Xanax And Wine

I reviewed Fast Cars way back in January, it feels like so long ago and I completely forgot what I wrote then. Going back and reading it again, in preparation for reviewing Xanax and Wine, I see that I already mentioned it in the Fast Cars review. But that’s okay, I wanted to talk a little about Xanax and Wine anyway. I said at the time that I preferred Xanax and Wine to Fast Cars, and that is still true today. 

The thing is, these are essentially the same song, with Xanax and Wine being an earlier version of Fast Cars. So why review them separately (other than the desperate need to add reviews to the list) instead of together. It is mostly because there is just enough of a difference in them that I get a feeling of them being two separate songs. It’s like when you listen to Miracle, on the album Bono sings “we got language so we can communicate” while live he has been singing “we got language so we cannot communicate,” and it gives a whole new feeling to the line. Can’t say that the extra verses give such a reverse distinction, but certainly there is a feeling that is different.

The difference comes in the verses that begin with “Take me, save me from myself” and that line is delivered with a kind of wail, a kind of drifting sound. It is interesting, I really like that bit for some reason. I guess they were trying to keep the song going fast (as in Fast Cars), which is why they cut these bits out. They act as bridges, dropping into a slow little gap in the song, and I think that actually works better than what they ended up releasing.

I gave Fast Cars a two out of ten, and that might be a little low, but then I’m giving Xanax a four so maybe the two was okay. Although since the difference is only a couple of verses, that does seem a little excessive in the difference, so maybe Fast Cars should have been a three instead.

Looking forward to Belfast tomorrow, I will be trying to listen to it on Mixlr, most likely. It is going to be a very emotional show no matter what. I managed to see part of the HBO show from Paris today, it has been pirated or snuck out onto YouTube (it could be gone by now, I haven’t checked this evening). It had some issues, there were a few glitches (could have been my phone connection), but it was good. I was surprised to see some of the changes, for example the start of Miracle with the lights on, I don’t think I’ve noticed that before. Every other show I’ve seen they were out except for on Bono, and then the band kicking in. But here the rest of them were just standing on the stage, twiddling their thumbs while they waited for their cues. Has this been happening a while? Like I said, I don’t know, I’ve only been listening to Mixlr lately, not seeing any videos for a while.

My rating for Xanax and Wine: 4 / 10

Everybody Loves A Winner

Back in the day, that day being the late 80s and early 90s, U2 did a whole lot of covers of different songs. I think they did more during that period than any other time, maybe all other times combined. Not counting the early days, when everything they did was a cover, I guess I should qualify it by saying they recorded more covers at that time, whether they released them then or later. Some of those covers turned out to be great, some of them meh, and some of them pretty terrible. Today we talk the latter category.

Everybody Loves A Winner was written in the 60s by a couple of guys called William Bell and Booker T. Jones. I had never heard of Bell, and only tangentially of Jones, and googling them didn’t help much either. Jones is moderately famous, in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, while Bell has had a successful career but not the same heights. I am sure they are both famous in their respective circles, they just happen to not be the same circles I hang in. Not that I hang in circles.

The song itself wasn’t even famous enough to get a mention on either of their Wikipedia pages, so I’m not sure how U2 heard about it. I think I read that it had been recorded by several other artists, and I’m pretty sure there’s a famous version of the song out there, but I don’t know who recorded it and when. It’s one of those really common phrases that are difficult to google, and given that the song isn’t that good in the first place, I’m not interested enough to find out more about it.

Everybody Loves A Winner was recorded by U2 and Maria McKee, someone else I hadn’t heard of. She was apparently around the band at the right time, her band Lone Justice opened for them a bunch during the Unforgettable Fire and Joshua Tree tours. There is a story that Bono sang Sweet Jane once with them live, although I don’t know anything about that. I have run into that song a couple of times this year, and a like it, so I might one day try and find it. Or maybe not, I’ll probably have forgotten about it tomorrow.

Anyway, she sings on this song, quite a lot actually, not just backing but at least one whole verse to herself. There are other parts of the song where it sounds like a woman singing, but it is Bono, who frankly doesn’t sound very good on this song. To be fair the rest of the band don’t either, it is just a slow and dreary song. I don’t listen to it much, and when I do I tend to get tired of it quickly and skip to the next song.

I also must admit that when I listen to it, for some reason “when a man loves a woman” pops into my head, is it the same music, the same tune, or just the same feeling of drudgery that infects the song? I don’t know.

My rating for Everybody Loves A Winner: 2 /  10

One

A song that feels like it should be sung by everyone in the world, every day, One grabs you and doesn’t let go. One of the greatest songs that U2 have written and performed, I have the feeling that it gets better and better every time I hear it.

For me the ultimate version of One has for the longest time been the version they sang just after 9/11. I remember seeing it live, seeing the song and the names scrolling up on the screens behind the stage. I saw it live twice, and have seen it several times since on video. Those times I saw it live, it was the most powerful moment I’ve ever felt at a U2 show. It was a month or so after 9/11, and obviously the feeling nationwide was one of fear, of anger, of sorrow. Much like the feeling these last couple of days after the Paris attack. But it had been ongoing, for a month or more, that feeling of waiting for something to happen, that we were getting ready to go to war with someone, anyone, in the end it didn’t matter who because the bloodlust was up and there wasn’t any reasoning with people. And we go into the show with that feeling, with the idea that U2 are going to take us away, and they did, of course. They have commented on the feeling in the US, I have mentioned it more than once in the last few days, that it was quite rabid for a while.

