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Artist: U2

U2

Bio

U2 are an Irish rock band from Dublin formed in 1976. The group consists of Bono (lead vocals and rhythm guitar), the Edge (lead guitar, keyboards, and backing vocals), Adam Clayton (bass guitar), and Larry Mullen Jr. (drums and percussion). Initially rooted in post-punk, U2's musical style evolved throughout their career, yet has maintained an anthemic sound built on Bono's expressive vocals and the Edge's effects-based guitar textures. Their lyrics, often embellished with spiritual imagery, focus on personal and sociopolitical themes. Popular for their live performances, the group have staged several ambitious and elaborate tours over their career. The band formed at Mount Temple Comprehensive School in 1976 when the members were teenagers with limited musical proficiency. Within four years, they signed with Island Records and released their debut album, Boy (1980). Subsequent work such as their first UK number-one album, War (1983), and the singles "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "Pride (In the Name of Love)" helped establish U2's reputation as a politically and socially conscious group. By the mid-1980s, they had become renowned globally for their live act, highlighted by their performance at Live Aid in 1985. The group's fifth album, The Joshua Tree (1987), made them international superstars and was their greatest critical and commercial success. Topping music charts around the world, it produced their only number-one singles in the US, "With or Without You" and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For". Facing creative stagnation and a backlash following their documentary/double album, Rattle and Hum (1988), U2 reinvented themselves in the 1990s through a new musical direction and public image. Beginning with their acclaimed seventh album, Achtung Baby (1991), and the multimedia-intensive Zoo TV Tour, the band integrated influences from alternative rock, electronic dance music, and industrial music into their sound, and embraced a more ironic, flippant image. This experimentation continued through their ninth album, Pop (1997), and the PopMart Tour, which were mixed successes. U2 regained critical and commercial favour with the records All That You Can't Leave Behind (2000) and How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (2004), which established a more conventional, mainstream sound for th
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News

U2 - Songs of Innocence - Exclaim! (Reviews)

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U2 - Songs of Innocence

There's a fine line between desperation and hope and, while they often write anthemic songs about the promise of the human spirit (or something), U2 has always been a very desperate band. At their most interesting, (around 1987's The Joshua Tree and through to 1991's Achtung Baby), they were still viewed suspiciously by music purists, as foreign geeks with naked ambition and obvious gimmickry (the Edge's treated, heart-string-pulling guitar progressions, his and Bono's lofty lyricism and overwrought vocals). They spoke so openly about their desire to be "the biggest band in the...Read More

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Songs of Innocence (Deluxe Edition) by U2 - ArtistDirect

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09/09/2014
$16.99

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# 3 - No Line on the Horizon - U2 - MSN (Releases)

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No Line on the Horizon by U2 released March 03, 2009

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Articles

U2: A Perspective Q, Jan 1991

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WHEN U2's recent Number 1 single 'The Fly' first came on the radio, it sounded like a confused mess, an irritating jangle of throbbing guitars juxtaposed with falsetto passages seemingly grafted on at random. Rumours of Achtung Baby's Berlin experiments and subsequent mixing problems had been circling for months; 'The Fly' seemed to confirm that in their desperation to move on from the American roots of Rattle And Hum, U2 had simply come unstuck. Three or four plays later, 'The Fly' sounded like the freshest thing on the airwaves and that falsetto transition grew stranger, more sudden and more beautiful. U2 had reinvented themselves once again.

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U2 have dominated the rock landscape for over a decade now: it's grown harder to recall how original Boy sounded when it appeared in 1980. Punk had grown sour, Joy Division's angst and the Bunnymen's metaphysical speculations were beginning to create a post-punk rock and the boy's innocent face on the sleeve and the first guitar rush of 'I Will Follow 'sounded otherworldly, almost alien.

U2's sound seemed to have come out of nowhere. As Bono admitted at the time, U2 were a lousy covers band so they'd been obliged to create their own sound. "There's not much music I do like, and I realise that our biggest influences are each other," he admitted. With hindsight, Larry Mullen's crashing drums, some of Edge's more obviously glam riffs and the choruses of songs like 'Stories For Boys' are distant cousins of punk's football terrace clichés. Boy's drive and exuberance belongs to punk but the band's emotional palette seemed wholly fresh. The doubt of 'Shadows And Tall Trees', the dread of 'Twilight' and the spiritual devotion of 'Into The Heart' displayed a direct spiritual drive as mysterious as it was urgent. Rock had grown up on a bedrock of the blues and teenage sexual yearnings. Here was a music thriving on teenage spiritual awakenings with a musical approach that owed next to nothing to tradition. October (1981) turned the yearnings of Boy into a brutal mixture of spiritual affirmation and looming doubt. 'Gloria's chiming guitar opening was utterly exhilarating and although the chorus already presaged the pomposity that threatened to be the band's downfall in the mid-'80s, U2 still sounded like they'd found a new way of getting gone. The Edge's guitar now mixed rhythmic drive with some furious riffing and if some of the songs sounded rushed or incomplete ('I Threw A Brick Through A Window'), there was still room amongst the riffing and the drum attack for the pensive, piano-backed introspection of the title track.

