A few weeks back, the good folks over at A List of Things Thrown Ten Minutes Ago linked to a list by JBev at JamsBio magazine, in which the writer ranked, in order, all 185 original Beatles songs. Now, I'm not the world's biggest Beatles fan, so the specifics of this list didn't hold too much interest for me. But the idea of the list most certainly did. And it got me to thinking, of course, of doing one for U2. And I have.
Before I dive into the list, some criteria. I haven't included every single B-side or cut single that's cropped up somewhere or other, simply because I don't actually have all of them. I also haven't included covers. I also didn't include the songs from the Passengers album, aside from the two songs that are really U2 songs - "Your Blue Room" and "Miss Sarajevo." Nonetheless, this is a pretty comprehensive list.
148. 4th Of July - The Unforgettable Fire
This is it. The worst U2 song in this list. U2 doesn't do many instrumentals, and this meandering, ambient piece, while pretty enough, never goes anywhere or develops into anything interesting. It's just a plodding bass figure with echoey guitars sweeping over it in waves. This is from The Unforgettable Fire, and the Eno influence is front and center. When I was younger I convinced myself that this was a great piece of music, moody and deep, but, well, I was wrong.
147. Alex Descends Into Hell For A Bottle Of Milk/Korova 1 -"The Fly" B-Side
This song was written for a stage version, I think, of A Clockwork Orange, and it's insistent guitar figure marks it as a U2 song. The boy soprano is a bit trite, rather than as evocative as he's supposed to be, the whole thing just kind of descends (hah!) into a sub-par, grungey, industrial thing at the end. Not one for the ages.
146. Love Comes Tumbling - Wide Awake in America
Wide Awake in America was a short EP put out in between The Unforgettable Fire and The Joshua Tree that featured two live tracks and two cut songs. This is one of the cut songs, and it sounds like the kind of song you would write if you were trying to do a U2 parody. Ringing guitar, Bono singing intently - it all feels very by the books.
145. Two Hearts Beat As One - War
I believe this one was actually something of a hit eat, but the big, happy chorus always struck me as sort of fake and overly poppy, and not really U2. Also, the lyric is about as facile as you can get. Two hearts beat as one. Yes, we get it.
144. Deep In The Heart - "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" - B-Side
When people talk about U2 songs being mind-numbingly repetitive, this is what they mean. Just kind of droning really, and a case for leaving some cut songs where you found them.
143. The Three Sunrises - Wide Awake in America
Another cut song, another lackluster piece of music. To be fair, the release in the chorus here is kind of nice, and the simple joy of the song kind of works. Still, a song about how nice it is when the sun rises is hardly groundbreaking.
142. The Ocean - Boy
It's, as you can see, my least favorite Boy song, but I have to admit to liking the quiet moody vibe they get at here. That sad, descending guitar figure works, and, as much as I hate to admit it, the quiet ocean sound effects in the background do work. This is a slight song, but at 1:35, it doesn't overstay its welcome.
141. Spanish Eyes - I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" - B-Side
I still remember seeing this song on those little jukeboxes they used to have in diners. It's a pretty straightforward U2 song, with Bono throwing a bit too much grit into his voice at parts. When he sings "And I LOVE the way she talks to me," he sounds like he's doing a parody of himself.
140. The Refugee - War
This isn't a bad song, but it just kind of doesn't really hang together in the end. The percussion-only opening, the pretty weakly brewed slide guitar, the U2-by-the-book chorus; the parts never really add up.
139. Numb - Zooropa
One of only three U2 songs with lead vocals by the Edge, this experimental, deliberately monotonous, numbing piece of music is well-executed, and kind of fun what with the Bono fat lady falsetto coming in, and the tongue-in-cheek simplicity of that guitar riff, but in the end not something you look to listen to over and over.