Three New Songs from U2

Most of the time, I try to keep this site to articles pertaining (at least a little) to guitars, guitar gear, worship music, all the important stuff. But in the intelligent words of Keanu Reeves, ‘Whoa.’ I was really trying to stay out of this, because I knew that everyone would expect a post from me on it…and I had one all worked out…because when I first heard the new U2 single on the radio on Tuesday, I was shocked and disappointed. So I spent all day at work writing this blog post in my mind about it (yep, that’s what I do at work…write blog posts in my head), and I started to enjoy my post as it existed in my mind, and I was amusing myself greatly with it (sad, yes). But then I got home and listened to the song again. (And much thanks to Kenrick, over at The Busy Pixel blog , for sending it to me. Why download what’s already sitting in your e-mail for free? And uh, U2, in case you’re reading…hehe…riiiiigggghhhhht…I did eventually download it…just to show you how much I support your work…my .99 cents is yours, my brothers.) And upon a second listen, I was even more disappointed, because now I was starting to like the song. And that just sucked…because my whole post in my head that I had been enjoying so much, was based on the not liking of the song.

However, as much as I was digging the new single, upon subsequent listens, it wasn’t life-changing. So now I’ve got this song that I don’t hate, so that doesn’t make for a very good post. But it didn’t explode my head with it’s wonder either, so that doesn’t make for a very good post. So I was going to just stay out of it.

But over the last few days, I’ve gotten e-mails, comments, texts, phone calls, smoke signals…every possible communication medium you can imagine has been used to ask me what I think of this new U2 single. (That’s where the Keanu Reeves ‘Whoa’ comes in.) It’s like, How do all these people know I like U2? It’s not like I broadcast it or anything. ;) So I figured, I gotta post about it.

It’s called ‘Get On Your Boots’, and it was released on Tuesday. And let’s get two things out of the way here. hehe One, I would love to just come right out and say that I am not defending this song just because I have signed pictures of The Edge that I say goodnight to every evening before bed, and because my life would be nothing without their music, and because I want to wear their skin to my birthday. I would love to say that I’m giving a good review to the song because I really honestly like it, and that I’d like it even if it wasn’t U2, and that the whole reason I like U2 is because they continuously put out great music. And if they ever put out some bad music, I wouldn’t like it, I wouldn’t buy it, and I’d be okay with that. I’d like to say that. And even now, I believe that all that’s true (except for the Blades of Glory part). But, I have to be real with myself; I do like them a lot, and it is probably more difficult than I imagine for me to be objective about them. So take what I say with a grain of salt. I’m like the insane person who gets sane for a moment, and tells everyone to be careful of what he’s about to say. hehe And two, there are a good deal of songs written by U2 that I don’t like. So, it’s not like I totally dig everything they’ve ever done. If they put out a bad one, I really have no problem admitting it. Let’s see, the first one that comes to mind is ‘Numb.’ What in the world were they thinking? And, um, ‘The Wanderer’ with Johnny Cash. Adam’s bass line sounds like something out of Reading Rainbow. And ‘Playboy Mansion’. Great lyrics, but the song just annoys. Then there’s the live ZooTV version of ‘Desire’, with so much flange on Edge’s guitar that you can barely make out the harmonic base. And lastly, the entire ‘October’ album, with the exception of the beautiful and haunting title track. So…just so you know that there in fact, are some U2 songs that I think suck.

So now that that’s out of the way, like I said earlier, the first time I heard it, I was ultra-disappointed. But that’s pretty standard for me and U2. See, like it or not, they as a band enjoy re-inventing themselves. And that makes for some angry fans. Like, from the ‘Unforgettable Fire’ album to ‘The Joshua Tree’ album. It’s normal to us now, but ‘Unforgettable Fire’ was pretty ambient, soundscape, big arena type stuff. And then to go straight to ‘Where the Streets Have no Name’? With the dance beats, and complete un-moodiness? No one had ever heard anything like that before, and critically, that album got horrid reviews at first. But the general public (the non-musicians), loved it. I remember the first time I heard ‘Zoo Station’ a few years back. I was so digging on ‘The Joshua Tree’ stuff and the ‘War’ stuff, from cd’s I had borrowed from a friend when I was first getting into U2 from my death metal days. And then I went to buy my first U2 album at Best Buy, when my friend wanted her cd’s back, and all they had was ‘Achtung Baby.’ So I was like, ‘Ok, cool.’ And when I first heard the first track, which was ‘Zoo Station’, I was mortified. But now, it’s one of my favorite songs, and I daresay that ‘Achtung Baby’ is possibly my favorite album of theirs. Same when I heard ‘Discotheque’ and I was expecting ‘Zooropa’. Same when I heard ‘Vertigo’ and was expecting ‘Beautiful Day’. 

See, I’ve come to love this about U2. Because I already have ‘The Joshua Tree’. It’s amazing. I love it. It has kiss marks on the cover. But I already have it. I don’t really want a re-hash of it. I want to hear, once again, U2 taking their incredible musicianship, melodies, orchestrations, and passionate playing, and put it into a style I’ve not yet heard. 

