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