U2 – Songs Of Innocence (2014)

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GREAT SONGS:
Every Breaking Wave
Iris (Hold Me Close)
Volcano
The Troubles

VERY GOOD SONGS:
Song For Someone
Raised By Wolves
Sleep Like A Baby Tonight

GOOD SONGS:
The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)
Cedarwood Road
This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now

NOT MY THING:
California (There Is No End To Love)

TRASH:
None

THE CHEESE: Well, shit. I can’t say I saw this coming at all.

 Over the last 17 years U2 had managed to release only three albums. The terribly inconsistent ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind’, the terribly boring ‘How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb’ and the terribly embarrassing ‘No Line On The Horizon.’ Naturally The Cheese’s expectation for the new U2 album was low. The fact the album was five years in the making and had approximately 47 release dates that were not eventually met certainly gave the impression this was U2’s ‘Chinese Democracy’ and the band was perhaps totally spent as a creative force.

But ‘Songs Of Innocence’ is pretty fucking good. Let’s not get carried away – it’s not great. It certainly isn’t even worth comparing to U2’s classic top albums. But it’s a very good album. It’s largely consistent, holds together as an actual album, is sequenced perfectly, is lively and interesting. It’s everything the last two albums were not.

I’m not sure there are any big hits on the album at all. But I don’t give a shit about that because I’m not 14 years old.

Perhaps the best thing about the album is it doesn’t have any crassly and deliberately stupid songs on it like ‘Elevation’, ‘Vertigo’ or ‘Get On Your Boots.’

The top 4 songs are amazing and are a quality I didn’t think the band could record any longer. ‘Volcano’ is easily my favorite U2 song since those 4 great songs on ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind.’ ‘Every Breaking Wave’ is an instant classic U2 song. The lyrics on the whole album are, broadly speaking, very strong.

We’ll let the album sit with us for the next few weeks and then we’ll have to revisit U2’s Cheese. I’m not sure where it ranks in U2’s history – I think it’s probably somewhere in the middle.   And that feels like a huge win as a U2 fan.

The Cheese 10-Tracks The Rest Of U2

‘October’ and ‘No Line On The Horizon’ (11 tracks each) would benefit from being 10-Tracked.  But really, what’s the point?  Those albums stink so bad that it wouldn’t matter what is done to them, they’ll always stink.   Take ‘Stand Up Comedy’ and ‘Unknown Caller’ off the album, put in ‘Winter’ and what do you have?  A turd that smells less bad but is still a turd.

‘War’ also escapes being 10-Tracked because it’s already fairly sleep.  It’s 10 tracks and 42 minutes long, just like an album should be.

‘Achtung Baby’ and ‘Zooropa’ do not need be 1o-Tracked either. Both albums are as close to perfect as you’re ever going to get and don’t need anything done to them.  ‘Zooropa’ is already 10 tracks and ‘Achtung Baby’ is one of those rare albums which is 12 tracks long but every track is strong.

Which leaves ‘Boy’, ‘The Unforgettable Fire’ , ‘The Joshua Tree’ and ‘Pop’ to be Ten-Tracked.  By enlarge these albums only need some tweaking here and there.  They don’t need a total overhaul like ‘Rattle & Hum.’

So, I guess this is it…

Boy

U2_BoyNot much of a change here.  ‘Shadows & Tall Trees’ is by far the weakest track and is dropped to get the track listing down to 10.  The sequencing is just tweaked a little to close with ‘The Ocean’,  I think the album would play just that little better like this.

Side One
1.  I Will Follow
2.  Twilight
3.  An Cat Dubh
4.  Into The Heart
5.  Out Of Control

Side Two
1. Stories For Boys
2. A Day Without Me
3. Another Time, Another Place
4. The Electric Co.
5. The Ocean

The Unforgettable Fire

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 The bulk of the album stays the same, with the pompous and ludicrous ‘Elvis Presley & America’ out and the immeasurably stronger ‘Love Comes Tumbling’ brought in.  Even though it’s only a small change, I much prefer this version of the album.  Side One is still much stronger than Side Two, but the second half is vastly improved by the one, simple change. ‘Love Comes Tumbling’, complete with false start, would make a great opener to Side Two.

