Slip. Just like the Stones, U2 think they're still really rockin' here, but somehow, us fans are left scratching our heads, with quizzical looks on our faces.

Plenty of the songs here sound just fine, but as Mark has said before, what good is just fine when there are plenty of records that are just Far-Fuckin'-Out?

This band's sound started out as a jalopy, then they bought some brodie knobs and spinners and turned it into a hot rod, after some thought, they traded the whole thing in for a competition orange Corvette, drove that around for a while and now it seems like they've traded that in for something safe, you know, like a mini-van or something. I guess thier next album will be the one where they pack it up and get an R.V.

I really like U2, but to quoth the Bonoman, I think they need to go and "dream it all up again."

cbunnell@ix.netcom.com (Rich Bunnell)
Eh, it has high points ("Discotheque," "Last Night On Earth," "Gone") but U2 can’t seem to make a normal melody this time around without bogging it down with studio crud—and in a bad way this time, unlike on Achtung Baby. For example, "If God Will Send His Angels" would be a normal great U2 guitar ballad, but of course they felt it fit to stick in this electronic crap in the background that DIDN’T-NEED-TO-BE-THERE! It has it’s share of great songs as I said, but there’re also a few songs that are completely awful ("Miami," "If You Wear That Velvet Dress"). Good enough, but still pretty weak. 6.5/10

bgreenstein@nctimes.net (Ben Greenstein)
Honestly, I don't see what's so "dance" about late U2. Sure, it tries to be hip with all those samples and drumbeats, but can you honestly imagine getting jiggy to "Discotheque"? I remember they once played it at a dance I was at, and it single-handedly cleared the dance floor. I still like it, but it's not dance music.

Oh, don't get me wrong - the Poop album is still crap. "Miami" is incredibly pointless, "If You Wear That Velvet Dress" is just hideous, and "Mofo" is doubtlessly the most pathetic attempt to sound hip by any band. And (sorry to all of you who like it) "Wake Up Dead Man" sucks anus. Not even a well-respected anus, like Paul McCartney's. In fact, I don't even think it's fit to suck Puff Daddy's. Just listen to that fake-sounding angst - Bono really thinks he's got something to whine about? He doesn't have drug or marital problems, and he's part of the most successful and popular group of the eighties! So what the hell is he whining about? Leave the moping to Robert Smith - he's fat and ugly, and has reason to complain.

Besides that, this album has some mildly interesting moments, for example - "Last Night On Earth" is too cool for words, "Staring At The Sun" is perfectly generic, "If God Will Send His Angels" is pretty except for those stupid samples, "Do You Feel Loved" is almost good pop music, and "Please," while it doesn't hold a card to the endlessly gorgeous single version, is still halfway decent without the strings and good production.

That's another thing - the production sucks. Okay - enough. I give this album five records, one for each of those highlights.

gpm@sys.uea.ac.uk (Geoff McKeown)
I am suprised you do not mention 'If God Will Send His Angels', the stand-out track on an otherwise so-so album; it really is a great song, and a lot better than 'The Last Night On Earth; but the album is no Joshua Tree, and the sleeve is horribly overdressed.

charbono@hotmail.com (Charlene Granger)
Please don't dismiss this album on the base of it's promotion. It is an amazing album - starts off fun, just like Achtung, but ends up depressing you by the end (also just like Achtung) and taking you on an emotional journey in between. Discotheque is of course the "fun" bit - camp, tongue-in-cheek - complete with Village People costumes. "Do You Feel Loved" though is the first serious song. Bono's been having vocal lessons over the last few years and on this album he really utilises his voice to it's darkest and most sinister. "Mofo" is arguably one of their better songs, lyrically and musically. "Lookin' for to fill that God-shaped hole" whispers Bono.... Wow. :) Pop actually reminds me A LOT of October, thematically. There's that recurring theme of the quest for God and purpose... doubt vs. faith, why am i here, etc. "Wake Up Dead Man" is a bloody good song; it moves me to tears. "Please" is another great. About Northern Ireland, it's as emotive as SBS. The music has grown but the message is the same.

There you go. Even though i have over 100 U2 CDs, i'm not going to review *every* album because I feel you have done the others sufficient justice. I really wish you would give Achtung a re-listen, tho. And if you get a chance, i'd love to read your opinions on the ever-underrated (at least here in Australia), Counting Crows.

eklawitter@earthlink.net (Edward Klawitter)
Ahh, the eternal debate. Has U2 gone soft? (I think the next album tell everyone no and will surprise most! *wink, wink*) The answer is supplied by Bono in their Achtung Baby video: "Everybody thinks we've lightened up, but the truth is we're miserable bastards!" and that still holds true through Pop.

Pop has been hailed by critics and scalded by so called "fans". Five years had gone by since Zooropa and nothing had come out of the band except Batman Forever's 'Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me' and "The Passenger's" project, Original Soundtracks 1. U2 told people to expect a ROCK album. And that's what they got.

Pop ticked a lot of people off. People thought, "Oh, they've sold out!" and it's true. Pop sold out and became number one in 37 regions on the first day of its release. I don't think it was a good idea to let 'Disotheque' be they're first single, though. It's a great song, but is very catchy for a U2 song and scared most of their fans half to death, along with critics. But it was soon made clear by one listen to the album, they may have embraced dance music, but they hadn't gone soft. In fact this album was the densest record they'd made to date with songs like 'Staring At The Sun', 'If God Will Send His Angels' and 'Wake Up, Dead Man'. Once again, U2 had gone back to dealing with religion in their music and it works a lot better than it did when they tried it in October. 'Last Night On Earth' is unbelieveable, 'Gone' is a very finely executed thought on being considered a sell out and 'Mofo' is a passionate release that Bono uses to call out to his deceased mother. The only bad song on the whole album is 'Miami', a horrible piece of work, that unlike all their other stuff, sounds nothing like what U2 would do, (and with good reason!). Pop is definitely Bono's best job as far as song writing goes and the one thing I think really hurt this record was the lack of Larry's drumming, which had always been unique about U2. They had an unbeatable rythum section. Due to back problems that left him stuck in bed, the band was forced to artificial drums at certain times and once again, after pushing the release date back twice already, U2 was forced to release it before they felt it was ready.