And enter One into the show, they drop the screens and start displaying something on them, and you know it’s One and it’s quite a sad song in many ways, and then you realize that these are names, and you realize what the names are, victims of 9/11, and the floodgates open. Not a dry eye in the house. It was so sad, it was so happy, it was so cathartic, Bono leading the congregation in the mass - as he has said many times on the current tour - and I can honestly say that for me it was that breaking of the dam. I had cried on 9/11, I had cried a couple of times after that at various memorials and services, but that moment, in the show, that was absolutely the moment where I felt that weight lift off my shoulders. The feeling was a shared grief, but it was that feeling when you’re sick with a fever and the fever breaks. I literally had that fever break happen to me one time in my life, when I was a teenager and very sick, and I remember going from terribly sick one minute to a broken fever and feeling much better the next. That was the feeling. That we as a nation had been sick with grief, and this allowed us to let go and get back to ourselves. It was incredible.

I mentioned all this before, in the Walk On review, and it really was a combination of the two songs, that were played together, and gave that amazing feeling. They are great songs to play together.

This year of course they have been playing One differently, it has been sung by the crowd in a karaoke way with Bono leading the way, guiding to the correct lyrics in a couple of places. It has been another fantastic finish to the shows, and gives a little different perspective. Wonderful again, I do like this version very much.

I’m not going to talk about the videos, I actually reviewed them a month ago so you should go check that out too. It helps to give a complete look at the song.

My rating for One: 9 / 10

Vertigo

Unos, dos, tres, catorce! Yes, one, two, three, fourteen, everyone knows Bono’s Gaelic math isn’t that great. There are so many descriptions of why they counted like that, and yet none of them are reasonably likely other than the possibility that Bono just made an error. My other favorite was the idea that How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb was U2’s fourteenth album, and they were giving it a shoutout at the start of the album. Baloney, of course, because it was the eleventh, and even if you count Under A Blood Red Sky and the Passengers album you’re still short by one. There isn’t another one out there that you could count, at least not reasonably.

I think I love everything about this song, from the first drumsticks tapping in the song to the last moments of both drum and guitar. It has great music throughout, the lyrics are short and punchy sentences, the whole thing works really well. There are so many interesting lines in the song, if I were to list the ones that were triggered for me I could just about list the entire song, there’s a lot of words that make me think of it. My favorite line, which I think may be a lot of people’s favorite, is “girl with crimson nails has Jesus round her neck,” that line is very poetic but also very descriptive. I can just imagine that girl in my mind’s eye, just from this one line.

The guitar is especially good for me, I’ve never played the song, but I really feel like I could without too much effort. There’s significant parts where Edge is just playing a scratchy bit back and forth, which should be fairly easy, right, then it steps up to the interesting parts and there’s a lot of ringing back and forth, then it explodes into the chorus. It all sounds really good, and relatively simple, I should be able to play each of the parts separately, then mix them altogether and be playing the song. I think that would work, I’d be playing it in no time. It’s not like I haven’t tried that with a bunch of other songs and not gotten very far with them. But this one, yeah.

Actually I do have a slight problem with Vertigo, and it’s that I do feel like I have heard the song a little too much. There is the feeling of a little bit of an overdose with it, or maybe like when you eat just a bit too much sugar, or a bit too much ice-cream, and you feel like you’re a little bit bloated on it. So you want to go eat something savory to try and balance out the sweetness. I’m not sure what that savory song is that balances out Vertigo, but I’ll find it someday.

Missed the entire show today, was in meetings then busy doing other things for the whole afternoon. One of the few shows that I haven’t followed anything of it, I hope nothing exciting happened. I’m sure I would have seen something on Twitter if it had, right? Back into anticipation mode though, for the show from Paris on HBO on Saturday night. I’ve seen so much of it, but it’s going to be great seeing it on a bigger screen than my laptop or phone.

My rating for Vertigo: 8 / 10

Street Missions

One of the earliest of songs, created sometime around or before they were U2, perhaps when they were still The Hype. Street Missions has an unfortunate name, because I keep tying the first word as Streets, which is a different song entirely.

Perhaps the best thing about this song is seeing the video. The story from U2 by U2 is that some tv producer came to their school for something, they got introduced, they played a couple of Ramones songs and he thought they were original, and put them on tv. By the time they actually got on tv they had Street Missions completed and practiced, and played it.

It is a great video, they are all so young and so naive. There is Bono, looking like something out of the Bay City Rollers, dressed that way with the hair sticking up in a pouf and really looking so 70s. He twists his legs back and forth like he’s hip, or maybe like he’s drunk and can’t stand straight. There’s a moment in the video where he pulls the microphone off the stand and waves it around, and the words keep singing, like he is lip-synching. So is it all fake? I don’t know, I don’t think so given all the other actions going on.

Edge is there, playing a solo, although he spoils it a little by turning away from the camera as he starts, then turning back. He has long hair almost down to his eyes, and has no clue that in about five years he’s going to be completely bald, or near enough.

Adam is as always a cipher, hanging around in the back wearing a cool shirt and cool glasses and dancing around like a bassist should. Always the cool one, always in the background.

And they take a look at Larry, who somehow is sitting there drumming quietly away, then turns and realizes he is on camera - must have a monitor there - and grins big, before trying to get serious and go back to drumming. He’ll never smile that big again in his career.

Lyrically it isn’t much, there’s a bunch of repeats of the title, a lot of oh-ohs and knows and someones (read the lyrics, you’ll know what I mean). I will say that for a group of 17 or 18 year olds it is actually really good all round. Better than anything I could ever do. Each part of the song, in fact, is better than what I could do now as a forty-something, and way better than any band I ever heard when they were teenagers. I’ve asked the question before about why U2, how they managed to get picked out of all the other groups that were forming in Dublin in those days, and this just might be the answer. Because they had talent from the get-go, and this they stood out from everyone else even if they had to trick their way onto tv in the first place.