So that’s one reason I think this single is getting some anger from U2 fans. It’s definitely surprising. Secondly, I think it’s not being liked by some, because they tend to reach out first, to the general public; and then to the musicians and critics later. If you look at the charts, this single is rocking. People are really enjoying it. When I check all the comments on the many youtube versions that are up of this song, the ones complaining are musicians and die-hard U2 fans. The nominal fans and general public are going, ‘Hey, this is pretty cool.’ It’s not ripping your heart out, it’s not making you cry, it’s not filling an arena, but it’s pretty rockin’. And U2 uses their musicianship to reach a non-musical audience very well.

Thirdly, this song is very ‘on the cusp’ of what’s about to happen musically. You may or may not like it, but those high falsetto parts sung in like a chorus of voices? Kinda sexy and R&B sounding? Very MGMT, who are totally climbing the charts right now. The tight harmonies over chord progressions your ears aren’t used to hearing? Very much Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver. And the industrial guitar sound? Secret Machines and Minus the Bear, all the way. Somehow, even at their age, they’re able to take whatever the sounds and styles that are just breaking the scene, and meld them together to pave the way with a new sound.

And fourthly, what we may be seeing (depends on how the rest of the album sounds), is another total departure for U2. This album might be for them in the late 2000′s what ‘Achtung Baby’ or ‘Zooropa’ or ‘Pop’ was for them in the ’90′s. Which, if it is, I know will not be liked but a lot of big U2 fans. For me, I loved those albums, so I’m cool with this. The only album I didn’t like, like I said, was ‘October’. And that wasn’t because of its style, it was because none of the melodies or harmonic and rhythmic texture was very good…just not good song-writing. But if they stay with writing out of their passion, and not to produce another album, I tend to like most of it.

And that’s all well and good; but if you don’t like ‘Get on Your Boots’, you don’t like ‘Get On Your Boots’. No worries. For me, it seems fun, rockin’, and totally different. There’s melodies in it that I can’t get out of my head, and a certain tightness and non-linear-ness that I have as of yet not heard from U2. And take into account, too, that this is one track from the album. I’ve read the synopses for the others, and they’re supposed to sound completely different from each other.

Because, like I said, I’m loving this song right now for what it is. But it didn’t change my world, like a lot of other U2 songs have. If the whole album sounded like it, I would be a little disappointed. So for those of you who are disappointed, here’s a couple tracks to make you feel better. They were both written within the last two years, after the ‘Dismantle’ album, so there’s a good chance there will be some sounds like this on the new album, too.

The first one is a cover of Greg Lake’s ‘I Believe in father Christmas’. It just came out last month, so you can pretty much bet a good portion of the album will be close to this vein.

And the second, of course, is ‘Window in the Skies.’ I love this song, and have been just waiting for an excuse to put it on here. One of the best videos of all-time, too. And again, there’s a ’60′s thing going on in the music here that I’m guessing will flow over into a couple tracks on the new album.

Good times. I’m rockin’ to ‘Get On Your Boots’ right now; but if you’re not, and the pieces of the world are crumbling around you because you hate the new U2 single, hopefully these tracks helped a bit. :) (And if you want some more, within the 4 years since their last album, they have also covered 3 Beatles songs: ‘Instant Karma’, ‘Lucy in the Sky’, and ‘I am the Walrus.’) So to all of you who asked me about this new single, there’s my really, really, really long answer. I think it’s great, but hopefully the whole album doesn’t sound like it, and it didn’t make me cry tears of joy. But I still think it’s pretty darn good, especially for non-musicians in the time of music we’re in. And if you hate it, oh well. That’s why we still have ‘Beautiful Day’ and ‘City of Blinding Lights’ to listen to; and, as Jeff over at Blogsology pointed out, Coldplay’s new offering as well. Which, by the way, the first time I heard the ‘Vida La Vida’ single, I hated it; because I was expecting more of ‘X & Y’. Now I love it. Sometimes it just depends on what you’re expecting to hear. And sometimes it doesn’t. ;)

And remember, all this is coming from a guy who picks out what U2 shirts he buys by how close a proximity each shirt will place the photo of Edge to his heart, so……take all this how you will. hehe

Splendid.
Karl.

0 thoughts on “Three New Songs from U2

  1. Well, I am wearing my Joshua Tree concert shirt today, so I feel in the right spirit to comment. Happy to send over the single, err, preview :P

    When I was singing in a u2 cover band around the time Pop came out, the guitarist was like UGH I CAN’T BELIEVE IT. He was SUPER into u2 (are you sure you are not him?) in ways that was probably not healthy. I still remember him buying me a wig for our gigs…

    Anyways.

    So he was totally anti-pop of course. Like, bring your pop album to next practice and lets burn them. I happened to like pop, almost for the fact that it was different. Most of the people at that time, (guitarists) would just say all u2 does is use delay, which is totally stupid, but at least now I could point at Pop and say ya see! Hardly any delay. BOOM.