Despite all this, U2's Pop was still the best album of 1997, hands down.

imoss@northernlight.com (Ian Moss)
I'm glad everyone hates "Miami." What a repulsive, horrific, ugly song. On the other hand, I'm not glad that everyone hates "If You Wear That Velvet Dress." What's wrong with that? OK, it's more of a fragment than a real song, but the fragment (especially at the end) is real pretty, with the only instance of Joshua Tree-style guitars on the album and a very cool chord sequence. Has anyone noticed the lyrical similarity to the Beatles' "Yes It Is"? Anyway, there are two great songs on here: "Do You Feel Loved" and "Gone." Catchy, weird, all that good stuff. "Discotheque" isn't bad either, but from there on down the quality drops significantly. "Playboy Mansion," anyone? What were they thinking? Pop gets a high 5 from me, although if it had presented the palm of its hand to me and asked me, "High five?" I would have slapped it in the face. If it had a face, which it doesn't since it's an inanimate object. Fuck, there I go anthropomorphizing again.

zwp1@ra.msstate.edu (Zach Prichard)
Well I somewhat agree with you on the views of u2 rehashing stuff....sorta. I think Achtung baby was great...and at the time WAS musically innovative...if not for the industry ...for themselves..and that's the most important. Lyrically it was near nirvana (no NOT the band). Pop....I love Pop..HOWEVER...the first 3 songs are just generic electronica no doubt. The other songs are good but not too much of a deviance from Achtung Baby (except with a little electronica backtracking). But overall I just enjoy the album...b/c once again it's a lyrical masterpiece.

Chris@cem.dur.ac.uk (Chris Lavelle)
Im 38 I grew up with u2 and basically the answer is people will never agree with each others views of the direction of the band. What we have to remember is that these guys (u2) make music for themselves primarily, not for any of us, otherwise what would be the point.

So I dont really give a F**k what all of u amatuer reviewers say and quite franky I think you should get a real life and stop being such nerds!!!!1. I love U2!, u don't? , well...I couldn't care less, and neither could they. You wanna tell them how and what to play???, go and teach your grandma how to suck eggs! Stop Pissin n moanin. Listen or don't listen.

ddunham@globaleyes.net (Joel Dunham)
When I first listened to this album I didn't think that it was terrible, just sort of boring. But after listening to it many times through, I've discovered it as if I wasn't listening to anything the first times. I think that this is among their best albums now, if not their best album. The lyrics are the most meaningful in a long time. Everybody who thinks this album is shit just needs to listen to it endless times until you get it. When you get it you'll be so happy that you took the time to get there. All of your "listening instincts" will tell you not to, but I'm telling you, I've seen the other side.

amcquill@home.com (Andrew McQuillan)
I don't have this album but I've heard Discotheque, Staring at the Sun, Last Night On Earth, Please, and Mofo and those are all great songs so...

mbains17@hotmail.com (Mandeep Bains)
I actually really enjoy trippy track 10 on Pop too - "if you wear that velvet dress."

David Allen
Pop is U2's last great and most underrated album, 10/12 outstanding songs. It is coming up on the 15th anniversary if its release and it would be interesting to find out if those that trashed it feel the same way today.

Now THIS deserves more pop-ularity than that silly "unforgettable fire". Even though all that "electronic" stuff was starting to wear kinda thin on a couple of tracks (like "Miami", not quite as pathetic as "Elvis ate America" (or "Elvis Presley and America for that matter)). That and maybe "Gone" are the only songs here I don't really care for, but they're not "Bad" (pun intended) by any means.

I always thought "Discoteque" was a wicked song. That beat is great, and I love Bonos voice on there. "Staring at the Sun", "Last Night on Earth" and "The Playboy Mansion" are underrated gems in the U2 catalogue, and "Mofo" is fucking awesome. Sure the whole dance stuff gets a little repetitious after a while, but I'll still give this a strong 8.5. I didn't want to admit this at first, but I prefer this album over "The Joshua Tree" (mainly because this one happens to have more songs on it),

Add your thoughts?

All That You Can't Leave Behind - Polygram 2000.
Rating = 8

For a few years now, the hype has been building - U2 are abandoning this boring techno-influenced experimental crap and returning to their roots! So we've all baited with waited breath to hear what the results would be. WHAT IF THEY SUCKED????

No, writing a pretty song is too easy. In retrospect, that's probably why they chose their "experimental" route in the first place. But then they lost about a billion fans, saw poverty just over the horizon and decided to win back, you know, at least SOME fans.

Hopefully this record will do that for them. Instrumentally, it sounds (strangely enough) like a CROSS between The Joshua Tree, Rattle and Hum and Achtung Baby. It is not strictly old style echoey Edge-guitar driven, but that great echoey tone DOES show up every once in a while, usually to accent a powerfully building piano/synth/string/normal guitar wash that's reminiscent of Achtung Baby but without all the ironic hip shit. There is NO attempt to be cool on this record (aside from Bono's sickening sunglasses on the cover). This is MUSIC for MUSIC's sake. Beautifully soaring, bombastic, nearly gospelly midtempo melodies tailor-made for Bono's still-gorgeous voice (didn't work with their dancey stuff - goes PERFECT with this bombastic pretty rock thing).