Side One
1. A Sort Of Homecoming
2. Pride (In The Name Of Love)
3. Wire
4. The Unforgettable Fire
5. Promenade

Side Two
1. Love Comes Tumbling
2. 4th Of July
3. Bad
4. Indian Summer Sky
5.  MLK

The Joshua Tree

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Even less of a change here.  Basically everything stays the same but ‘Trip Through Your Wires’ is deleted to get it down to 10 tracks.  Now the album is basically perfect.  There’s nothing to skip now.

Side One
1. Where The Streets Have No Name
2. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
3. With Or Without You
4. Bullet The Blue Sky
5. Running To Stand Still

Side Two
1. Red Hill Mining Town
2. In God’s Country
3. One Tree Hill
4. Exit
5. Mothers Of The Disappeared

Pop

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There is a lot right with this album, so not a whole lot is changed here.   The sequencing stays much the same because it works really well.  But cutting it down to 10 tracks really improves the album.  The album is 12 tracks and 60 minutes long, which is insanely bloated for an album that doesn’t have a single hit song on it.

I’d use the version of ‘Gone’ from the ‘Best Of 1990-2000’ which I much prefer.  To me it sounds more like the vastly superior live version.  I’d also include the single version of ‘Please’, which I think is slightly better, though both versions are great,

Of course 10-Tracking ‘Pop’ doesn’t make any hit songs suddenly appear.  It’s an album totally made up of album tracks.  But I much prefer the leaner 10-Track version.  It’s much stronger.

Side One
Discotheque
Do You Feel Loved
Mofo
If God Will Send His Angels
Staring At The Sun

Side Two
Gone
Last Night On Earth
If You Wear That Velvet Dress
Please
Wake Up Dead Man

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The Cheese 10-Tracks U2’s ‘How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb’

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Like ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind’ before it, this album isn’t necessarily being 10-Tracked because it’s too long.  The album isn’t great but that’s not solely the fault of the number of songs (though 11 is too many) or the sequencing (which is terrible.)

The biggest flaw of the album is that a lot of the songs just, basically, sucked ass.  Making it shorter will help (less of a bad thing) and re-sequencing it will help (make it easier to listen to), but nothing would ever turn this into a classic album.

But it could be a good, middle of the road album.

Obviously we’d change the album cover (which is a disaster zone), the whole packaging design (which is awkward and boring) and the album title (which is laughably bad.)

The biggest difficulty with this process is the lack of many strong b-sides or extra tracks from this era to include on the 10-Track version.  The UK and Japanese bonus track ‘Fast Cars’ couldn’t be include on this version, but only because the song is actually quite shit.  It would make a good b-side but it doesn’t belong on any U2 album, that much we do know.

The obvious song to include is ‘Mercy.’  The track that U2 fans either love, hate or have never heard.  I love it and cannot understand why the song was put aside and never finished.  Yes, a more polished version with slightly tighter lyrics is needed.  And a song running 6:30 may never had been a single but it could have been the best song on the album.  It really could have.

Mercy gives us 12 songs.  Which is great news because it means we can lose 2 songs.  Again, it’s fairly obvious what to do:

– ‘Yahweh’ is so bad it can’t even really be described as a song…you’re gone.
– ‘A Man And A Woman’ is an utter embarrassment…you’re out.

It would have been great to lose ‘Love And Peace Or Else’ but it just wasn’t quite as shit as ‘Yahweh’ and ‘A Man And A Woman.’  I wish there was just one more decent b-side from the era so we could have lost this turd of a track.  But there wasn’t.  So we’re stuck with it.

Like ‘Elevation’ on ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind’, I’m afraid we’re also stuck with ‘Vertigo.’  I hate the song but I’m not stupid, it was a huge hit and needs to be on the album.

So, the track listing of the 10-Tracked version of ‘How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb’ looks like this…

Side One
1.  City Of Blinding Lights
2.  Vertigo
3.  Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own
4.  All Because Of You
5.  Original Of The Species

Side Two
1.  Love And Peace Or Else
2.  Miracle Drug
3.  Crumbs From Your Table
4.  One Step Closer
5.  Mercy

Not too bad.

