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This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… U2, October October 14, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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I’ve mentioned before how there are albums that seem fixed in a perpetual Autumn in my musical memory – when I think of them I think of a low sun, chill afternoons and clear blue skies. Some Icicle Works, New Order’s Power Corruption and Lies, one whole heap of Machester stuff, etc. Now – being prosaic, some of that is because I bought a fair few of them during Autumn or early Spring and hence the near-synesthetic response.

Then there’s October by U2. I’ve long mentioned a sort of dislike of U2. It’s not quite that cut and dried, they’ve always had moments that were impressive for me. The first album, parts of Unforgettable Fire and The Joshua Tree and some of their pop excursions in the early 90s. But there’s also a sense of a band that was, at least once they became bigger, could sometimes be a tad clunky and managed to produce music that was remarkably dull as the 90s turned to the 2000s and 2010s. Tellingly for me was the fact that the best tracks on How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb from 2005 were a return to their early sound (albeit by way of Coldplay – urghhhh) which is never a good sign for any group.

That said I remember listening to The Joshua Tree on a bus driving through the south of Tunisia in 2000 and thinking how the music was brilliantly appropriate. Which is nice – but truth is I had just finished a daily course of injections of a very very heavy duty painkiller given to me for a particularly nasty urinary tract infection that I had contracted on arrival. Which might explain my more than usually welcoming attitude to them.

Still, I recently listened to October right the way through and was… well… impressed. There’s just something about the way the music and the mood meshes. The songs, and whatever else about U2 when they have to they can craft a chorus or verse, are catchy. There’s something, I’m not sure what it is, but a fraction more restrained in parts – perhaps because the bombast is strong on so much of it (Gloria, etc) they feel they have the space to breath. There’s the slightly received Joy Division style percussion on I Threw A Brick Through A Window which combined with the ear worm of a guitar line is just perfect. Tomorrow has uileann pipes courtesy of Vinnie Kilduff and very fine they sound too, indeed in a way this is perhaps their most overtly Irish album. There’s some modish post-punk stylings, the vigour of the basslines, the guitars (they chime, they chime), the horn section on With A Shout that could have graced a Teardrop Explodes album but that’s no criticism. And they’re fast, some of the tracks, speeding by. If I’ve a quibble it is that the last track ‘Is That All?’ comes in good and strong with a great riff but then fades out and sounds perhaps a bit ‘meh’. But perhaps that’s the point.

In a way it seems to me that this was their last album where they sounded genuinely angst ridden, there was something almost alien about some of the arrangements (Tomorrow is again a good example) and a strongly alienated aspect, for all the Christian source material. Speaking of which, that per se isn’t an issue for me, even if I find the lyrics of Rejoice unbelievably irritating, with their line ‘I can’t change the world but I can change the world in me’ which seems a recipe for passivity… well… as noted previously on this site I’ve had the peculiar good/bad fortune to listen to a fair bit of white metal recently and in contrast U2s Christian leanings sound oddly coy – yeah, even with tracks entitled Gloria, etc.

Sure, this didn’t get the critical plaudits Boy did, and without question that is a great album. But this one is a more mature work, more measured.

And sensibly – at least from my perspective they chose to put A Celebration on the 00s remixes. And Trash, Trampoline and the Party Girl too. The latter is in some ways my favourite U2 song, for its skewed approach. Both are windows into a world where U2 could have taken different directions.

Still, U2, October. Actually pretty great. Sheesh, I must be getting old.

Rejoice

Fire

I Threw A Brick Through A Window

Gloria

October

A Celebration

Trash Trampoline and the Party Girl

Comments»

1. Joe Mooney - October 14, 2017
2. Joe Mooney - October 14, 2017

“…truth is I had just finished a daily course of injections of a very very heavy duty painkiller given to me for a particularly nasty urinary tract infection that I had contracted on arrival”. But you did kinda like the album ? Faint praise indeed !

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WorldbyStorm - October 14, 2017

😉 The doctor said it was morphine but I’ve looked it up subsequently and I find that kind of unlikely. Still, if that’s what it takes…

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3. sonofstan - October 14, 2017

I don’t think I’m willing to commit to opiates long term in order to cure my U2 aversion.

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - October 14, 2017

I can’t be convinced that anything they did subsequent to the first two albums, bar the odd spot here and there, ever came close to them. So I’m only partially cured. I’ve met a few people who were involved with them early on and my sense of their take is that it all got too big and too fast and that changed both them and the music. Can’t disagree.

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sonofstan - October 14, 2017

The change was perfect to the extent that they found a way to construct music that was tailor- made for the kind of venues they were soon to play – it’s worth paying attention sometimes to the ‘where’ the music is made for as much as the ‘why’ or ‘how’. if you’re playing stadia, you need to understand that high frequencies travel faster than low, and that a busy bassline will get lost. The shimmering harmonics and the simple bass and drums were perfect whereas faster, more intricate music would get jumbled in the cavernous environs they began to work in. It also copes with the wandering attention span of an outdoor audience: the light and shade telegraphs when the ‘good bits’ are about to arrive.

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WorldbyStorm - October 14, 2017

That’s fascinating sos. Intuitively I’d have a sense of that but to see it described as such – it seems pretty cynical doesn’t it? Slightly tangent to that, but not entirely, Bill Bailey has a great dig at U2 in one of his shows.

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sonofstan - October 14, 2017

I basically stole it from Adorno talking about Wagner 🙂 – his description of how the old anti-semite changed his music to suit the way it was staged at Bayreuth reads like an analysis of stadium rock.

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4. AlanMyler - October 14, 2017

An unusual selection WBS. It’s an album that at the time I found quite disappointing, and I was a huge fan of theirs back then. After their early unrecorded tunes, demo tapes and then Boy it was quite a change of direction for them. The story goes that in the lead up to recording October that Bono lost his work in progress for the new album, or it was stolen, which sounds a bit far fetched to me and perhaps is a cover up for their own dissatisfaction with the album in retrospect? Personally I thought War was more of a return to form, and then the change into the Unforgettable Fire worked really well. Good to see you included A Celebration above which for me is far better than anything on the October album. We did the tour of Kilmainham Gaol during the summer and one of the guide’s questions was to name the U2 video shot there? I whispered the answer to our daughter and then said I wonder how many people can name the B-side of the single? She asked me what a B-side was? Well that shut me right up.

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WorldbyStorm - October 14, 2017

Different times! I hate when people use the term vinyls for records.

It’s interesting your thoughts on them. I remember too I didn’t much like it when it came out. But I really didn’t like War. I think for me they became too polemical as well afterwards. But in a way they’re a real marmite band, people either really like them or don’t like them at all.

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LeftAtTheCross - October 14, 2017

I prefer Marmite to U2 at this stage. I’d listen to Boy the odd time, it’s still a fantastic album. I probably look up their very early stuff on youtube more than anything else these days. Once our kids came along I stopped listening to music for a few years and when I came back to it U2 were doing their noughties albums and while they’re ok they just don’t have anything of the energy of Boy, and as you say Bono just became a total pain in the hole and was impossible to listen to impartially.

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LeftAtTheCross - October 14, 2017

Hey, I’m back as LATC!

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sonofstan - October 14, 2017

It’s like listening to you on vinyl.

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6to5against - October 14, 2017

I only really warmed to them in the Achtung Baby phase, which I’m gathering by implication was a low point for others. Takes all sorts…..

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LeftAtTheCross - October 14, 2017

I liked Achtung Baby. The low point for me was The Joshua Tree and Rattle And Hum.

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Lamentreat - October 14, 2017

I think all reasonable people can agree that “Rattle and Hum” is a pile of shite.

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