Maybe a better way of describing it would be to describe what it did to me today. I have been a really depressed mood all day (and, in fact, for most of the past year). I came home with the task of sitting through another shitty U2 cd. By no means have I considered myself a U2 fan for any number of years, so I wasn't looking forward to it at all, and anticipated putting together a review about how they've lost their abilibity to come up with decent melodies. And then it hit me. The production - there's tons going on in these songs, and they just keep developing. Even during the moments when the actual melody is just a few chords, Bono takes it further with awesome, memorable vocal hooks. This is SPIRITUAL music. It made me feel wonderful - reminding me of bands as great as the Beatles and the Flaming Lips. It made everything feel okay. I don't know why. It just sounds so fucking OPTIMISTIC. And the words needs that right about these days.

A couple of the songs strike me as a little boring or at least desperately under-developed, but those are few and far between. And that song about my hometown is AWESOME!!!!!!

I haven't listened to Achtung Baby in a while, but I'm anticipating people calling me an idiot for rating this one higher than that one. But I don't regret. Achtung Baby still strikes me as a pathetic attempt to be "high-tech" and prove that the aging band was still cool. This one strikes me as a band "trying to find a decent melody" and succeeding. Again and again. They're simple melodies, certainly, but not weak. You'll sing 'em to yourself. They're catchy! Just don't expect to rock out - this isn't a rock out record. It's a MUSIC record. Should just be called Music.

Or Ray Of Light.

Or Music From And Inspired By The Motion Picture "Dick Tracy".

Reader Comments

"The last of the rock stars/ when hip-hop drove the big cars". Pretty much sums it up for me. U2 are what rock can't, and must not, leave behind. I'd probably give this an 8 or 9, the negative marks being for the monotonous New York and the boring In A Little While. The first five songs would be a welcome addition to any U2 album and Kite is possibly bono's best ever vocal.

I'd place it on a par with The Joshua Tree and just behind Achtung Baby in terms of overall quality. For stand-out tracks it's as good as any of their previous records. Elevation, the bastard child of Achtung Baby, is a menacing delight. Behind the senseless lyrics lies a tune that will electrify crowds around the globe. Beautiful Day could change Satan's mood to a good one, Kite is passionately emotive and Stuck In A Moment is the sound of a man, and his band, at one with their soulful selves. While some will say it's a retro record that adds nothing new to U2, real fans will rejoice in the sound of such an uplifting and quality record.

I can't say anything bad about any of the U2 albums. I just read all the criticism here, and if i had never listened to U2 before and was attempting to get 'into' them, i would have been very discouraged, because from what I've read here, most of their albums are crap, worse than the worst local band's demo tape from my home town. Any U2 album, in my opinion, beats most of the stuff out there. In fact, most albums I've bought end up only having 1 to 3 good songs on them, so those cd's are never played, and often lost and forgotten. The U2 cd's I bought have stayed with me from the beginning, and I listen to them over and over from start to finish. Not obsessively or anything, but i listen to them much more than anything else, except maybe R.E.M. and Paul Simon. So I just wanted to say that. I especially love Achtung Baby, Joshua Tree and War. The new album is great, but i also thought Pop was great. I don't understand why it's such crap. Why are there such high expectations on this band in the first place? What exactly are they 'supposed' to sound like? Definitely not like a young band, seeing how the oldest U2 member is 40 (i would think they were in their 70's going by how people talk about u2's age). The lead singer of everclear is 39 (the singer for the red hot chili peppers is 38), but i dont see anyone critizing them for sounding like a young band. It's just that U2 has been around longer. And what does an 'old' band sound like? The Rolling Stones? U2 used to be a Rollings Stones cover-band when they first started(so was R.E.M.). So I'm generally just confused about why the U2 of the 90's and today is so crappy, and lame, but yet there's so much written about them here. I saw them last night on Saturday Night Live, and it was one of the best performances by a band on that show. Usually, bands sound terrible on that show, their voices hoarse, and their instruments out of tune. But that show was really impressive, as was R.E.M.'s performance exactly a year ago. Those bands may be 5 to 10 years older (at the most) than the most popular bands of today, but they know how to perform, as well as write, music. I don't know of any band that's been around for 20-something years and not faced criticism based purely on the standards they set in their early years. If U2 was a brand new band, they wouldnt have all that to deal with. Maybe thats why most bands have a life-span of less than 10 years. u2 doesnt have to do anything if they dont want to. theyre not going to starve if they dont work. they do it because they enjoy it, and people like me appreciate their work. i couldnt imagine 'coming home with the task of sitting through a new U2 cd'. thats actually pretty depressing. i couldnt wait for the album to come out, went to the midnight sale, and i couldnt open the package fast enough. and they only come out with an album every 3 years or so. you make it sound like they keep coming out with all these cd's, and you are being forced to listen to them, and its really making you mad, and cynical, and depressed about the whole u2 thing, i dont know.

hey ive been visiting your site for a while and im glad your back, i currently follow george starsion's site with yours. But, like you, im relieved about the new u2 album, every song has a great melody. Couldnt this be kind of like u2s abbey road? im not saying its as good, but think about it. Abbey road was the "full circle album" which put all their previous styles in one album in one great sound. same with All you cant leave behind. the best music moment of the year is seeing u2 still has it.

mj.roberts@student.adfa.edu.au (Mina Roberts)
I love "Beautiful Day", but the rest of the album is just Shlock!

oh yeah, i think zooropa is great, too, but that's probably cos it was the first non-top 40 music i listened to.

ian.moss@yale.edu (Ian Moss)
Well, I am glad that U2 has "returned to their roots" after the abomination known as Pop. However, I can't really see this as quite the comeback album that everybody wants to believe it is. Yes, "Beautiful Day" is a great song, but really no better than many of their hits from Achtung Baby. There's something about the production on all of these songs that I really don't like; they're all way too crisp and dry for the echoey, reverby music that U2 excels at. Also, Bono's voice is REALLY deteriorating--you can hear it in almost every song.

