Trust the Gene Genie

Thursday, January 15, 2009

If you don't know...

I know this isn't anything anyone is going to want to read, but I guess that's why it's the Rob Report and not the Kofi Report. But, as you may be aware, U2 has a new album out March 3 and so, between now and then to get us prepared, I wanted throw up a few U2-centric lists on the old blog.

To kick things off, I present Rob's 10 Most Underrated and Underappriciated U2 Songs. These are the tracks that either time forgot, time wrote off or time was so busy listening to the new Icehouse that it didn't realize side 2 on that latest U2 album had some really great stuff.

We'll divide the list in two -- like a good LP. The first half will be overlooked songs from proper studio albums. The second will be lesser-known B-sides and other extracurricular activities.

So without any further ado (in no particular order), let's get started:

10. "Drowning Man," track 5 from 1983's "War." This is easily one of the most gorgeous songs U2 has ever recorded. It's a quiet and almost ethereal tune that's made all the most haunting by Edge's decision to use an acoustic guitar through most of the song. And behind it all is this thundering drum and bassline that just pulls the song further and further into the ground. It gets lost easily amid the tumult of "Sunday Bloody Sunday," "New Year's Day" and "Two Hearts Beat as One." But you go back and listen to it and realize it's just as powerful as those songs. And then you wonder, why have I never heard this before?

9. "Do You Feel Loved," track 2 from 1997's "Pop." In all honesty, just about anything off "Pop" would probably fit on this list. By far U2's most underrated album, "Pop" is a dizzy, dark and emotional record that includes some of the band's best songwriting and over-the-top sonic experiments. They don't all work -- for which the album was quickly written off and scorned by critics and fans alike. But then you put the disc on and "Do You Feel Loved" comes up you're sucked right in. It's got a great buzzy little guitar hook, lush, lush production and some of the best lyrics Bono has written. "With my teeth at your back/And my tongue to tell you the sweetest lies/Do you feel loved."

8. "Rejoice," track 4 from 1981's "October." U2's other forgotten album, "October" admittedly has more emotion and energy than it does stand-out songs. That being said, it's got a couple hidden gems. Among them is "Rejoice," an upbeat anthem that pulses along with this expansive, heavy drumming from Larry and one of Edge's least known but catchiest guitar hooks that kicks in during the song's final third.

7. "Another Time, Another Place," track 9 from 1980's "Boy." It's hard to claim any track from "Boy" is underappreciated or forgotten, but "Another Time, Another Place" probably comes closer than anything else, falling between "Stories for Boys" and "The Electric Co." and so usually skipped over as listeners work through the album. But it's a great example of how, with a great chorus, a mediocre song can really transcend to solid, catchy pop tune. It's hard to keep from just busting out and singing when Bono starts wailing, "Another time/Another place/We lie/Another child has lost the race."

6. "Promenade," track 5 from 1984's "The Unforgettable Fire." Another beautiful, swirling song that admittedly is mostly just Bono free-associating lyrics in front of the microphone. Easily lost amid the album's huge numbers "Pride," "A Sort of Homecoming" and the title track, "Promenade" sneaks in unnoticed as this indelible little love song. It has just a gorgeous melody, it has the benefit of being short and a few of the couplets that Bono does manage to string together make the track burst with emotion. "And I, like a firework, explode/Roman candle lightning lights up the sky."

5. "Big Girls Are Best," single from the "All That You Can't Leave Behind" sessions. This is one of my all time favorite U2 songs. It's a funky, groovy little number about pregnancy, motherhood and desire. And who can an argue with a line like, "She's got a smile like salvation/She knows big girls are best"?

4. "Love Comes Tumbling," single from "The Unforgettable Fire" sessions. This is a mellow, almost chant of a song that has this wonderful little guitar riff from Edge that just makes the song move. Like much of the material from "The Unforgettable Fire," it's atmospheric and almost tangible. But "Love" seems to have a little more structure, a little more solid ground beneath it than much of the other material they were producing at the time. It's a great little track.

3. "Can't Help Falling In Love," single from the "Achtung Baby!" sessions. Officially, it's the Triple Peaks Remix version that's incredible. It showed up first as a remix in the "Kiwi" compilation released with "Propaganda," the band's official fan club magazine in the early '90s. It's one of the best cover songs in the history of cover songs and it showcases almost better than any other U2 track Bono's strength for pouring erotic, myterious and spell-binding emotion into a song. (The other being "If You Wear That Velvet Dress" from "Pop".)

2. "Salome," single from the "Achtung Baby!" sessions. I remember when I first heard this song shortly after high school I had a hard time believing it was U2. It sounded completely different from anything they'd done. Closer in spirit with "Mysterious Ways," the song is just this killer groove that literally makes you stand up and move when you hear it. It's brilliant.

1. "I'm Not Your Baby," track from the "Pop" sessions. There are two version of this song, one without lyrics that shows up as a b-side on the "Please" single. The other is a duet with Sinead O'Connor that ended up on "The End of Violence" soundtrack and, as far as I can tell, no where else. And it's easily one of the greatest things U2 has ever laid to tape. It's this gritty little electronica piece that somehow still manages to showcase each member of the band at their best. The lyrics are brilliant, Sinead adds heft and her back and forth with Bono through the song leaves you wishing she recorded with the band more often. It's lushly produced with layers and layers of sounds that add weight without weighing the song down. It just moves. I listen to that and I get excited for new U2. Here's hoping the new stuff will be worth getting excited about.


Ronifer269 said...

Rob you owe me a copy of "I'm not your baby". I'm not sure if I've heard it.

Nik said...

I know it's crazy but I always had a fetish for the maligned "Zooropa" tune "Numb." A lot of the stuff from that era doesn't hold up but I dig that one.

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