My rating for Street Missions: 3 / 10

Winter

Winter is a song left over from the No Line On The Horizon sessions, it was used in Linear by Anton Corbijn because at the time he made that film, Winter was still in the No Line playlist, but removed later. It was also used on the soundtrack to a movie called Brothers, which I have not seen and know little about. I should also mention that there are apparently at least two different versions of the song, one that is more rocky, and one that is a little calmer, more acoustic. I am surprised that for a song that wasn’t properly released that they would do multiple versions, I’m sure that’s happened before but I can’t offhand think of another song like that. I’m only giving one rating, of course, even though there are two versions (haven’t given multiple ratings for other songs like that), although I think if I were to give ratings for them separately I don’t think I could distinguish between the two versions, this is the relatively rare song where I don’t even have a preferred version.

The song begins with a bit of odd sound repeating, but it gives a bit of a bounce to it as the rest of the music kicks in. The start seems in fact to be quite U2 sounding, but the further into the song you get the less it sounds that way. At the start and in the early part of the song I get the idea of the song sounding like a mid-80s U2, something like a Joshua Tree remnant, but it later goes off on a tangent and doesn’t sound much like U2 at all later on, with the exception of Bono, although even he sounds a bit off now and then.

The song is a brother song to White As Snow, dealing with similar themes, those of soldiers being off and fighting, specifically in Afghanistan but really they could stand in for many different places. It is a feeling of sadness that pervades both songs, how does a war like this end up producing multiple songs? It keeps giving and giving in so many ways, unfortunately. When I say they are brother songs, that is a play on the movie title, but also because the theme to both songs is that of a country kid in the military being sent off to fight in a war in a far-off land, as the lyrics say. The song is somewhat descriptive of life there, but also lyrical, as in that poetic kind of description that Bono can get into. It’s not as good as some of his though, the descriptive style doesn’t work too much here. Not bad, just not good.

So I can’t recommend this song. The subject matter is a little dreary, and the title Winter belies the “hot as hell” line in the middle. The music isn’t really there either, again this feels like a half-baked song. I get a mild depressed feeling as I listen to it, too, and I don’t like that. If it’s not the subject, and it’s not the music, then it has to be a combination of them, and that makes it not good all round.

My rating for Winter: 3 / 10

Sunday Bloody Sunday

There are, frankly, too many days that could be called Bloody Sunday to pick just one as the date to write about this song, so I picked November 8, to instead remember a day that actually mattered to U2 themselves, the day of the Enniskillen bombing that was memorialized in Rattle And Hum during the lead-in to the song. And today is the anniversary of that day, and yet another Remembrance Sunday. How long must we sing this song?

If you are a U2 fan - and for many who are not - this is one of the greatest songs ever. At the start of the year I ranked all the U2 album songs to begin the project, and the one debate I had more than all others was the ranking of the top two songs. I argued and argued with myself in both directions, before ultimately putting Sunday Bloody Sunday as the second best U2 song of all time. In reality I suppose I would put it and Streets as tied for best.

There have been so many different variations of Sunday Bloody Sunday over the years, from the fast and furious to the slow-burning. I generally prefer the faster ones, thinking of them as better than for example the version that is currently being performed on the Innocence + Experience tour, but even that’s not really true. They’re just variations on the same great theme, and the current one is just as powerful as any other.

But back to the original paragraph, the idea of the song. You will remember from Rattle And Hum that they have that little bit just before the song, where they are talking and debating whether it should even be on the movie, that it was so difficult to play on a night when there had been a bombing earlier in the day. It brings out the deep emotion in the band, in Bono, and you see that very clearly during the movie. I have seen that song on the movie a hundred times, I have listened to it a thousand times (I copied it onto a tape way back when and would listen to it over and over). I know the words and the movements and the emotion of the song deeply, and I feel it all the way down my soul. “The glory of the revolution, and the glory of dying for the revolution. Fuck the revolution. They don’t talk about the glory of killing for the revolution.” I feel like crying just thinking about it while I am writing those words.

The song has far more emotional attachment to the Irish than to me, and yet I think this may be a song that brings the Irish plight to the world more than anything else. It’s also a song that can and has been sung about conflict around the world. “I can’t believe the news today” is one of those phrases that has entered the common lexicon, something that says here we go again, we’re repeating this news over and over. It’s gone from shocking to everyday though, especially if you want to talk about something like gun violence. We need the world to look at Ireland, to look at how things changed there, at least in part because of this song. Bring that to the rest of the world, please.

My rating for Sunday Bloody Sunday: 10 / 10

In God's Country

I often envy Bono and the boys for the lives they have had. They have gone out and done everything and seen everything, and I have sat at home and watched them do it. Could I have done what they did? No, I don’t think so, I didn’t have someone to drag or push me out the door and do what they did. I suppose if things had worked out a little differently, if someone had posted a sign on a noticeboard at my school, I could have done something like them. On the other hand, when I was in school I was a nerd, a science geek, and not into playing any kind of music. So that path might have been closed off for me anyway. But I guess I could have taken some other route to fame and fortune.

The point of all this? That even if I can’t stand on a stage in front of thousands of people, I can go to the places they’ve been and see what they’ve seen. One of those places happens to be one of my favorite places to go, God’s Country, although the definition may differ a little here and there. I see it as the wide open spaces, sitting on top of hills or mountains and looking out across nature, sitting under a vast and open sky just breathing it all in. I have done that many times in my life - I was a grad student in plant biology, specializing in mountain plants - and I think there are few places in the world I would rather be than sitting on top of a mountain by myself, with the feeling of being alone, of being somewhere that no-one had ever been before. That is my impression of being In God’s Country is.