But the biggest problem is that while the songwriting is at a higher level than that of the last couple of albums, they STILL haven't brought the lead guitar back! No, I'm not talking about the little strummed chords in "Beautiful Day" or the rhythm guitar in "New York" or the hick-ass guitar in "In a Little While." I'm talking about LEAD guitar, guitar solos, like in "New Year's Day" or "The Fly" or countless other U2 songs. About the only place you get it is "When I Look at the World," which, by the way, is my favorite song on the album, both musically and lyrically. But even then it's a wussy guitar break, almost as if Edge hasn't been playing at all these last seven years or so and feels rusty. This is really my biggest pet peeve with '90s music in general. Yeah, you had guitars with "alternative" music, but all they would do is play distorted block chords as loudly as possible. How much talent does that require? And now you got the Backstreet Boys trend which eschews guitar-playing in favor of all this processed crap. Grrrr....

Anyway, back to the album. I'd give it a really low 8, because the songs I mentioned are good and most are decent except for "Grace" and "Peace on Earth" and "Elevation." Oh, and "In a Little While" is a dumbass stupid song but damn, it's sexy. But geez, why hasn't anyone noticed that the end of "Walk On" is a blatant ripoff of Pink Floyd's "Brain Damage/Eclipse"? I mean BLATANT!!!

MJJP83@aol.com (Joe)
As a long time U2 fan I was very happy that U2 made a comeback and am thrilled to have them back as always in U2 you have a real singer in Bono not somebody who always screams or shouts like a lot of crap on the radio today and a band that is always great backing him up,the first side of the album is perfect Beautiful Day is a classic even though it has been played to death Stuck In A Moment is very catchy Elevation has great falsetto vocals by Bono as a singer myself Bono is a big influence Walk On is a reprise of classic Joshua Tree U2 could of been on that album the best vocal moment has to be Kite when Bono sings real high I'm a man you feel it , In A Little While also has great vocals now the bad points side two has two great songs New York a great rocker like Exit on Joshua Tree and Peace On Earth then you have crap like Wild Honey and Grace that last track is boring and quite annoying real corny but except for two songs great album i agree Bono has lost some range but that's life and a bitch when your a singer that's why a lot of singers over 50 stop touring since they can't hit notes anymore and just write songs I wish a few singers this age would hang it up anyway a great return except the two songs mentioned a 8 rating

creexul@home.com (John Cable)
I've never really been a U2 fan. In fact, for a while, a year or two ago, I really hated them, because I knew this pink, doughy, fat fucking loser from Huston (the topper of all shitty details) who would say that if he were gay, the only guy he'd have sex with was Bono, and I thought that was so Rolling Stoneishly pretentious that I wanted to puke, and I couldn't even stand U2 because of this loser. Have you ever had one of those people that you hated, and they liked some band almost too much and it made you hate that band?

Well, that's worn off now, anyway. That guy could still be a loser for all I know, I don't really care. I respect U2, even if they are quite pretentious in whatever way themselves. I think that new video they did for the Tomb Raider movie, while "selloutish" in a way, is actually pretty funny and fun, so therefore not even remotely selloutish at all, I think, and I have respect for U2 for being able to play around with their material, and put out a very entertaining-to-watch video. One of the only interesting videos on the music channels these days, and it's a movie tie in to boot! How crazy. Well, thank you U2, I'll PROBABLY never hate you again.

goanga@yahoo.com (Dragos Stefanescu Goanga)

This album is for me a big middle finger to all those who thought U2 were finished after POP. Which is a great record, but in a way it's Rattle and Hum part 2, it's taken a bit too far, and although every single song on it is fabulous, the whole POPmart sheabang (remember the lemon?) and the K-mart press conferences and the Village People video have taken the concept a bit over The Edge (clever wordplay, innit?). But anyway, here's U2 back, alive and kicking, and actually kicking MAJOR ASS. ATYCLB is wonderful, almost as good as Achtung Baby. The only letdown for me is Peace On Earth, a bit too much on the pathetic side, however it does sound as something Lennon would have done had he still been with us. But I never did like that kind of stuff from Lennon anyway. Nevertheless, it's almost as good as the rest of the tracks here, and that makes one fucking brilliant, shiny and joyful record, something UNFORTUNATELY no other band could pull at this time. ain't that a shame.

So i'm thanking God for U2 and praying that he's not mad at Bono for wanting to steal his job. Which reminds me, any rockstar who gets to be friends with the Pope and have Bill Clinton and Kofi Anan at his concert will have my everlasting respect and admiration. And if he can still get out an album like this, then my only wish is that I die before I see the end of U2, whichever that will be. They're just too good to be true.

adooley3@hotmail.com (Erik Petersen)
I do not think I have ever met somebody who did not like U2. For some reason, I can't stand them. I was down with the slightly more politically relevant early days, but I can't think of a reason to listen to this album. Bono is the reigning rock sell-out king (Super Bowl halftime show)

I think that U2 have shown that even though they are much older then most of the artists today, that they rock the world and show the bands like N'Snyc and Britney and Backstreet boys, we still lord over you

U2 rules the rock world and the music world. When you look at U2 you see that, this is a band, that when they walk into any music hall they get respect, there music has touched millions of fans around the world it doesn't matter if they are twenty or forty they still know how to blow the ruff off the venues and still they touch every one that goes to there show.

U2 has been making the grammy's there place of domination they have one six in two years in a row.