By 1983's War, Bono's mouth and the hectic touring schedule had begun to turn U2 into a crusade. The spiritual turmoil remained but now the boy on the cover was older and bloodied and the band looked outward at the mess of the world. 'New Year's Day' gave U2 their first real hit and 'Sunday Bloody Sunday' gave them an anthem and a white flag that they proceeded to wave round the world. No matter that U2 sounded like they were turning their own insights into cliches with 'Two Hearts Beat As One', Bono was undoubtedly emerging as a singer of emotive power, the rhythm section were turning basic skills into an art form and The Edge was already the most original guitarist of the '80s. U2 Live: Under A Blood Red Sky (1983) marked a kind of apotheosis for the early U2 as Bono turned into a cheerleader and the band seemed to grow drunk on their own power and the delirium of crowds in Boston, Denver and Germany.

They had turned into a phenomenon and while their shows dripped drama, there was something increasingly insufferable about Bono's antics. U2's otherworldly soundscapes seemed in danger of thickening into an '80s version of pomp rock and their spiritual questions seemed to be turning into slogans. U2 promptly proved their depth of character by swopping producers (Eno and Daniel Lanois for Steve Lillywhite), dropping much of the bombast and recovering the rapt, personal quality that gives their best work its integrity. The Unforgettable Fire (1984) sounds like the band made it for themselves. The hit 'Pride (In The Name Of Love)' kept the breastbeating element of their audience happy and ensured that the global reputation continued to swell but the album is distinguished by the warm, ambient textures of the production and a hard won lyricism that turn 'A Sort of Homecoming' and the title track into gradually building dramas whose impact is all the richer for not being signposted by one of those trademark swelling choruses.

Titles like '4th Of July' and 'Elvis Presley And America' were evidence that U2 were finding new subjects during their constant US tours but the album's high spots, 'Wire' and 'Bad', focused on the plight of friends and Dublin drug addiction. Bono's singing was charismatic throughout and he seemed to have finally controlled his Joan of Arc complex.

The Joshua Tree (1987) turned U2 into global superstars as they finally learnt to combine their multi-textured sound with the kind of melodies that fans could sing as well as sway along to. Bono talked about how he and U2 had discovered the song and the single success of 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For', 'With Or Without You' and 'Where The Streets Have No Name' proved him right. U2 still sounded explosive on 'Trip Through Your Wires' or 'Bullet The Blue Sky' but there was a new, meditative maturity, coupled with an ever growing sense of social responsibility that blossomed in 'Mothers Of The Disappeared'.

Above all, U2 had rediscovered the vulnerable, questing spirit of their beginnings and allied it to their hardwon maturity. The Amnesty tours and their newly established place in the rock elite ensured that U2 were now spending more and more time with rock legends like Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan. They had started out as a band that almost boasted of their rootlessness, now they went in search of the past they'd missed. Rattle And Hum (1988) accompanied the film of the same name and combined a towering live version of 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For' (complete with backing from the New Voices Of Freedom Choir) with new material that teamed U2 with Dylan and B.B. King. In their breathless way, U2 announced that they'd fallen in love with rock history and there was more than a hint of Sun Records and Bo Diddley in 'Desire', the first Number 1 single. A sprawling celebration of the live U2 and their latest obsessions, Rattle And Hum showed they had lost none of their inquisitive drive, even if they occasionally seemed somewhat swamped and starstruck by their dawning awareness of the American past. Four years later, U2 were in Berlin, working on a dark, European record. Still hungry, still unafraid to fall on their arses, still staring at the stars.


U2: Boy NME, Oct 1980

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I LOVE U2. I worry about U2. Hearing their debut single 'Out Of Control' and seeing them play in Ireland, I fell for their undismayed punch and tenacity. They were an expansive and exclusive pop group and I couldn't see them failing. Since then they've walked purposefully into the turmoil of a changed and unchangeable rock world, its expectancy and competitiveness, and they're not braving it as well as they can.

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The group, noticeably singer Bono, were always worried that a certain conventionality was cramping the group. To counteract that, since the beginning of the year, casting newly-opened ears all around, U2's music opened up like a flower. Their music uncoiled.