I really like In God’s Country. This is one of those songs that has all the parts working just right. It comes at the right time in their career, just as they are peaking and really beginning to show their chops as performers. It starts with guitars running fast together, then the drums and the bass kick in and the whole is much better than the parts. About the only thing I could criticize the song for is that it plays so fast it’s impossible for me to play it, and it’s one of those songs I’d love to be able to play. That’s not much of a criticism, is it? I guess the other complaint I’d have is that it is so short, at 2:57 there are only a handful of songs that have been shorter. Too little of a good thing, in this case.

The whole of the song reminds me of a movie, this is a song that is very visual in the lyrics. It is the opening title sequence of a movie, you would see the camera panning across those desert spaces, maybe the start of something like the old Clint Eastwood movies, although not necessarily a Western. Maybe it’s the start of some artsy kind of movie set in the desert, and as the song ends we finally finish panning and come to some kind of old shack in the middle of nowhere, and whatever the movie is about begins. Really cinematic, huh?

My rating for In God’s Country: 7 / 10

Stateless

I still haven’t watched The Million Dollar Hotel, although it’s been sitting on my stack of things to do for several months now. That stack seems to be getting longer, and I seem to be running out of time to catch up to all of them. The problem is that too often I have taken the quick way out to do a review on a particular day, and haven’t taken the time to watch, say, a movie that lasts a couple of hours. Now I’m starting to pay the price, there are a few items that I’m going to be spending a lot of time on in the near future. Oh well, it’s all U2, so it’s all good, right?

Stateless is a song off The Million Dollar Hotel, so therefore I have no context for it and what is happening in the movie at the point at which the song appears. Anything I write here will therefore be written with the knowledge that I could watch the movie and discover that everything I write is wrong. But we’ll take that chance.

The song is interesting, it actually sounds like a number of other U2 songs, I think. It sounds to me a little like When I Look At The World, or even New York, from All That You Can’t Leave Behind, which was released just a year later. I might even hear some sounds from If You Wear That Velvet Dress from a couple of years earlier, but most clearly to me it sounds like A Man And A Woman, which came around a few years after The Million Dollar Hotel. Maybe it’s just the style of the song, something slow with a lot of bass, a lot of drums and some soulful guitar playing. Along with the ohh-ohh-ohhs from Edge in the background. And at 2:18 in the song there is a single note or sound that takes me right into Disappearing Act, I am amazed when I hear that one sound and a whole other song pops into my head.

The theme of the song seems to drift around, it has a start of being lost, having no home, but then it goes on to talk about being in the now, in the present, rather than any kind of future. And it gets interesting in the third section of the song, when the music finally takes off, and the lyrics start jumping. All of a sudden you get that feeling of sensuality, of touch and sense and that bass playing deep down in the soul. It’s pushing the weight down, the return of the gravity from earlier, the whole feeling of pressure returning from being stateless and weightless. And the very last word is hateless, which is an interesting twist and finish to the song.

So once again it is a song that has a feeling of wanting to be there, wanting to be somewhat more than it is, but it’s just not quite making it. Again the feeling is that it’s a slightly undercooked U2 song, that with a little more work it could be pretty good, but of course it won’t get that now because it has gone onto the movie soundtrack instead.

My rating for Stateless: 4 / 10

Touch

Touch is one of those songs that I’ve talked about many times before, as being an early U2 song, having a distinctive sound and having the obvious amateur sound of the band back then. Not that it’s a bad song, just that it’s the early stuff so it is raw, inexperienced music, and with all that entails. I wouldn’t listen to it on a regular basis, it’s okay but nothing special.

The most distinctive thing on this song is the drums, as we’ve talked before about them in the early days, Larry was quite loud and demonstrative at the time. There was a lot of banging and bashing of the drums, they are loud throughout the song, and at times they really do take over the song, it feels like I’m hearing nothing but drums at a few points. It’s okay, I guess, for him to play like that, but I would note that as he matured as a drummer and they matured as a band, the drums took less of a role in the front and more of a role in the back, working as background rhythm rather than foreground lead. On the other hand, for the rhythm section, Adam is very quiet and not very noticeable in the early days, and on this song, but later he gets more and that works better. Almost as though they are trying to balance out the different parts, and finally work it together correctly.

Edge is also loud and up front on Touch, and the sound there isn’t as good as it might be. It is quite simplistic really, there is no sound of the echo that he will become famous for. Somewhat tinny, is what it sounds like to my ear, each note quite clear in itself, ringing out before the next note is played. This is probably what I sound like when I play, note after note after note, nothing quite working together because I don’t yet have the skill to play it well. Not that I’m saying that’s what Edge sounds like here, I mean let’s be honest, Edge’s worst efforts back in the day are better than my best efforts ever. That will never change, although one day maybe I can play some of his music and not sound completely terrible.

And so to the singer. There are words in this song that I have no idea what they are without looking at the lyrics. I don’t know why that is, again it may be the rawness. Bono may be that kid out of Ireland, with an accent, and maybe he hasn’t yet learned to be clear with his lyrics (not that he necessarily always has). A part of it is that the music is overpowering, I think they changed that later on so that Bono’s voice would get a little boost and be heard better. The other thing that I hear is that the lyrics are terrible, early Bono style, a whole bunch of stuttering t-t-touching you which is annoying. The thing though is that in the verses you do see sparks of something happening, they just don’t seem to be fully formed just yet.