    So as practices continued on, the tour came to San Diego. Mr I hate Pop bought a ticket. See, everyone comes around eventually.

    At some point in the career of being a fan, you start to appreciate the artists more then the art. So even if they make something you don’t like, at least you can appreciate it for what it is. This new single isn’t bad by any objective means.

    I give alot of new artists room to grow on me, in fact, I don’t think I have heard an album recently that I loved the first time. Or the first 5 times. I’ve thought about starting a site where I would base its rating on number of times I had to listen to the piece before I liked it. Like the new radiohead album I was easily up to 12 times before I was finally like, ah, I get it.

    There were alot of tracks on All that you can’t leave behind that I was like uh, shouldn’t that be a B side?, and yet I still like the album as a whole.

  2. Great points, Kenrick. That ‘Pop’ example is great. Sometimes it just takes some time. And then sometimes, you’ll never like it. But after some time, I really like this new single. After some time, I still don’t like ‘Numb.’ hehe

    Great idea for a site, too. Ya, that Radiohead album did take a while for me. Most of their stuff does. What was the other one? Oh, ya, a lot of The Shins stuff takes a while for me, too.

    Anyway, good times. :)

  3. I just think it’s their recordings. Their recent recordings are so sterile and lifeless. Compare the studio version of Kite to Slane Castle. I have a hard time listening to what they’re doing in the studio now. It’s like they don’t have any space or ambience.

  4. the beatles didn’t get to where they were by doing the same thing over and over. the single sure didn’t sound like vintage-U2, but hey, its the first single … there’s still some hope :)

  5. James–I don’t mind their recordings so much, but I do think they are definitely one of the few bands who can actually sound better on some of their songs live than in the studio. Which is pretty amazing. Certain highly orchestrated songs like Electrical Storm or Hands that Built America, still sound better in the studio, at least in my humble opinion.

    And good call on Kite. Great song, and the Slane version is killer! :)

    And also, these days, so many recordings, at least in my completely non-professional opinion, are a bit overly compressed. Sometimes maybe everyone’s trying to sound too perfect, and so it ends squashing the space instead?

    You bring up some great points, bro!

    Rhoy–awesome point. And ya, there’s some Beatles stuff that I can’t stand. It just doesn’t grab me. But those are the same songs that grab a ton of other folks…so good thing they did a bunch of different stuff! I guess experimentation is what leads to the stuff we now consider ‘classic.’

    And ya…I really like ‘Get on Your Boots’, but like you mentioned, it’s just the first single. Admittedly, if they all end up sounding like this one, I’ll be a bit disappointed in the album. But I think there’s gonna be some great diversity on it, just according to the track synopses I’ve read. (Ya, I’ve been way too into this new album for way too long. haha)
    :)

  6. Hey, Tim! Good to have you here. So you really dig ‘October’, huh? See, that’s so interesting. I’m not a big fan of that album, but you love it. Maybe this is the best example of why U2 chooses to not just stick with one style. Because all of us are different, and have different tastes in music; even within the same band’s catalog!

    Thanks for commenting, and sorry you’re not liking the new single. To each his own. :) And I will say that I adore the actual song, ‘October.’ So beautiful.

  7. Pingback: Single review: U2 - Get On Your Boots « MW Music review

  8. I’m not big on the single but I’m looking forward to the new album. At least there’s always an interesting guitar sound to be found in the songs that sound like they should have been a b-side. It will be hard to hear the Escape Club’s “Wild Wild West” in the future without smiling.
    I enjoyed seeing U2 on tv playing Pride at the Lincoln Memorial and the online banter about the Edge having a DL4 on his pedalboard. Say it ain’t so Edge! ;)

  9. hehe Ya, I thought they sounded great at the Lincoln Memorial. Edge’s tone sounded so full, weighty, and upfront, and I was totally stoked to see him using such a simplistic rig for that huge sound.

    And if you check that video, whatever green pedal it is looks a little too deep of a green to be a DL4. In fact, it looks like it might be a Damage Control Timeline. ;) haha I’m not the biggest fan of the DL4 for straight delay sounds, but for the lo-fi atmospheric stuff, it seems to do very, very well.

  10. I heard “Get Your Boots On” the first time this morning. I sounded great…until the chorus. I mean, the verses had this early U2/REM sound but the chorus jolted me out of bed. Look, u2 can do a grungy sound. They can do the pop sound. JUST DON’T MIX THE TWO!

  11. Chris–haha Wow, I guess I’m really in the minority liking this song. hehehe

    James–ya, that song does have a nice, open mix to it…slightly loose for my tastes, but it may just be that I’m not too big on the chorus effect on the guitar. ;) But I do like the openness!

  12. Exactly the same for me, bro. When I first heard ‘The Fly’, I thought the world had ended. hehe Now I can’t imagine life without that song…okay, I can, but only a little.

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