Monday, February 16, 2009

U2 Ranked - #s 129 - 138

138. Drowning Man - War
A simple guitar-strummed figure alongside a fey martial beat, with a meandering Bono vocal on top. Not a bad song, and it does evoke a nice mood, but in the end it never really goes anywhere. U2 would later learn how to do a much better job with this kind of repetitive, simple song - see Zooropa's "The First Time."

137. Elvis Presley And America - The Unforgettable Fire
This song, famously, is an improvised first cut that the bane decided to leave as is. Bad idea. There's the germs of some interesting ideas here, poking their heads out from the muddled musical swamp they are stuck in, but the band really would have been much better served had they played with this more. As great as U2 is live, they're really not the kind of band that can jam and produce full-fleshed songs from the ether. They have to work at it.

136. Wave Of Sorrow (Birdland) - The Joshua Tree (cut track)
I like this song, but not nearly as much as I expected to, what with all of the hype that came with it when the band re-released The Joshua Tree. (Bono had to rerecord vocals for it, making it feel like some long-lost gem.) U2 can pull off piano-based songs on occasion, but here it's just a bit by the numbers.

135. Miami - Pop
This song pissed off a lot of U2 fans when Pop came out, with its near-spoken choruses over a fuzzy drum track, then a distortion-laden static rhythmic figure. You can see where they were going with it, but it's not a track that's aging well.

134. The Playboy Mansion - Pop
I very much like the laid-back, sunnin' on a beach vibe this song has; it's a mood and groove the band almost never plays in. And I like the way the chorus shakes loose, but in the end it will never be a favorite - it's just a little too relaxed for U2.

133. Scarlet - October
There's a definite Biblical feel to this song, a grandiose feel derived from the stately drums and the chiming piano, and the simple repeated "rejoice." A very lovely bit of more-overtly Christian rock before the band would figure out how to express its faith and much more oblique - and interesting - ways.

132. I Threw A Brick Through A Window - October
A classic U2 song and concert staple from the early years. This is one of many, many indelible, simple Edge riffs that will be featured on this list. What I like about this song is the energy it has, the way that it creates a kind of impulsive, excited beat even though the tempo is pretty slow. It also, for what it's worth, features that rarest of beasts - the Adam bass solo.

131. North And South Of The River - B-Side (Staring at the Sun)
This is a song that faced no injustice in being relegated to a b-side. A bouncy, shimmery beat over which play some basic piano chords. The synths that come in partway don't save it. Still, I like the simple yet impassioned vocal Bono gives it, and it's sweetly resigned little melody.

130. Fire - The Unforgettable Fire
And the songs I really like start. I like the quiet, cinematic opening; I like the dramatic strings, and I like the insistent, somehow sinister bass line. But I especially like how they open the song up at the chorus, with a chiming, yearning hopeful quality. And I especially like how in the bridge they take the song to a new, almost mystical level - "And if the mountain should crumble or disappear into the sea. Not at ear, no not I." Chills. (OK, the synth orchestra hits are kind of cheesy.)

129. Like A Song... - War
And now we're getting to some good, classic U2. Listen to the mini-guitar solo that comes after the first verse. That's classic U2. And listen to Larry's impassioned drumming here - he's kind of kicking some ass on this track, right? Most of all, this song hits that right blend of straight-ahead rock interspersed with echoey, slower sections that U2 does very well.

Until Whenever

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