My rating for Touch: 2 / 10

If You Wear That Velvet Dress

Saturday night was Halloween, which is a tradition I am not much into, coming from a country where it is not generally celebrated. I have learned to at least tolerate it, if not enjoy it, since my son was born. He obviously loves it, and will go all out, as will my wife each year. I tend to switch back and forth, usually not bothering to do anything but on occasion doing something pretty much last minute. For example one year I went out and got a Darth Vader costume to wear. I would guess that over the years I’ve probably done maybe a half dozen costumes, not many more than that. And getting to the point that I am making, this year my wife dressed as the bad woman from the Minions movie, and while in general I wasn’t a fan of the movie (it’s for kids, not me), I can tell you that she did a good job, and it made me think of the velvet dress that Bono sings about in If You Wear That Velvet Dress. Yes, I know, some of you are thinking TMI right now, but we’re all adults here, right? And ironically I have been feeling ill today, which also gets referenced in the song.

If You Wear That Velvet Dress is a good song on a generally bad album, I think I have it as about the second best song on Pop. Above average overall though, it could be considered a little creepy, a little perverted, a little like some kind of lounge singer in a bar somewhere, singing a song about a guy hitting on women. Dark and mysterious in many ways.

The music is great, deep and dark, mystifying, just a song where everything is understated, nothing stands out too much, they work together in the background to play while Bono sings. This is definitely the idea of the singer I mentioned above, he is taking the lead and the band in the back is just there playing, not at all the focus of the song.

“I’ve been good” is one of those trigger lines for me, every time I hear it “because I know you don’t want me to” pops right into my head, and sometimes out my mouth, depending on who I’m talking to. Other triggers in this song are “we’ve been here before” and “the moon is a mirrorball,” although that second one doesn’t come up too often. I guess the actual trigger there is just the word “mirrorball,” which brings out the whole line.

The song is sexual in its intent and meaning, there are few more obviously sexual U2 songs. It all depends on how you listen to it though, as to whether you take it as that creepy version, or the lustful version that is probably a little better. I will take it as the second way, as a song between two consenting adults in their own room, and enjoy it for that rather than anything else you might be imagining.

My rating for If You Wear That Velvet Dress: 6 / 10

The Crystal Ballroom

I may be a little biased here. You see, I was at Chicago 4 on June 29, with my wife and son (his second ever show, after the night before). If your U2 knowledge is beyond excellent, or your ability to google is pretty good, you would know that in that setlist, while they were standing on the e stage not fifty feet from me, they played The Crystal Ballroom live in concert for the very first time. I’m guessing that probably adds a couple of points to my rating for the song. Maybe because I was there, but maybe because it - as always - sounded so much better live that it did on the album.

I will admit that I was not a big fan of the song on first listen. I have said so many times before that I usually don’t like songs the first time I listen to them. I have to get to know the songs, and the more I listen the more I begin to like them. It is the rare song that I like on first listen, and those usually become my all-time favorites. In this case I didn’t like it that much (I also didn’t like Lucifer’s Hands which I have since become a fan of), but it has slowly grown on me. I don’t know if it is going to go much higher than I have it rated right now, if I was reviewing it in another year I suppose it has the chance of another point, but I doubt it would get much more than that.

The point of the song is interesting, Bono singing and talking about his parents and their going to a nightclub to dance together. A nice image to put to them, nicer than many of the ones he has about them. Although I must also admit that some of the lyrics are a little too much, if he is singing about his parents, to talk about unbuttoning her dress and their caresses. The song has an interesting cadence to it, it feels like the first couple of lines of each verse is sung and played light and fluffy, then it gets a little deeper and darker. I’m not sure if that truly is the case, it is just the impression I get. It’s interesting, as is the end where he says that everyone’s here tonight but you. That’s a odd twist to the song that’s supposed to be about love, the idea that he is alone at the end - or maybe that you are.

And literally as I write this, a Honda commercial just came on tv, and I swear the music in the background sounds exactly like The Crystal Ballroom. I don’t mean exactly like, they didn’t just take the song and play it on the commercial, but I do mean like some band has taken the music and is playing it very closely. That was frankly kind of weird, I know the band hasn’t given that music to Honda, so they must just be playing it without acknowledgement. I could be wrong, but it was a) sounding so much like it, and b) a huge coincidence that I was hearing it while writing this.

My rating for The Crystal Ballroom: 6 / 10

Cartoon World

It’s an interesting thing, listening to early U2. If you listen to Boy you hear the rawness of the band, the simplicity of the music, the wildness of Bono’s voice, what you hear is a band making a first foray into recording, into being a professional band. They are not professional, they are amateur but sounding good enough to be more than that. You can’t call it semi-pro, since I guess by this point it is their day job. But it sounds okay, comparing it to later albums it isn’t good but comparing it to earlier stuff it is.

And the point I’m trying to make here is that if you listen to the song Cartoon World, a pre-Boy song, you realize just how good Boy sounds in comparison. It’s understandable, like I said they are growing into their craft, but I can’t imagine being a rep for a record company and having to listen to that every night, and try and figure out which band is going to be good in the future and which isn’t. It’s a thankless job, I think, because you have to listen to a thousand to pick just the one who is going to be successful. It’s like drafting in baseball, you’re trying to project players years down the line and trying to find that gem. At least in baseball you see some sort of track record of success, as you see kids play in high school and can see what they did. In music I think it’s much more of a random thing, although now I think about it maybe not, maybe it is just luck as to which band gets signed and which doesn’t. Maybe there are a hundred U2s that didn’t get a record deal, didn’t try hard enough to get it to work. Although again, maybe that’s the point, it’s not just natural talent but it’s the drive to get there that you need as well.

So, back to Cartoon World. I’m pretty sure the only version I have heard is the live one off the Boy Deluxe album, I don’t remember hearing it anywhere else. Maybe it’s wrong to review based on that, although I have said many times before that they are much better as a live band, so this should be the best version of the song, right?