This development happened as they signed to Island, wilted under well intentioned sycophancy, worked with hero Martin Hannett, leaving him behind as the association harmed them more than helped, and released two singles. These singles indicated that U2 were something more – for better or worse – than a post-Skids/Jam punk-pop group.

Live, U2 have been appallingly erratic: nervous, over-eager, musically unsure. This yearning to develop their pop pushed their music into the shady areas where the accusation 'heavy metal' was easily levelled. Since they've signed to Island I've been faced with almost unanimous derision from friends whose musical passions are usually the same as mine: they don't like U2. At all.

As with Penetration – whose dynamic but decorative music U2 have renovated with infectious potency – their structural inventiveness and the shifting might and fragility of guitars have seen them dismissed as a slipshod and plain post-Boomtown punk group on the verge of a turgid HM excess. I can't understand that.

The group have sacrificed the easily achieved immediacy and accessibility of a straightforward pop group for a multi-climactic, archly atmospheric, articulately over-emphatic, tantalisingly gentle sound that can rise to a dramatic peak of power and swoop to an elegaic whisper. It's still pop, still conceived with a fresh, flushed brashness. The problem is, U2 try too hard, go for something special, transcendent, EPIC, and nearly miss out. Too much style, not enough experience.

The production of Boy is therefore important. In silly hands, U2's gooey ambition could have ended up sounding like a fidgety, badly camouflaged empty heavy-pop. Steve Lillywhite's production is strict enough to harness U2's tearaway ambition. U2's desire to pad out and puff up the music is never allowed to run amok. Lillywhite allows The Edge's moody, meritorious guitar to flare and flutter all over the place, sets the drums loud and looming, the bass big, and then puts Bono's expressive vocals high up in the mix: wide-scale drama all the way, stylishly emphasising the good things in U2. It's elaborate, but it's hot up in the clouds.

As is common with most debut LPs these days, Boy is a compilation of life-time best. (Hopefully a beginning. U2 have a long way to grow.) The opening 'I Will Follow', a song about losing warmth and safety, is immediately grand. 'Twilight', a precociously clear vision of growing up, is effectively restrained and harmonious, tripping guitars typically bursting out over a trim rhythm. 'An Cat Dubh' is florid but fluent. The sensitive and wilful naivity of 'Into The Heart' crystallises the soft disillusionment of Boy: U2 don't yet know enough to be totally pessimistic. A new 'Out Of Control' is a fleeting meeting with the disregarded straight pop: the old breathlessness with their new precision.

Side two's racy, reflective 'Stories For Boys' drops into the slight, impressionistic, 'Ocean'. The Edge's guitar work is constantly a highlight on this LP. His pattern-work on 'Day Without Me' is light and striking. The excited tenderness of 'Another Time, Another Place' shows that U2 will be flamboyant, but they won't lose impact. The Edge's guitar swarms all the way through 'Electric Co.', almost toppling the song over, and the final acoustic-based weepie 'Shadows And Tall Trees' will truly test dissenters' patience for U2's evocative pop.

Musically, then, the word is sophistication not spontaneity. It's left to Bono to carry any abandon and passion. He sings heartfelt, beautifully observed lyrics of innocence, failure, sadness with a fearless sentimentality – something else that upsets the non-believers – and poignant urgency. A mixture of the ordinary and the bizarre, a series of shadowy, menacing, lyrical vignettes that are sung as if they're dear, dark secrets being wrenched away. They are songs of emotional uncertainty and extreme insecurity. The title Boy refers to Bono, his boyish rapt imaginings, to the recurring use of the word 'boy' in the songs, as Bono symbolises his confusion and reflects, beneath the music's meticulous presentation, the essential innocence of U2. (A decaying innocence.) The sense of wonder. It mixes peculiarly with the music's obstinate melodrama.

I find Boy touching, precocious, full of archaic flourishes and modernist conviction, genuinely strange. It won't eradicate the grey feelings people have about U2, but it reinforces the affection I have for their character and emotionally forceful music. It's not radical, in many ways it's traditionalist, but it's honest, direct and distinctive communication with not a sign of complacency or foolish certainty.

I love U2. You may worry about me loving U2. Don't.

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Top Albums

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Achtung Baby cover art

Achtung Baby

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The Joshua Tree cover art

The Joshua Tree

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The Best of 1980-1990 cover art

The Best of 1980-1990

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Top Songs

With or Without You cover art

With or Without You

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Beautiful Day cover art

Beautiful Day

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One cover art

One

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Sunday Bloody Sunday cover art

Sunday Bloody Sunday

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Vertigo cover art

Vertigo

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PRIDE (IN THE NAME OF LOVE) cover art

PRIDE (IN THE NAME OF LOVE)

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Recommended Albums

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More Friends by Bono

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