Category: U2

U2 – War

ARTIST: U2                           220px-U2_War_album_cover (1)

TITLE:  War

YEAR RELEASED: 1983

CHART ACTION: #12 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: New Year’s Day (#53 US, #2 Mainstream, #10 UK), Sunday Bloody Sunday (#7 Mainstream), Two Hearts Beat As One (#12 Mainstream, #18 UK), Surrender (#27 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Seconds, “40”

LINEUP: Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen with a little help from Kenny Fradley, Steve Wickham, and the Coconuts

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: U2 coalesces all of its strengths into one unifying force, creating an album that put them on the map all over the world and MTV too.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Beginning with a martial snare drum, and ending with a plaintive Psalm, U2 recovered from the uneven October with a classic that focused their sound, their lyrics, and their attitude.

Each member of U2 plays with a fire and passion befitting the songs, especially Larry Mullen on drums. He varies his sounds and attack to suit each track, but never interferes with the other elements. Bassist Adam Clayton’s work with Mullen creates a very solid rhythm section, allowing the Edge’s guitar (and e-piano) space to color and shape the tracks. “New Year’s Day” is one of THE tracks of the rock era.

Bono gets a little heavy handed and preachy in a couple songs (it IS Bono) which makes a couple songs less than stellar, but most every track is worthy of heavy play. This is where to start – it’s the bedrock of U2 for years to come.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The Edge sings the first two stanzas of “Seconds”. I…I did not know that. Also, the Coconuts (from King Creole’s band) sing backup in three tracks

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, B-sides and remixes.

 GRADE: A: Had Bono reigned himself a skosh on a couple tracks, it would have been an A+

U2 – October

ARTIST: U2                                     220px-U2_October

TITLE: October

YEAR RELEASED: 1981

CHART ACTION: #104 US, #11 UK

SINGLES: Fire (#35 UK), Gloria (#55 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: With a Shout

LINEUP: Bono, the Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Disappointing second album sounds rushed and unfocused. Narrator: It was.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After getting acclaim for Boy, it seemed nothing went right for U2 when recording their second album. Famously, Bono’s lyric ideas were stolen, and he had to come up with lyrics basically on the spot without his ideas and notes. They came right from a tour to the sessions, and didn’t have many ideas.

They’re lucky some songs sounded as good as they did. “With a Shout”, “Gloria”, and “I Threw a Brick Through a Window” are just as good as anything on their first record, with the Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. all contributing new ideas and sounds into their sonic palette.

Yet, as a whole, it’s unsatisfying. The lyrics and music sometimes don’t meld very well (understandable), and had they had more time, they may have turned out something as good as their debut. They didn’t have the time, and it showed.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Also, there was an existential crisis in the band. Bono, the Edge, and Mullen were involved in a group called The Shalom Fellowship, and began to question rock-and-roll and its lifestyle.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. Singles, b-sides, BBC sessions, live cuts. You know the drill. 

GRADE: C+-: Three great cuts save this album, and probably saved the group.

U2 – Boy

ARTIST: U2 U2_Boy

TITLE:  Boy

YEAR RELEASED: 1980

CHART ACTION: #63 US, #52 UK

SINGLES: A Day without Me, I Will Follow

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Nothing else was on the radio

LINEUP: Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen, Jr.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Irish band releases rock album about adolescence (a typical rock topic) but forges a fairly unique sound crossing Television, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and other post punk bands. Oh, and there’s this unique voice and lyricist leading the band.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Lumped in initially with several post-punk bands in the UK at first, the initial album by U2 did show something a bit different and more mature than some of their compatriots. The ringing guitars of the Edge (Dave Evans, if you would) were influenced by Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd, and the arrangements did have a little Siouxsie and the Banshees vibe to them, with a little echo and delay. 220px-U2_Boy_America

What set them apart, even here, is the voice of Bono. Already he was blessed with an identity and a singular sound. His passion and earnestness comes through in songs as diverse as “I Will Follow”, “Into the Heart”, “Out of Control” and “A Day without Me”.

Not everything is perfect. Some of the tracks get muddied in their lyrics and some get in their own way with too arty of arrangements. It was a good debut and signaled good things.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: There was an EP released earlier called Three, that contained two of the tracks that made this album.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, the usual assortments of remixes, live cuts, etc.

GRADE: B+: A solid debut with memorable songs and just a few that you’ll skip over a few times.