The song itself is a little fast and furious, musically fun, I can imagine bouncing around in the crowd listening to it, being a teenager listening to teenagers playing and singing. The most obvious part of it is the drumming, I think, it clearly drives the song on the most. The guitar has a couple of different riffs going throughout, like I said simple but a mildly interesting pointer at what is to come. Bass is not noticeable at all, really, but that could just be the recording. And then there’s Bono, who has that really undeveloped voice at this time, and sound isn’t very clear either. The song isn’t that good, the lyrics aren’t memorable apart from “it’s a cartoon world,” which is the only thing I think of when I think of the song. Otherwise there is not much to recommend for it.

My rating for Cartoon World: 3 / 10

Race Against Time

Oh, oh, oh, race against time. These are the words that stick in my head from this song, and the only memory I have of the song at any given time. That’s natural because they pretty much are the only words in the song, and there’s not much else that is memorable about it. An instrumental essentially, and not a very interesting one.

Bass starting off, controlling the song, tingles of other things in the background, but it’s all about the bass at the start. Then guitar comes in squealing a little. You get what sounds like “hola” then turns into “water” then turns into “race against time.” In other words weird Bono noises in this song. That kind of repeats for the second half of the song, with mild differences but not much else. I can’t say it’s very musically exciting, or even interesting. The idea of there only being a couple of words in the whole song is odd, nothing like what Bono would usually allow. I guess this is why it was a b side, why it never made it anywhere. It seems like it was an interesting start to a song, where they got down a little bit of the music, made something of it, but never got near to editing it or to Bono adding lyrics other than a few little snatches here and there. He probably needed to listen to it a few more times before he could start putting words to the sounds.

So I can’t recommend it, and I don’t listen to it often, hardly at all in fact. If I wanted to be bored there’s plenty of other ways to do it.

What has the band been doing in the last week? Frustrating not being able to hear them on a regular basis. Taking a little gap before they head off to London for a bunch of shows, then Scotland, then Paris, then Dublin to end. Paris is going to be the big one of course, simply because it is going to be on HBO, although when they say live they of course mean a recording of the band playing live, not that it is a live broadcast. A little confusing in certain cases, like those of a band playing. But we know they’re not really live, because it is being shown here in the US in the evening, which would be the early morning hours in Paris.

I have a strong feeling that things are going to be announced over the next month or so, before the Dublin shows end. What will those announcements be? Well, there’s a rumor going around that they will start again in Europe in March, before coming back to the US in the summer. Hope that’s true. Then there’s the crazy rumor that they’re going to release the next album, Songs Of Experience, before Christmas. I’m not so sure that will happen, but it’s possible. Maybe they should release it on Star Wars day, December 18, and download it to everyone’s phones while they’re in the movie theaters, then auto play it. That would be funny, right? <Sounds of millions of geek voices crying out in anger>

My rating for Race Against Time: 1 / 10

Everlasting Love

Everlasting Love came as part of a pair of covers on the b side of All I Want Is You, along with Unchained Melody. U2 played it fast and furious, with a whole lot of lead guitar to start, and later on the bass kicking in and making it interesting. 

I will confess that although I vaguely knew the original song, by Robert Knight (I originally wrote the Everley Brothers, but I was apparently conflating the Righteous Brothers and Unchained Melody), I couldn’t have thought of and then compared the two versions. I assume the song has been covered a million times, by a million different bands, and I don’t know why U2 covered it other than having a feeling at the time of the Joshua Tree tour that they were playing that kind of music for fun.

Like I said Everlasting Love and Unchained Melody go together for me, they were released at the same time and I used to loop the All I Want Is You CD over and over again, listening to the three songs (technically four, because there were two versions of All I Want Is You) for hours at a time. I don’t know if I have listened to this CD more than any other, it has the advantage of being short, which means that compared to albums I could have listened to it two or three times as many times. Of course I listened to it so much before I had computers to play it on, so I couldn’t even look up the number of plays as a stat. But I wouldn’t be surprised if these were the most played b sides I’ve had.

A little googling and Youtubing has me somewhat confused on this song. Above I wrote Robert Knight, who was the first to sing the song, but I checked it on Youtube and it didn’t sound like the song I remembered. I looked at the Carlton Cole version, and again not quite the same. Running through a bunch of versions from different singers, none of them remind me of the song I remember from growing up, so I don’t know what it was. And yes, I did watch through the version with the couple singing a duet, the guy looking just like a 70s tennis star of some kind.

I said at the start that it has a lot of guitar, and that’s true. Edge (I assume, it could be Bono) doing a lot of strumming at the start, and it sounds like something I could do myself. The song for the first minute or more is all guitar, lyrics, and maybe a snare drum in the background. Then you get to that point where Adam jumps in with the bass, and it really starts to go good. But then for some reason they go back to the original, although Adam hangs around in the back playing quietly. I much prefer it when it is Adam leading in the song, it sounds good and makes me wonder how much could be added when you have a bass playing lead.

And I do like the really fast and high-pitched guitar at the end.

My rating for Everlasting Love: 4 / 10

Miracle Drug

If you like Miracle Drug, stop reading now. You’re not going to be happy about what I write. No, seriously, turn away, come back tomorrow for something much more interesting (I hope).

Miracle Drug is near the very bottom of any list of U2 songs I make. I have so many things wrong with the song that I don’t know where to start. It simply fails on too many levels to be a good song, from sound to lyrics. There is a slight bonus in the premise of the song, but it’s a little hokey even for Bono, and I’m afraid it doesn’t add much knowing about it. When they released Miracle Drug on How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb it was an immediate dud for me, and it had been quite a while since I had disliked a song as much as I dislike this one.