They begin a new decade, century, and millennium with an album that's even worse than their previous two commercial efforts. Songs like "walk on" and "stuck in a moment" are those kind of continually-recycled songs with sappy lyrics that radio programmers are more than inclined to play, what with this being the golden age of payola in America. A 2 from me...

achtungbaby113@hotmail.com (Ann Michaelsdottir)
ATYCLB is a great album, my first U2 album and no disappointment.
And "Grace" does not stink!!!
It is one of the most beautiful songs i've ever heard. just listen to the lyrics. and i pity you--seriously--if you cant understand them. That song has made me cry. Good tears. So did "walk on" and "Peace on Earth" and "New York" (b/c it reminded me of sept. 11: i know its old news but old news can still make me cry).
Obviously i am kind of sentimental, but i think U2 is the best band in the world! ANd they are not sellouts!

pdmuir@alamedanet.net (Peter Muir)
Easily the most overrated Y2K rock album----a complete sack o' shit. Frankly Bono & Co. strike me as trying to make nice with all the rock critics who dissed 'em during their Zooropa period. And U2 pandering to disgruntled rockcrits is no better than Britney pandering to hormonally challenged suburban white boys.

I heard them talking about breaking up. Good riddance, says I. Put 'em out of our misery......

Jeeezz Mark, what happened her?- how can this be better than Zooropa, it's so boring and uninteresting.

I've only listened to Actung, Baby but I gotta say I like the vibe of this one more. It's a very mature, positive album, very nice. Although I gotta say I like what they did on Baby, I like how they dropped all the background garbage and turned to a more soulful sound like on Stuck In a Moment. It's also got some great hooks.

After "Pop" and it's tour self destructed, of course it would make sense for U2 to do an album like this. I think you hit this one right on the head. It is a cross between "The Joshua Tree", "Rattle & Hum" and "Achtung Baby" and does make a pretty good album to listen to if you're in a bad mood. My favorites are mainly on the first side, and though this album kind of loses it's "edge" towards the end, I'll still give it a solid 8.

P.S. You probably already knew this but apparently "In a little while" was Joey Ramone's favorite song to listen to when he was dying.

Add your thoughts?

How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb - Polygram 2004
Rating = 5

If you're "all about" listening to bands with no new ideas at all, the new U2 album will rock your ass to town! Quite a task for a band that doesn't actually play "ROCK" music at all. Their two attempts to do so on this release are hilariously misguided ("Vertigo" is so fuckin' lame, for example, that I've taken to referring to it as "what passes for 'rockin'' to U2 fans"), but even their patented audience manipulation audio-beauty ballads fail and fail and fail this time around. However, you'd be amazed by how much it sounds like U2! As such, it's being declared a great new U2 album.

Their goal is pretty clear -- make a simple, obvious album that will please fans of simple, obvious U2 music, and pile on as many pretty piano notes, electronic washes and echoey "vintage U2" guitars as possible in an attempt to mask a truly pathetic absence of melodic ideas. But you know what they say -- you can spend all day piling make-up and rouge onto a corpse, but your dick's still gonna wind up smelling like a corpse! Yes, Bono still has a beautiful voice and yes that Edge guitar-tone will break hearts from Daytona to Anotyad, but where are the SONGS???? Where is the "New Year's Day"? Where is the "Beautiful Day"? Where is the "With Or Without You"? Actually, I can answer that one. It's in "Miracle Drug," a new 'composition' based on the "With Or Without You" bass line. Actually, in a larger sense, this whole album can be seen as a series of U2 rewrites. Brilliantly produced, full of wonderful tones, moods, jangles, oooo's and love, but no new hooks to be found beneath the lush veneer. By the last three songs, they don't even bother trying to be pretty -- it's just "the same old shit ballads" to fill out the rest of the running time. (Try singing "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses?" when the chorus of "Original Of The Species" comes along. Actually better yet -- try NOT singing "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses" -- it's the SAME FUCKING MELODY!!!!)

I should add that I'm feeling very strange right now. I've drank a ton of vodka over the past two days, then I accidentally slept until 3 PM today, because I couldn't wake myself up from my usual series of horrific, endless nightmares. (Actually, last night's started as an entertaining comedy, but as usual turned into an abusive blast of fearmongering - this time centered around a 'Brain Snatchers'-type concept). And since I woke up (three and a half hours ago), I've still felt really bizarre and drunk, talking to people I shouldn't talk to, weaving around, losing my train of thought, dancing and singing in public -- then I came home, put on the new U2 album starting at track 3 and just LOVED it! I mean I LOVED it!!! It was audio bliss and heaven and everything you could ever want!!! But then it started getting boring, boringer and boringest until I became completely disenchanted. I still feel wasted though and intend to get even more wasted tonight to celebrate the new year and being drunk. So the idea of reviewing the album in this state of mind is probably not a good one. For all I know, I'm not even listening to the right CD. The new U2 album IS called Elvis Is Everywhere! maxi-single, right? Yeah I know - and it SUCKS! What's with this "Elvis Is Everywhere" shit, Bono? Christ! You think that's funny? How is that funny? Jesus! Man! Wow! How is that funny? That's not funny! Christ! Jesus! Man! Holy I mean - WOW! I mean, jesus! Did you - wow? Huh? Man! Christ! I mean, look at -- I mean, holy -- look at -- wow! Where is - holy, I mean WOW! AOK! AOL? Whoa! I mean, look at the -- this isn't some kinda -- I mean, MAN! THis is - WOW!

So let's look at the true positives on this CD -- (a) it sounds fucking AMAZING when you're wasted, (b) the recurring guitar motif in "Crumbs From Your Table" is just beyond gorgeous and heartwarming (and the echoey chimey chorus is nice too!), (c) "Love And Peace Or Else" is a true Gruever! The one attempt to break out of the U2 comfort zone and do something a bit different, this one is a groovy swingin' number that (once the fucking thing finally gets going after a minute and a half of ambient electronic crap) sounds like a high-tech update of the Rattle And Hum Bo Diddley Americana sound, (d) the acoustic punker "All Because Of You" will remind punkers of the Circle Jerks' terrific "When The Shit Hits The Fan" song -- because it's damn near a complete ripoff of it!!!!, (e) people who have never heard songs before will think these are really great. Because in a sense, they ARE! But in another sense, they've already been written and recorded by U2 already. Several times. And too many of them are slow and don't go anywhere. And the lyrics are boring as shit. And that's what's so great about it!

