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Thursday, June 29, 2006

No, please, not more U2

I'm sorry. But I feel compelled to say something....

The Underground Online has been posting all sorts of Top 11 songs lists lately -- like the top 11 songs about God, the top 11 songs about Satan, the top 11 catchiest songs, the top 11 songs you've never heard and on and on. Well, I'm a sucker for lists and after reading the U2 lists, I thought, "Maybe I need to get in on the action."

Last week they had a list of the 11 greatest U2 songs and then this week a list of the 11 worst U2 songs. The author who compiles them and writes the commentary is a good writer; he's really funny, he obviously knows his U2 and he holds "Joshua Tree" in no special esteem. You have to like him for that.

But, then he screwed up. Big time. To whit, he left "One" off his greatest list and had "Bullet the Blue Sky" on his worst list. I think most folks -- even the most casual of U2 fans -- would agree this is just crazy talk (and I know Dave is somewhere saying to himself right now, "I can name a lot more than 11 lame U2 songs" and I've made peace with that).

Anyway, enough talk, on to a more definitive list.

Rob's 11 Greatest U2 Songs
11. "Pride (In the Name of Love)" -- undisputedly classic U2. The song moves, it sounds big and it effortlessly, and I mean effortlessly, moves between themes of politics, religion and love like nobody's business.

10. "The Sweetest Thing" the B-side not the single -- Plays opposite to the big anthems and political statement songs that are, of course, signature U2. It's a fun, bouncy pop song about painful love.

9. From a long time ago "Stories for Boys" -- Half of the "Boy" album should probably be on this list, but "Stories" rises to the top. Simply an amazingly catchy song on teenage angst, growing up and trying to figure out life.

8. "Beautiful Day" -- It's almost paint-by-the-numbers U2. But what ultimately saves it and makes it great is the huge guitar riff and killer melody.

7. "New Year's Day" -- Another song that is simply U2 at their finest. And you listen to the live version from the '83 Red Rocks show and you hear Edge's guitar just blister with sound. It's pretty intense.

6. "Bad" -- When I think U2 live, I think "Bad." A lot of people might argue "Streets" is U2's signature live song. And maybe it is. But for my money, "Bad" encapsulates everything that makes U2 great.

5. "If You Wear That Velvet Dress" -- You can't do a list like this and just regurgitate their great hits. "Velvet Dress" has long been a favorite of mine simply because it's one of the most subtle, beautiful and atmospheric songs the band has ever recorded. It's only surpassed by...

4. "With or Without You" -- As overplayed as it is, as worn out as it is by junior high school dance DJs, this song still hits all the right emotional cues. It's just an amazing piece of work.

3. "Sunday Bloody Sunday" -- This one doesn't even need commentary. "Wipe the tears from your blood shot eyes."

2. "One" -- An absolutely amazing song. It has a simple, wonderful melody, it hits all sorts of big themes and ideas and it's just beautiful to listen to. Easily one of the greatest songs anyone has ever written.

1. "Stay (Far Away, So Close) -- The greatest song U2 has ever written? That's what I'm saying and not just because Bono agrees. The song is like a well crafted puzzle. It takes the individual strengths from all four members of the band and becomes something that is truly greater than the sum of its parts. The lyrics are deceptively complex and wonderfully descriptive. The melody is emotional and bittersweet. The band came together and produced something they have yet to surpass.

Rob's Worst 11 U2 Songs
11. "The Refugee" -- H.L. really digs this song, and I would argue it could easily reside on both the best and worst lists. For the simple reason that the song is so bad, it's good. But in the interest of time and simplicity, we'll just call it a really bad song and throw it on this list. The song itself is the result of a collaboration between U2 and the Clash's producer Bill Whelan. And the result is clear: don't mix U2 with the Clash. It's like eating Doritos with chocolate milk.

10. "The Playboy Mansion" -- I know, another one H.L. likes, so again, I'm sorry. But I can't stand this song. A great example of Bono just trying way too hard. "If O.J. is more than a drink/And a Big Mac bigger than you think" and on to the gates of the Playboy Mansion.

9. "Original of Species" -- Cool title, great concept. I want to like this song. I really do. But I just can't, hard as I try. "I'll give you everything you want/Except that thing that you want." I'm sorry. I can't excuse that.

8. "Stranger in a Strange Land" -- "October" has a handful of sub-par tracks and this is probably the biggest offender. It's starts off really strong and then just as quickly goes absolutely no where. Kind of disappointing.

7. "Summer Rain" -- An out take from the "All That You Can't Leave Behind" sessions (man, this album really takes a hit) the song just infuriates me. Listening to it is the sonic equivalent of spinning around forever on one of those playground carousels.

6. "Unchained Melody" -- A cover from the "Achtung Baby" era. I've never really liked the song, well, I've always kind of hated it, and U2 certainly gives it nothing new. It's a bad cover of a bad song.

