Ruminations on TV Shows, Comics, And Music
I have a friend who was also a huge U2 fan in the late 90s, and slowly cooled off in the 21st century. The kind of friend who, the first time we hung out, overheard me turning down plans with another person by saying "Sorry, I have a friend visiting." and asked, mostly sincerely, "We're friends now?" The two of us saw U2 during what must have been the second leg of their No Line On The Horizon tour. We weren't whelmed. It was no fault of the band. The venue saw them at was terrible. The sound was atrocious, and we barely got their in time, due to traffic.
This friend claims that All That You Can't Leave Behind is the last album they enjoy. Though they enjoy it semi-ironically.
I actually think most of All That You Can't Leave Behind is ... not very good. U2's return to their old style of playing was overdue, but it came out too sentimental to me. There were some songs I loved, a few I liked, and some I never listen to. In contrast, there are a bunch of songs on How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb that I never listen to, a couple that I like, and a few that I love.
Therefore, this album is actually a combination of those two albums, plus some non-album tracks. There will be no How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb in this discography, but fear not, as you'll see from the first couple of tracks, some of the album did survive.
"Vertigo" is the best 21st century opening song U2 has come up with. Sure, it got way overplayed, since it was iTunes's theme song for 2005. They even made a red U2-filled iPod, which I would have bought except ... I already had all those songs on my iPod. Some of Vertigo's lyrics are somewhat silly but the second verse is killer, and I love Edge's guitar work on this clear improvement of "Elevation".
"Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own" is another song that's actually from How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. I enjoy the whole song, but it's Bono's wannabe operatic lift of Can you/hear/me/when I/sing/You're the reason I sing that makes this one of my favorites. The whole vibe of this song feels like what All That You Can't Leave Behind was reaching for. I also like that its ending jangle is actually the beginning jingle of the next track.
I've chosen the Orbit version of "Electrical Storm", as the "Band Version" is boring. I love the echo and the effects burying the guitar in the mix. This was, by far, the highlight of Best Of 1990-2000 B-Sides for me.
Oh, hey, look, it's actually a song from the original version of the album. "Walk On" begins by announcing that love (the subject of the last song) is not an easy thing / the only baggage you can bring / is all that you can't leave behind. Hey! That's the name of the album! One of the two self-help singles from this album that I enjoy, this song got overplayed a bit when 9/11 gave it a bit too much resonance. But, like many of the songs on the original All That You Can't Leave Behind album, it's actually a song for Michael Hutchence, the lead singer of INXS who hung himself.
I edited "Peace On Earth" so long ago that I don't remember what I excised from it, or why. I think it just dragged. It's a perfectly find radio edit length ditty but five minutes of it is Too Much. So, here's a shorter cut.
"Beautiful Day" is in contention for my favorite U2 song. When I heard it, in advance of the album, I was confident that I was going to love this album. I was wrong. But it was a fun, optimistic month or so. The heartbeat drums are probably A Bit Much for some people, but I love them.
Another track I chopped the fuck down was "New York". There's two whole verses where Bono does the thing where he tries to sing an octave lower than he's capable of. So *thwack*, that section of the song is gone, we go direct to Bordering On Falsetto Bono. I also cut "Bono calls out different ethnicities for dumbass reasons." So this version of the song is Much Shorter.
I mentioned that "Vertigo" is sort of an improved version of "Elevation". I didn't mean to imply that "Elevation" is bad. I quite like the buzzy guitars, and falsetto backgrounds. Though I could do without his occasional "scatting". I still think this approach to guitars is an interesting way for the band to incorporate their Achtung Baby / Zooropa / Pop sensibilities while still making the songs sound more like early U2.
My cross-fade into "A Little While" is not my best work. This is another song where the sunny guitar riff is my favorite part of the song. The lyrics are ... there. It's another song for his wife. Yea, yea, we get it Bono, you love your wife that you met in high school. Good for you. Write her better songs.
"Window In The Skies" was a single from U2's U218, their Greatest Hits From Their Previous Greatest Hits albums. But with two new singles (the other one is on the next album). I was surprised I liked it, as it came pretty quickly on the heels of How To Build An Atomic Bomb.
I adore the abrupt and dirty opening of "Love And Peace", even if I'm exhausted by Bono singing generic songs about peace. Without The Edge and Adam Clayton, this would be a super wimpy Bono ballad. As it is, I like it more than most of the rest of the tracks from How To Build An Atomic Bomb.
Summery guitar again lulls the album into "Kite", another self-help song, but one whose lyrics I actually quite like. It segues really nicely into "Wild Honey", a weird little song that lyrically doesn't fit on to any U2 album. It's a fun departure.
I almost didn't include "Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of", as it's another self-help song that got super played during the months after 9/11. It doesn't have the resonance for me that the other singles do, but I do like the chorus, and the way it climbs out of itself near the end.
The final track is actually a live track of Bono with The Coors singing "When The Stars Go Blue" from a VH1 special. I really enjoy the way Bono's vocals blend with The Coors. It also fits my weird Ryan Adams fandom, where I only like him when he's singing covers, and I only like his original music when it is being covered by someone else. I also included it because I couldn't figure out how to end the album, so ... umm ... here's an applause fadeout.