Okay, so the music isn’t that bad. It’s slow, and doesn’t really pick up throughout, but it’s also not a great Edge song. There aren’t any tricks to it, anything especially interesting. There’s what sounds like some strings in the background, adding a slight layer, but well, not enough. I’m trying to figure out what the main instrument being played in the slow parts is, it sounds like a guitar but it also sounds like a piano. Is it just some effects on something, or can I just not recognize what it is? Okay, so that is some slight interest.

Now I think about it, there’s quite a bit of drums in this song, but they’re surprisingly quiet, they’re mostly drowned out by other stuff, and even when things get happening the cymbals crashing are drowned out by the guitar. And thinking further, there is a stunning lack of bass in the song. Maybe that’s the problem with it. I mean, I guess it’s there, it just doesn’t show up anywhere throughout the song. Like everything else, overshadowed by the guitar parts.

Alright, let’s get to the elephant in the room, the thing I hate most about this song, the lyrics. Bono has said it’s about a kid who was a paraplegic, but a miracle drug enabled him to communicate, and showed he had many ideas inside the body that couldn’t do anything. A lovely story, you might say, and somewhat reflected in the song, but still it’s not enough to make a song about. Why? Because the parts of the song that are talking about this person (mostly the first couple of verses, plus bits here and there elsewhere in the song) are rather stiff, rather wordy, not necessarily the kind of thing that Bono usually writes, where there is plenty of ambiguity in things. That’s where he usually succeeds, painting images rather than describing scenes.

And then we get to the heart of the matter. Some of the lines in this song are awful. “Of science and the human heart there is no limit.” “I’ve had enough of romantic love, I’d give it up for a miracle drug.” “In science and in medicine, I was a stranger you took me in.” One of these lines in a song would be bad, but to get them all is horrible writing. Sorry, Bono, I hate to say this, but it’s true. These are some of the worst lines you’ve ever written, so descriptive, so prosaic, so hard to read and hard to hear. I cringe at each and every one of them. Like I said above, stick to those fantastic lines where you’re giving us an idea or an image to think about, rather than something so descriptive like this. Awful.

My rating for Miracle Drug: 1 / 10

Ultraviolet (Light My Way)

Achtung Baby was loaded with hits, songs that are still being played today and still as fresh as they were a quarter century ago. Among those hits was the song Ultraviolet, which came with the subtitle Light My Way, just in case you got confused about it and needed a little reminder. Actually that came from a song called Light My Way, which ended up being merged into Ultraviolet, creating the fusion of the two that works so well.

The song starts quietly, Bono singing slowly, but the noise quickly builds and explodes as drums crash and everybody kicks in. The song then takes off, it gets into a rhythm and doesn’t let go. It’s a moderately fast song, it has a great beat, the band works well together, the singer(s) sing perfectly. The song is one of the best songs on one of the best albums the band produced. I have a strong feeling we’ll be hearing from it again later in the year, when I pick my all-time top U2 songs.

Ultraviolet is obviously a light that cannot be seen by the human eye, meaning it feels like darkness, and the song does a great job of giving that feeling. The music is excellent, but has a very dark vibe going with it, the bass really pulls you down deep. And then once it gets going the lyrics pull you along in the same direction. The song is about love, or maybe about religion, or maybe both. But it’s not a light and bubbly song, it’s dark just like the title.

The opening verse, where I feel like I don’t know and I want to check out, that whole thing is a huge trigger for me. There are so many words in it, checking out, strong, and so on, I’m always singing that verse in my head. But then he’s singing to someone, wife I think although not necessarily Ali, but generic wife, and it’s a love song but again a dark one. The love like a secret that’s been passed around, that’s a really haunting line. Was she cheating on him, or did she just sleep with a bunch of guys before they married? And the silence that comes to a house, I have read that someone else wrote that line, proving once again how literary aware Bono is.

I love the “when I was all messed up I heard opera in my head,” which I read a long time ago was a reference to his father who loved opera music. Was he messed up because he was a teenager at the time, or was he messed up because he was listening to opera. And the love being a lightbulb hanging over his bed, couldn’t be any clearer a reference to what would eventually become part of the Songs Of Innocence tour.

The song possibly peaked live during 360, when Bono had the circle microphone, and the light-up jacket, and there were reflections and lasers everywhere. Bono swung from the microphone at times, I seem to remember cases where he would hold it and swing out over the crowd, although perhaps I am imagining that. But it was certainly spectacular, an amazing rendition that was even better seeing it live in the flesh. It is one of those songs where each time you see it you see something different in the performance, a song that has things going all over the place.

My rating for Ultraviolet (Light My Way): 9 / 10

Lemon

I always liked Lemon, it was a fun song, and I have it tied with a couple of others for best song off Zooropa. It is however a song that hasn’t necessarily stood the test of time, being as it has slowly disappeared from the playlists of the band. I suspect it is because it requires so much falsetto, so it is more difficult for Bono to sing and consequently doesn’t get into the list.

Of course the band took the lemon motif a little too far when they put it into the Pop tour, and wandered around the world with a giant lemon. Leads to all kinds of jokes, doesn’t it, they almost write themselves.

The album version is really long, at 6:58. If I am correct, that makes it the second longest album song ever, beaten only by Moment Of Surrender at 7:24. That doesn’t count live versions though, there are some of those which are longer. In Lemon’s case I must admit it doesn’t sound that long, like you’re waiting for the song to hurry up and finish. It is relatively fast-paced, there aren’t any wild gaps, there are a few places where Bono goes quiet and the band plays on but not noticeably wasting time. I do like the way the music goes, the piano playing is especially interesting, the single key at a time sounds good.