5. "Miami" -- I used to kind of dig this song. But the more I listen to it, the less I like it. It's awkward, tries to paint a picture of something, American culture? Floridian culture? A young boy's love of all things kitsch? It's just not very good.

4. "Wild Honey" -- Witness these lyrics, the opening stanza from the song: "In the days/When we were swinging from the trees/I was a monkey/Stealing honey from a swarm of bees." 'Nuff said.

3. "New York" -- They got the song to kind of work in the live show. But there's not really anything you can do to make it good. It's a mess of lyrics with no real melody.

2. "Angel of Harlem" -- I've hated this song for a long time. "Rattle and Hum" has some great tracks on it and U2 does some really cool stuff experimenting with old school rhythm and blues. But "Angel" is not one of them. Even if it was recorded at Sun Studios. It's obnoxious, it's grating and I just can't stand the horn section. That doesn't mean U2 can't have a horn section. "Red Light" off of "War" is a great song in large part because of the horn section. Anyway, I could go the rest of my life and never hear "Angel" again and be very happy.

1. "Grace" -- I've never been able to listen to this song all the way through. It's so stupid it makes me angry. Mainly, it's looking at the lyrics to the song and comparing them with anything else the band has written. It makes you want to bang your head on something hard. "Grace/It's a name for a girl/It's also a thought that changed the world." It's a nice sentiment. But man, talk about crappy execution.

So there it is. I know this is way too long and if you've read this far you deserve some kind of a special treat. The Rob Report will reward you for it. But first I have to get out the Perfect Pop Song Cds. That's right, I haven't forgotten. I'm just out of burnable CDs.


Urpy said...

HL is going to be very angry with you when he sees that you have dissed all of his favorite songs. I'd like to mention that some of your favorite U2 songs just happen to be your special songs with old girlfriends. That's pretty much why I can't completely love them (the songs, not the girlfriends).

TheRobRogers said...

You know, I purposefully tried to steer clear of that so that none of these songs would be tied to any girls. And they're not.

Stephanie said...

I'm proud to say that I didn't know one single one of the U2 songs on your "worst list." Its sad to say but I'm a "Greatest Hits" kind of girl. I like the classic U2 songs with my absolute favorite being "Sunday Bloody Sunday" I was happy to see that was near the top of your best of list. It make me feel cool :)

Scott's Blog said...

"Pride" is my favorite U2 song. I like "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" and "New Years Day". It seems I've heard a song called "Party Girl" that was pretty cool.

I also like "Vertigo" and "Numb", but it seems that if the song turned out to be a Top 40 hit then I liked it.

However, I don't care much for "One" or "With or Without You" and I've never liked "Angel of Harlem". And I must admit that I only recognized 1 of your bottom 11.

Anyway, good write up. I'm a big fan of lists as well. Keep 'em coming.

TheRobRogers said...

"Party Girl" is a great song.

Looking back over the list, it seems I'm not too keen on the new U2. Six of the 11 worst songs are from their last two albums. Eight of the 11 are from their last three albums. I guess that makes me an old man. Pretty soon I'll be starting posts with "Back in my day..."

Diana said...

Even if I don't completely agree with your list i have to respect your reasons and I do agree with alot of it. I'm a sucker for "Sometimes you can't make it on your own". Maybe its because its the perfect performance song for Bono. He taps into his Bonism and sings the song it makes me want to cry. Its a perfect Bono song. Plus I personally love Acrobat. Maybe its because I quoted the chorus for my graduation speech, maybe 'cause its another one of those perfect Bono songs...but i love it! Cool list Rob. I want my treat!

TheRobRogers said...

Ohhhh, you'll get your treat. You'll all get your treat. Bwahahahaha! But seriously, I reward my readers.

HL Rogers said...

You have to love "Refugee". It's audacious, experimental, and fun to dance to--if you can keep the beat. But I'll forgive you that one. I cannot forgive "Playboy Mansion". Although I certainly wouldn't put it on the list of 11 best, it also does not belong with the worst. Have you forgotten "Daddy's Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car." Sure, they made it work live but the album version is simply a mess, a mess! Swap those two and you've got a list I can live with.

On the greatest list, you should think about making it a best 12 and adding "Gone". Or maybe a best 13, no a greatest 14, no 15. Oh crap. Just throw a list together of 90% of everything done from Pop back and about 60% of everything done after Pop and then you gotta a LIST BABY!!

TheRobRogers said...

I think you're on to something there, H. It's almost like there's a mathmatical formula for it. And in retrospect, "Gone" should be on the list. The song still blows me away. And I go back and forth. I like the new mix better, then I like the old mix better.

As far as "Playboy Mansion" goes, I'm standing by my decision.

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