It's still better than St. Anger though. As a hilarious young man recently wrote on a popular music message board, "Should the cuts on that album even be considered songs? What does it take for something to be a song, really? Because that shit might actually fail the test." HA! Way to go, Liquoramica!

"Take these hands - don't make a fist. Take this mouth - give it a kiss." In this way, Bono is ending the War In Iraq.

Last night, a hilarious man across the street at about 3 AM shouted, "HAPPY NEW YEAR! I LOVE LESBIANS!" I thought to myself, "Oh great, Bridge and Tunnel Crowd, Frat Boys, blah blah etc." but then the guy TOTALLY cracked me up by adding, "HAPPY NEW YEAR! PUT IT IN MY ASS, YOU FUCKING FAGGOT!"

Christ, I don't know. It just struck me as hilarious at the time. Why on Earth would somebody shout that at 3 o'clock in the morning? 4 or 5, sure, but 3? What is he, a living caterer? HA HA! A LIVING CATERER! HA HA!

No hang on, "catheter" is the funny word, not "caterer."

Now I know what you're saying: "But you gave their last album an 8, and it's the same thing!" That's true. But to reevaluate that one would mean listening to it again, and I have no plans to do so. EVER.

Reader Comments

mossinator@hotmail.com (Ian Moss)
Mark, I am so glad you had the balls to tell it like it is about this album. Your analysis is totally, totally spot on. I have heard nothing but rave after critical rave for this thing, with Steve Lillywhite coming back into the fold and everything, and I was so excited to hear it. Sure, I thought, "Vertigo" is an obvious whorish attempt at a radio hit, but the other songs must be great, right? 'Cause, you know, everybody said they are?

I just don't understand how everyone could have been so fooled. The truly sad thing is that "Vertigo" might just be my favorite song on the album. That's how bad it is. And this is their return to form? Their 21st-century triumph?

There is a term in the field of music criticism called "rockism." As an article in the New York Times last year put it, "A rockist isn't just someone who loves rock 'n' roll, who goes on and on about Bruce Springsteen, who champions ragged-voiced singer-songwriters no one has ever heard of. A rockist is someone who reduces rock 'n' roll to a caricature, then uses that caricature as a weapon. Rockism means idolizing the authentic old legend (or underground hero) while mocking the latest pop star; lionizing punk while barely tolerating disco; loving the live show and hating the music video; extolling the growling performer while hating the lip-syncher."

I think the phenomenon of rockism is readily apparent in the warm critical response towards the last two U2 albums, despite their often staid songwriting, and the widespread disdain and rejection of the trendy and heavily electronica-influenced Zooropa and Pop. I was listening again to Pop recently, and the truth is that as laughable and pretentious as the overall effect was, many of the arrangements had some really creative and intricate things going on. They were packaged in a way that was unwelcoming to most ears, but I'd dare say that there was a fair amount more interesting music on that album than there was on All That You Can't Leave Behind, which was genial, attractive, and totally devoid of groundbreaking ideas.

Anyway, don't get me wrong: I love rock 'n' roll too, and there's nothing that I would welcome more than a REAL return to form by U2--as in a return to their early 1980's form. You know, back when they wrote actual songs that were actually catchy and actually put a rush of adrenaline into your heart when you heard them. How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb isn't it, though. Nothing to see here. I love rock 'n' roll too, but I love music more--and this album has a lot of the former without a whole lot of the latter.

aram49@dsl.pipex.com (Jamie Summers)
I can't be the only person who's realised that Vertigo is a shit spruced up rip-off of Sonic Youth's Dirty Boots? Anyway, wherever this 'U2 are the best band in the world' idea came from, it should have ended a LONG time ago. Does no one else remember the horrors of Discoteque? My god people have short memories.

Anyone want to know the funniest Bono quote ever? When someone asked why his singing of the line 'Tonight thank God's its them instead of you' in the new version of Band Aid's Do They Know It's Christmas was so lame and weak compared to his original (80's) singing, he said "I thought that considering all the people dying everywhere in the world, it wasn't time for a roar, but for a whimper, a whimper for the dying" ! Oh, so it's not that you're getting old and your voice is getting shit is it? Nooooo it's a whimper for the dying. yup. cunt.

anyway great work with the site, shame the level of new reviews isn't that high anymore, cos when new stuff gets put on I really enjoy them.

mixxer@pandora.be (Milos Jovanovic)
Thank you for burying that new U2 album.

I knew you wouldn't fail me.

bigfunchy@databasix.com (Russell B)
There is a term in the field of human behavior studies called "stupidity." As an email from an astute reader of the Prindle Rock And Roll Record Review Site this year put it, "Stupidity means not only reading pop music criticism by the likes of Kelefa Sanneh, but actually taking it seriously." This may do little to explain the critical reaction to U2's new album, but it serves as a strong argument against the notion that "rockism" has anything remotely to do with it, even if one accepts Sanneh's self-servingly contorted definition of the word.

What I've heard of the album sucks, by the way.

I liked this CD when I first got it, then thought it sounded shallow, hollow and overwrought, and now I like it again.

fishpaste35@hotmail.com (Mark Manning)
During the mid 80s, being a teenager, it was Costello, The Jam, AC/DC, Maiden, Depeche Mode, Leppard, U2, not much else was truly credible or rocking. U2 had a conscience which obviously helped them stand out. They had a real golden run up to, and including even, Zooropa. But, Christ-riding-an-aardvark, don't they suck goat now. This album is just an advert for a new brand of dog mess called BLAND-O-RAMA. No doubt they push all requisite buttons live, but there is a certain kind of person who'll go to see 'the 2' live... them with more cash than brains.