Then there was the video, which I have to say is one of my favorite U2 videos ever. I don’t know what it is about it that grabbed my attention, but it never let go, and I regularly find myself thinking about it. In fact my trigger for the album is the word lemon, which always makes me sing the line “she wore lemon” and then I always follow that by thinking about the video, with the moving pictures. A whole artistic video, the band doing all sorts of things during the video, in front of a squared black screen. Of all the things they do, perhaps my favorite is Larry sitting at the drums reading a newspaper. He’s too cool to be involved in the video.

Had some issues with the blog last night, which ended up causing me not to post until after midnight. I had it written and scheduled, I don’t know what went wrong but it never posted. I went back in and tried to fix the problem, ended up getting it to post five minutes after midnight. Technically that makes it the first day all year I hadn’t posted, but I’m going to claim that I did and it was computer problems that meant I didn’t. Anyway, if I missed yesterday then I’m making up for it by posting twice today, and I don’t think I’ve done that before (I might have done it once, around the end of June, when I wanted the June summary and the Chicago show summary at the same time. Don’t remember what I did, and I don’t want to go back and look right now). I really need to get back on track though, that would solve a lot of problems.

My rating for Lemon: 7 / 10

I Threw A Brick Through A Window

One of the odder songs in U2 history, certainly one of the odder titles. I Threw A Brick Through A Window elicits a lot of questions just from the title alone, like why you would want to throw a brick through a window, is it your window, why are you vandalizing and why aren’t you in jail? But as always, Bono takes it to different levels, and we find something useful in the song.

Ostensibly it is being destructive, in an overt way, but there is hidden meaning. Bono says he is talking about being self-destructive, that the window is just a reflection of himself and he is trying to destroy it because he doesn’t like what he is seeing. This reminds me of the Billy Connolly joke about the ugly guy, who when he’s dressing up to go to a party at some point finally says “alright, I’m ready.” Maybe you had to be there, but that punchline has stuck with me for many years. The point I am trying to make is that it doesn’t matter what you look like when you are looking at yourself, that others see you in a completely different light. And again, going back to a different aphorism, I have recently been enamored with a saying that goes something like “other people think about you a lot less than you think they do.”

Even though I don’t listen to October much, at least not as much as I should, I remember this song clearly and get reminded of it on a regular basis. It’s one of those songs where I hear a trigger word, like brick, or window, and the song just pops into my head. More than that, it’s not just the title that can pop into my head, but a whole lot more. I can practically sing the entire song in my head. That may be an indictment of my memory or thought processes, or it may be an indictment of the song itself. Despite what it looks like, there isn’t as much to the song as you think. Quite a bit of repetition, in some cases with minor variations which helps but not a great deal.

Musically it is good, it is fairly standard for October, where they haven’t yet learned everything they will know, so there are still points where there is more enthusiasm than anything else. The song contains a lot of drums, that is probably the most noteworthy thing about it, other than that the guitar seems quite sparse at times. Maybe a slight influence from the future, because at times it is reminiscent of The Unforgettable Fire, which was still two albums away at this point. Interesting idea, I had not thought of that until just now. Makes me wonder which U2 song fits best on an album other than the one it came out on. I don’t know if I have an answer for that, or if I ever will. It certainly would be interesting though, to figure out which song was farthest ahead of itself. Or behind, although I suspect anything from Songs of Innocence would win that title fairly handily.

Oddly enough the title is repeated three times (or at least two and a half) at the start, but then never used again through the whole song.

My rating for I Threw A Brick Through A Window: 4 / 10

We Love You

U2 has a lot of rarities in their history. I have covered a number of them, and I have more to come. But there is the occasional super-rare that has been skipped in my list. Honestly, I know a heck of a lot about U2, but I don’t know everything, and there are a lot of people who do know much more than me. So it was with great interest that I read a tweet a couple of days ago about a U2 song I had never heard of. They had played it just once live, never played it again and it never got recorded anywhere. It never got the attention that Womanfish (which I reviewed a few days ago) did, either. I don’t know why one would and one wouldn’t.

This song is called We Love You, and was played live in Antwerp, Belgium in 2001 (hence why it was mentioned the other day, because U2 start in Antwerp tomorrow). It was Edge’s birthday, and Bono said a little about that, but rather than singing Happy Birthday (as they have done a number of times, including several times on the current tour), they played this song, and Bono said a couple of times that it was Edge’s birthday song. But the song itself seemed to be a lot of noodling about, not sure if it something they were just testing out, had been playing with and decided to play it for the crowd. Pretty cool if they did.

Do I see it as a song, something they could have recorded? Yes, I think so. It is a little embryonic of course, they seem to lose their way here and there in the song, but overall it’s okay. If they worked on it some more it could turn into a pretty good song. I would think of it maybe as something off No Line On The Horizon, seems to have that kind of vibe going on.

There’s another song that has “we love you” repeated a few times, it was a live version of Beautiful Day off U22. “We love you, nothing you can do, oh sweet, oh beautiful, oh dear, sweet freedom,” sang Bono, and it’s a Croatian song called Dubravka. Not related to the song I’m writing about, but the title does remind me of it each time I hear it.

And it makes me wonder what other super-rare songs have the band done without my knowing about them. I don’t mean the songs they’ve done a cover of once or twice, but actual U2 songs. Like I ran into a song called I Love You Love while I was looking at We Love You, which U2 played once, but it was originally a Gary Glitter song so it doesn’t really count. No, I mean what are the U2 songs they’ve created, sung once or twice or a few times, but never recorded or released. If you know of any, tweet me at the link at the bottom of the page.

My rating for We Love You: 4 /10