Stories For Boys is an interesting song. Not necessarily a good song, but interesting. Why do I say that? It’s an image of U2’s early music, it hasn’t really developed fully at this point (and it won’t for several years, through at least War and possibly into The Unforgettable Fire), but you do see sparks of the band that will come. I guess it is this kind of thing that music producers look for when they sign bands, the ability of the band to show they can grow into something big. If that’s the case then they were successful here.
It’s funny listening to the song now, because you can clearly hear young Bono singing. He’s what, about 18 or 19 when he recorded this, and at times when I’m listening I’m wondering if his voice is going to break in the middle of the song. On the other hand, what stands out for me in the music is the bass. There’s good drumming, good lead guitar, but the bass sounds really good, professional even. If I were the record producer listening to this, I’d be hearing that bass and thinking this guy is way too good for the rest of this band (I’m not a music critic though, so sorry Adam, take it with a pinch of salt).
The other thing of interest is the lyrics. Firstly, I’m not sure exactly what they are. I am sure that what is on the official U2 site is not what’s being sung on the record, and what’s on a few of the popular U2 sites is different from the official site, and different from each other. This is odd, because normally you get some kind of consensus on the lyrics after 30-some years. But I listen carefully to this song, and read the lyrics, and the words they’re listing are not the words I’m hearing. A few differences here and there, I agree with one source in one case and not in another. Slightly frustrating, but hey, at least it’s no Elvis Presley and America.
The second thing on the lyrics is how good they are, or are not as the case may be. One of the things I always liked about Bono is that he writes complex lyrics. There are certain bands (cough-Beatles-cough) where you’re going to hear the same words over and over again. I’m not just talking about the chorus, but the whole thing. I’d be interested to do a word frequency count of some bands to see how often they repeat things in their songs. I’d bet that U2 would be in the more complex side of things. But not this song, it’s extraordinarily repetitive for a U2 song. I mean, just take the title. Stories For Boys is repeated fourteen times in the song. And the rest of it isn’t much better, these are very simple lyrics. Of course, given Bono’s age at the time you don’t blame him for that, although he was already doing more complex stuff. But a lyric like “There’s a comic strip that makes me laugh”? Really? Still, better than I could do.
My rating for Stories For Boys: 5 / 10