A good band once. Now they are rock for people terrified of rock. Like Coldplay. Don't get me started on those freaks. Bono has never made a record better than 'Fun House' - I pray he gives up trying before he is Iggy's age.

U2 is weak. Had they been around in the 70s they would have been an opening act. They`re just an "MTV band" that got lucky.Album sales don`t mean a thing as far as "music as art"....the music buying public would buy a dog turd if it were gold plated.

Ok, first of all, I think that there will never be another non prejudiced opinion expressed on a new U2 record. First of all people who love U2 will say they love the records regardless. People who hate them will say its too like U2 because The Edge is using delay again or if its experimental, they will claim its bandwagon jumping again despite the fact their other departures were totally against what was happening at the time!

Whats really funny too is, if I dont like a band I just wont buy it or listen to it but people go out of their way to have a pot at the likes of U2 and Metallica because of their success, I mean its really cool to claim that megabands like these are crap.

Some of these 'too cool for school' morons will say you know nothing about 'real music' if I like these bands, Really??? My record collection contains everything from System of A Down and Slayer to Coldplay, Jethro Tull, Genesis and The Cure. The bottom line is U2 write great songs and I love each and every record they ever made on its own merits except that Passengers rubbish! It is without doubt one of the 3 or 4 strongest back catalogues Ive heard.

This record aswell is superb! Its absolutely loaded with hooks and 'Love And Peace Or Else' is one of their finest songs! It abhors me to see Passengers getting an 8 with only 2 good songs on it and this getting a 5 with only 1 bad song!

To all the cool people out there, listen and learn how to write a good catchy rock n roll tune, oh sorry, your big stupid fuckin anti-success egos wont allow ye to listen to band whos appeal stretches further than a couple of hundred fuckheads in a shitty basement club!


pppfffft the record might suck but let's not make fun of bono c'mon people! he may do silly things and say dumb stuff but we gotta like that i mean without bono who would we have??? ROB THOMAS?

God, if you are there, please give Bono a sign. Please tell him he doesn't need to make another record. Even if he has some good material this time. Tell him he's rich enough. Tell him his fans will cope with the records they already possess. I am appealing to you coz Satan won't help. I asked him, but he's quite happy to see U2 carry on. He loves seeing us suffer. The Horned One is so nasty he is working on a big 4th anniversary re-release of St Anger too... with a bonus DVD of Lars' standup comedy!!! I bought this atomic bomb dismantling cd for old time's sake. I was hoping for a return to Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby style glories. Bunch of total arse. Back to the shop with it, and quickly. Didn't want it spending another minute in my head.

Crap, these guys were cool. Up until Rattle and Hum, they were... well, maybe not the best band on Earth (though who was competing in the '80s? No one who actually got any radio airplay, that's for sure), but they were good. Not so sure about October, but Boy, War, Unforgettable Fire and of course the Joshua Tree are classics.

Then they put out Rattle and Hum. And things went downhill from there. I dislike about half of Achtung, can't stand Zooropa, and Pop kinda sucks, too. Their last couple records have been a sort of comeback, except that All That You Can't Leave Behind just sorta dies at the end (though "Beautiful Day" rules). Atomic Bomb is cool, though.

That wasn't very coherent, I know.

Alvar Aleket
You can't be serious that this shitty piece of crap sound great if wasted, any mediocre rock album could sound great wasted, this is no exclusive situation. U2 is one of the crappiest bands ever, I can't simply listen to an egotistical megalomaniac piece of shit pretending to be caritative and humble, I prefer listening to what you refer as pigshit Billy Corgans' voice.

Vertigo? Shit, I can write better songs in 5 minutes. And It's a blatant rip-off of Madonna's 'Ray Of Light' and I'll quote for shameless delivery!


He's pure shit.

Add your thoughts?

No Line On The Horizon - Interscope 2009
Rating = 5

(so nobody else read it)

Dear Mr. Fricke,

Exactly how awful does an album have to be for you to give it less than 4 stars out of 5?

You gave Guns 'N Roses' horrific Chinese Democracy 4 stars out of 5, calling the overworked and underwritten trash heap a "great, audacious, unhinged and uncompromising hard-rock record." You gave Smashing Pumpkins' worthless Zeitgeist 4 stars out of 5, referring to its pig-squealed generic shit-rock as "impressive and convincing" and comparing it to "Tony Iommi all over....Robert Smith." And now you've even topped yourself, awarding No Line On The Horizon -- possibly U2's worst record of all time -- a perfect 5 stars out of 5!

5 stars out of 5!? Are you kidding me? Did you somehow miss the four godawful songs in a row right there in the middle? The awkward group vocals that they unsuccessfully try to squeeze into two different songs? The 'we're still cool' hipster funk bullshit and boring self-important melodrama that make up the entire second half?

These aren't strengths!

Okay, let's take a closer look at your review to see if we can figure out what in Sam Hell is going on around here:

"'I was born to sing for you/I didn't have a choice but to lift you up,' Bono declares early on this album, in a song called "Magnificent." He does it in an oddly low register, a heated hush just above the shimmer of the Edge's guitar and the iron-horse roll of bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. Bono is soon up in thin air with those familiar rodeo yells, on his way to the chorus, which ends with him just singing the word 'magnificent,' repeating it with relish, stretching the syllables.

But he does it not in self-congratulation, more like wonder and respect, as if in middle age, on his band's 11th studio album, he still can't believe his gift — and luck. Bono knows he was born with a good weapon for making the right kind of trouble: the clean gleam and rocket's arc of that voice. 'It was one dull morning/I woke the world with bawling,' he boasted in 'Out of Control,' written by Bono on his 18th birthday and issued on U2's Irish debut EP."

