And we continue our march up the U2 ladder.
#154 – “Love Comes Tumbling”A B-side off of The Unforgettable Fire, this track features some nice bass work from Adam, in the form of some unusually-for-him prominent almost bass-slaps. And the opening riff has an agreeably moody quality to it. But Bono’s sort-of mumbled lyrics never really go anywhere, and the track itself just kind of meanders aimlessly before sputtering to a close. This, like many U2 B-sides, sounds like something played with in the studio but never really developed into a “song,” per se.”
U2’s relationship to traditional song-craft and songwriting is something I expect to explore a lot here over the course of this project, so for now let me just note that U2’s music doesn’t hold up to the kind of translation a really well-crafted piece of songwriting can and usually does. This is why great U2 covers are few and far between. U2’s music, when written down as sheet music, is simple and almost sketchy. It’s only in the unique chemistry they bring to a song, as well as the unique way the Edge’s guitar approach expands what are simple soundscapes from a chord progression standpoint, that even many of their great songs come to life. More on that as we go.
#153 – “With a Shout” – October
#152 – “Your Blue Room” – Original SoundtracksSo we come to our first Passengers track. At this point, I need to pause for a moment and talk about how I decided to treat the Passengers stuff. Passengers is a “band” that is really just U2 with longtime producer Brian Eno playing as a full team member, not just a producer. Their sole album was released after Pop, during U2’s most experimental phase, and many of the songs are very Eno-influenced soundscapes. I did not include those in this list of U2 songs. A few – this being one – are more traditional songs, and one – the grandly beautiful “Miss Sarajevo” even became a live staple and classic U2 tune.
So – “Your Blue Room.” With Bono really speaking more than speaking the verses, and singing the chorus in his “fat lady” falsetto, this is still an odd duck as a song. The background synths are fun, and the track has a nice ambling beat, but it’s too mellow by half, and the vaguely churchy organ never really coalesces into anything heartfelt. Some nice pieces here that don’t really gel.
#151 – “The Ocean” – BoyRemember what I said when discussing “4th of July” about U2’s lack of facility with instrumentals? While “The Ocean” is not an instrumental, it’s pretty close, with a very mellow, very slow and moody guitar figure and drum beat interrupted by a very brief lyric whisper-sung by Bono. When I first got into Boy as a youth I loved this track, but now I find its oh-so-mellow attitude almost off-putting, and its brevity evidence, not of a smart decision to be brief, but as evidence of an idea that went nowhere.
#150 – “Numb” – ZooropaEvery once and a while, the Edge gets to take center stage. He’s sung lead on a few songs over the years, with this Zooropa track the most recent example. However, unlike those earlier attempts (on “Seconds” he sounds a lot like Bono), here there’s no mistaking whose at the mic. The experimental song, which is grounded by a sliding up-sliding down distorted guitar line, is a mumbled/rapped litany of exhortations (“Don't grab/Don't clutch/Don't hope for too much/Don't breathe/Don't achieve). Over this, yes, numbing refrain Bono lets loose some more “fat lady” falsetto, while a drum machine keeps the beat. It’s an interesting experiment to be fair, but one of those “interesting” experiments that you listen to a few times and then never really want to revisit.