Titan Rock Battle: U2 vs Radiohead Part 2 – U2’s Discography

As mentioned in the previous post, both bands started out with landmark rock-n-roll albums and both drifted into electronic music later on. Here, I’ll review U2’s discography and next time I’ll discuss Radiohead’s.

U2’s War was a real eye-opener for me as a kid. When it came out, I was only 14 and didn’t really know what hit me. Under a Blood Red Sky followed on the heels of that one and I recall watching the concert at Red Rocks on MTV live as well as their electrifying performance at the US83 festival. I thought I had hit musical nirvana. I grabbed up all I could find at record stores in my Miami neighborhood and still have a collection of early bootlegs and singles from U2 that are probably worth a pretty penny nowadays. I almost wore the grooves out of the Boy and October vinyl (yes children – this was BEFORE CDs even existed!). I felt the earlier two lacked the polish of War and yet I was hooked on all three. At this point, nobody had really heard of U2 in my circle of acquaintances. They were a fringe band at the time when the 80’s were still throwing us one-hit wonders like Tommy Two-Tone and Dixie’s Midnight Runners. Duran Duran seemed to be a real “supergroup” but U2 was completely marginalized – at least in Miami for a 13-14 year old. All that changed at the end of 1984 with the release of “Pride”…

When The Unforgettable Fire came out, I was at first taken back by the laid back pace compared to the burning urgency of the earlier three albums and didn’t really pay any attention to ‘Bad’. Then as I mentioned last time, I saw ‘Bad’ live and was completely blown away. The concert was so incredibly full of energy that I left tingling all over. The one performance of that one song is still engraved in my memory like a tattoo. My best friend Billy was really disappointed because he was hoping for another rock album so he gave up on U2. There was a bit of “pop” to ‘Pride’ and there was clearly more mood here than revolution but I held on to the hopes for a new rock album from the 4 Irish boys.

The band that had already made it pretty big with ‘Pride’ also released a great EP with a live version of ‘Bad’ and ‘A Sort of Homecoming’ entitled ‘Wide Awake in America’. And then they went mega. The Joshua Tree from 1987 has been perennially listed as one of rock-n-rolls greatest albums ever. I loved it from the airy and yet driving ‘Where the Streets Have No Name’ and the searching ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I Am Looking For’, the album just throws up amazing, well-produced singles one after another. I mentioned that the concert on this tour I saw seemed to be far more commercial that the Unforgettable Fire one. I think I was also disappointed because my favorite album tracks, ‘Red Hill Mining Town’ and ‘Running To Stand Still’ didn’t make the live set. I sincerely dug the album despite what I found to be a disappointing live show. And after this when they got super-mega with the ZooTV tour, I couldn’t bring myself to spend what for me at the time was an exorbitant amount of money to see them live again. I know, it was probably a mistake but then who knew?

Achtung Baby made U2 superstars in the Rolling Stones mode – well without the trashing of hotel rooms and so forth. The album itself was excellent although it did start to veer way out into pop territory. The single ‘One’ has made the #1 slot on several best songs ever lists. It is arguably the most polished and yet disturbing albums U2 ever produced with Bono baring his soul on ‘So Cruel’, ‘Acrobat’ and ‘Love Is Blindness’.  I think this is the first album of U2 that I purchased on CD first as they had become relatively cheap by then (I have everything up to Joshua Tree and Rattle and Hum on vinyl and everything else on CD).

However, after this they lost me. As I just mentioned, the overly pop glam of the ZooTV tour, the electronic fuzz that for me was Zooropa and also Pop turned me off completely. The attempted rock comebacks on All That You Can’t Leave Behind, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb and No Line on the Horizon all sound almost identical to me. I can’t feel any urgency or even soul-searching like on the albums up to and including Achtung Baby. Songs like ‘Elevation’ and ‘Beautiful Day’ are attempts at “real” rock-n-roll songs but they, to me at least, lack the power and immediacy of ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday”. ‘Vertigo’ sounds just like ‘Beautiful Day’. ‘Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own’ seems to be a poppier repeat of, say, ‘Tryin’ To Throw Your Arms Around the World’. ‘Get On Your Boots’ tries to rock out with the nifty effects that Bono shows off in This Might Get Loud but for me I never found anything that grabbed and shook me. Nothing that exited the confines of pop or that approached the sublime heights of their achievements up to 1991. I suppose they are trying hard but once you are a supermega popstar, is there any way back at all? If I was to be cruel, I’d almost say that they might have done their music service by stopping after 7 or 8 albums as the White Stripes recently did. But then, who knows maybe they will someday surprise me, rock-n-roll is capable of surprises sometimes…



About mfinocchiaro

IT Architecture Guru for large PLM software company but dabbling in Web 2.0 and other stuff.
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One Response to Titan Rock Battle: U2 vs Radiohead Part 2 – U2’s Discography

  1. Pingback: Titan Rock Battle: U2 vs Radiohead Part 3 – Radiohead Discography | Fino's Weblog

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