Okay, that's a good intro. "Magnificent" is indeed a wonderful song - one of the very, very few to be found on this album. Let's continue.

"He is still singing about singing, all over No Line on the Horizon, U2's first album in nearly five years and their best, in its textural exploration and tenacious melodic grip, since 1991's Achtung Baby."

Now see, that's where I have to stop you. "Tenacious melodic grip"? Beyond track two, this album has NO melodic grip. The album starts off on a delightful foot, with both the title track and "Magnificent" soaring spiritually like the finest of U2's post-War work. This searching-but-optimistic tone continues to less melodic impact on the next two tracks before bottoming out with the hookless U2-by-numbers "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight" (featuring such vomitous lyrics as "Every generation gets a chance to save the world"). And that's the spiritual, melodic portion of the record - the first five songs. Next are two hideous attempts to prove they're still fresh and funky -- including boogie rocker "Get On Your Boots," unquestionably the weakest single they've ever released. Finally, having proven they're out here to show everybody a Good Time!, they suddenly become ultra-serious (and surprisingly cold) for four final songs that they clearly consider to be of great importance. So important, in fact, that bothering to include a melody would just be clouding the issue.

In short, the CD is strongest near the beginning, because that's when they at least try to create beautiful, spiritual music -- at times questioning, but ultimately optimistic. This, to me, is where U2 excels at this late date in their career. I relistened to All That You Can't Leave Behind the other day expecting to hate its guts and lower its grade to a 5, but I darn-near loved the thing. Yes, it has some weak tracks (like the last song), but so many of them are just GORGEOUS! The combination of a melodic chord progression and Bono's soaring voice makes for a very lovely piece of sonic thingy.

As such, their decision to devote the latter half of the disc to lame funk-boogie and depressing folk/world musings was not, in my view, a well-considered one. For the sake of full disclosure, I should add that I do get a kick out of the viola/guitar rocker "Breathe," but mainly because I don't think I've ever heard a viola/guitar rocker before!

Incidentally, I got bored with the whole "letter to David Fricke" conceit when I realized that his review mostly focuses on the meaning of Bono's lyrics. Who fucking cares what old Boner has to say? Especially when The Vadge doesn't have any decent guitar parts to add! And Larry Mullen? Yeah, he should've been MULLEN (mullin') OVER SOME NEW SONG IDEAS, IF YOU ASK ME!

It's not that I don't think U2 should experiment with their sound; after all, if the young rockers of War fame hadn't experimented with quieter, more spiritual music, The Joshua Tree would never have happened. Furthermore, they already demonstrated with How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb that the established combination of 'pretty songs' plus 'Bono's voice' doesn't necessarily equal 'anything worth listening to.' My real problem is that most of these songs simply aren't very good. And I realize that's impossibly vague and violently subjective, but as a music fan, I find much of this music lacking the creative and melodic qualities that characterize good music.

I like certain aspects of the songs: the grim atmosphere of "Cedars of Lebanon," the gospel soul-searching of "Moment Of Surrender," the exuberant wordless chorus cry of "Unknown Caller." But the melodies are barely there, and the album is full of rotten vocal decisions. Bono has one of the most sonically beautiful voices in pop music. So why is he hoarsely singing everything on one note in the title track? Why is he just sort of talking in "Cedars of Lebanon"? Why do they bury him under a bunch of dopey group vocals in "Unknown Caller" and "Fez-Being Born"?


Reader Comments

Mr. Prindle nailed the notes. If I had to describe this record with one word it would be "boring". About 2/3 through we began working with the theory it might be the worst U2 record ever. And they made 60 songs from the sessions? Yikes! Pitchfork gave it 4.2 out of 10, and AMG 3 out of 5. Mark may have rounded up. But bad scores are often the result of huge expectations.

Now of course U2’s new album is no good – I can’t even begin to imagine it being otherwise. And of course the ever-whorrible Rolling Stone gave it the perfect five – I mean, Working On A Dream and all those things.

Two words in defense of David Fricke, though. First off, he’s far from being the worst offender there; in fact, he is among the decent few. It’s just that all those in-house toy-reviewers can’t even piss without the permission of Wenner and, most importantly, the magazine’s long-living corporate dumbness. But deep, deep down this particular guy has taste – I think.

My issue with U2 is that I don’t really like U2. Even when their tune is pretty or memorable, there’s always Bono’s voice to ruin the whole thing. Take a good listen to No Line On The Horizon: yes, it’s got moments, but then it gets obnoxious due to Bono’s scratchy singing or his overbearing public image. I have nothing against the man’s humanitarian activities, but when it makes me hear that irritating preaching… I give up. Actually, I gave up pretty much after the first three or four albums. Those are my favourite things by U2 (much the way the un-classic We Shall Overcome is my favourite Springsteen’s record). Getting back to this new album, I have not heard the whole thing and don’t intend to; but I tend to give U2 a chance: probably, I always secretly hope the Edge kicked out that singer and hired a new one. But – no. “Cedars Of Lebanon”, “Get On Your Boots”… my God!

Also, one final thing. Mark forgot to mention that it was no other but David Fricke who gave Linkin Park’s latest shitfest a potent 4 out of goddamn 5. That’s right, I checked.

I have listened to this twice in its entirety and was fighting sleep through the whole ordeal. The title track is decent, though the rest of the material reaches for the outer limits of tedium. U2 has become more of a brand name than an actual rock band and that may be the reason for all of the glowing reviews. With the music industry on life support, a new CD from these guys seemed like the perfect way to get people back to the record retailers, hence the hype and build up in print to seal the deal.

Van Halen Kurtz
Even back in 1980, I knew they were destined to be the fattest corporate rock band since The Who. Of course Rolling Stone gives 'em a blank check every time out, that's policy. The only challenge left to Bono is a duet with Cher.

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