After listening to half of U2″s discography, I had to complete the trend by listening to the 1991-2004 time line. It was in the 90″s that I turned into a U2 fan. I became interested in their music late in the decade, and my passion slowly grew until 2001 when it exploded after seeing them live in Calgary.
Because I am a 90″s fan I find that I can relate more to the music from this era, and can remember where I was when I first heard certain songs. There were a few less records released in this time, and perhaps that is why I find there are no “soft-spots’ like there was in the first decade. To me, it was a string of great records after another.
The decade started with Achtung Baby. The band members wanted to go in different musical directions and lead to a lot of conflict while recording this record. Whatever they did, it worked. This stands as the best U2 record in my opinion.
What makes this record so great is that this was meant to be listened to front-to-back, a musical journey that very few artists can do well. The heart ache and intimate lyrics, paired up with raw and new guitar sounds from The Edge put this record years ahead of its time. A lot of fan favorites come from this release, and for good reason. I cannot even pick a favorite, each song has such a deep personal connection to me it would be like picking your favorite child.
Their next record was meant to be an EP, and was recorded while they were touring Achtung Baby – interesting circumstances to record under, but it worked. If viewed on its own, Zooropa appears weird and out of context. Although, when seen as the middle child of Achtung Baby and Pop * its’ release is critical to the musical advancements of the band.
*I am excluding the Passengers side project in my U2 discography session. It was the same members performing, but just under a different name. Similar to The Network and Green Day or Chris Gaines and the two-stepping Garth Brooks. Since it was not a U2 release it should be removed from judgement, although it did follow an important step between Zooropa and Pop.
At first I did not like Zooropa. It was too much of an experiment, but once it grew on me I find myself cranking the volume and having a good time. This is a feel good record with plenty of overlooked songs. Also, The Edge has a whole song to himself in Numb!
Fast forward a few years and this is where I became interested in U2 with the release of Pop, the final step in their alternative musical approach. This was a record I never really appreciated until it was several years old. Songs such as Please are still relevant in today’s society and helps maintain the moody and cynical theme. To me, Pop is one of their best records and is on par with their first three in that I forget how great it is, and how amazing the material is until I listen to it all the way through.
For the sake of being a completest, I also listened to Best Of 1980-1990 and Best Of 1990-2000 not that it offered much to the flow of their history. Although after listening to Achtung Baby, Zooropa and Pop, the 1980-1990 hits release almost acted as way to say to the fans “Thanks for sticking through our experiment, we will be bringing the rock back in our next record.”
For me, All That You Can’t Leave Behind was my turning point in being a U2 fan. It went from casual to fanatical and it was all because of this record and the Elevation Tour that followed it. This is a near perfect record with the first 10 of 11 tracks being absolutely stunning. This release is a brilliant return to musical form and is highlighted on tracks like Beautiful Day, When I Look At The World or New York. I actually forgot how much I loved this release until I listened to it today (which I went through twice).
To make the records-listened-to count eight from seven I also spun their USA-Target-only release of 7. It was a release that followed All That You Can’t Leave Behind. It contained a few remixes, b-sides and some outtakes from their last studio effort. It is mostly All That You Can’t Leave Behind – Part II, and was followed up by the 1990-2000 hits release. This was somewhat disappointing, not as much material to choose from (no amazing B-Sides CD like the 1980-1990 release had) but did what it was supposed to: increase sales and hype an inevitable U2 release.
And that brings us to the present. I had a lot of expectations for How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb and all were met. Although I went from enjoying this record to loving it after seeing them on the Vertigo Tour. It is interesting what hearing a song live can do for you. Atomic Bomb is about The Edge on a power trip in the studio, and I enjoyed every part of it. He wore the pants in the creative process of this and it shows.
There are some lyrics in the songs that seemed forced, but there was a lot going on in this record, and when you take a step back the lyrics no longer seem tacky. Some of the ideas for songs come from the bands arrival in New York a month after 9/11, the loss of a Father, political problems resulting in violence, the need for medical advancements as well as religion and faith. Fairly heavy subject matter that is put together in a really complete package.
What more can be said that I have not already said? U2 is my favorite band and hope they continue to put out material and tour for many more years. At the very least they have kept me entertained over the last few days as I listened to all of their material and realized why they are the best.