I followed the pattern set in the 10-Tracked version of ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind.’  I’ve changed the opening track just because the ‘City Of Blinding Lights-Vertigo’ duo worked so well as a concert opener and it works with the studio tracks too.  It gives ‘City Of Blinding Lights’ the chance to have the proper, 1 minute extra long opening that it deserves.  I always felt like the song sounded like a radio edit of the actual song and should have had a longer, bigger opening like Streets.  On the 10-Tracked version, it can have it.

I also followed the ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind’ approach by front-loading the hell out of it.  When your cup isn’t exactly overflowing with hits or great tracks…just frontload the fucking thing.  Y’know?

So Side One is made up of all the singles from the album.  I like that. Why not?

‘Love And Peace Or Else’ is a decent opener for Side Two.  The song sucks but the only purpose it could possibly have is to open something/anything because its one redeeming feature is its sort-of cool intro.

‘Mercy’ would make an awesome closer.  Imagine a U2 album where the best and longest track is the closer?  I’d love that.

10 tracks.  Nice and clean.

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The Cheese 10-Tracks U2’s ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind’

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‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind’ is in terrible need of being 10-Tracked, though not because it’s too long.  The album has 11 tracks, which yes…is too long but it isn’t exactly bloated.

U2 were not exactly blessed with an abundance of great material when putting the album together.  Combine that with some fairly poor song choices and it’s no wonder the album has a lot of weak spots.

The first thing to do is the most obvious – cut out most of the absolute turd-shit that made up the album’s second half. ‘  Here, you have to be brutal:

–  ‘Wild Honey’ doesn’t even sound like a U2 song…you’re out.
–  ‘Peace On Earth’ is boring as shit with Year 8 poetry for lyrics…you’re gone.
–  ‘Grace’ is boring and totally pointless, no one has ever listened to it all the way through, ever…you’re cut.

‘New York’ has to stay because musically it’s a beautiful song, everything is right about it and even the melody is great. Bono just really needed to find a different topic and better lyrics.  So in this hypothetical track listing, the song ‘New York’ probably isn’t even called ‘New York.’  It’s called and is about something a whole lot better.  But for clarity, it’ll still be referred to as ‘New York.’

Now for the two inclusions.  And they’re pretty obvious.  U2 had ‘The Ground Beneath Her Feet’ ready to go. It beggars belief they didn’t include it on the album.  Yes, it was written for the soundtrack to the movie ‘The Million Dollar Hotel.’  But the movie was shit-house and nobody saw it and nobody bought the soundtrack.  Why have this great song hidden on a crappy soundtrack to a stupid movie nobody gives a shit about? Put it on the album.

The other inclusion is ‘Electrical Storm’ which was on their stupid Best Of 1990-2000 compilation.  The song was written during the sessions for All That You Can’t Leave Behind but was never finished.  Really?  You put a very good song like ‘Electrical Storm’ to one side because you really want to work on ‘Wild Honey’ or ‘Peace On Earth.’?  Jesus Christ, they’re the biggest band in the world but sometimes it’s like they have no idea what they’re doing.

I’m keeping Elevation, even though the song is a total disgrace.  People like it, so what do I know?  It’s one of their most popular songs since 2000, so I can’t get rid of it.

So, the track listing of the 10-Tracked version of ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind’ looks like this…

Side One
1.  Elevation
2.  Beautiful Day
3.  Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of
4.  Walk On
5.  Kite

Side Two
1.  In A Little While
2.  Electrical Storm
3.  When I Look At The World
4.  New York
5.  The Ground Beneath Her Feet

I like this a whole lot better.  The first half is one of the best Side One’s in U2’s catalogue.  Obviously the 10-Tracked sequencing means the first half is still so much stronger than the second.  But the second half on the actual album is an embarrassment.  This second half on the 10-Tracked version is actually pretty good.

I’ve changed the opening track just because the Elevation-Beautiful Day opening seemed to work well in concert.  Also, Elevation is a shitshow of a song, so I figure – get it done early.  I’d include the cool, trippy intro from the Influx Remix version though, maybe for a minute.  That was cool.

‘The Ground Beneath Her Feet’ would make a great closing track and would end U2’s tradition of finishing their albums on slow, meandering numbers by instead finishing on a mini epic.

10 tracks.  Nice and clean.

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The Cheese 10-Tracks U2’s ‘Rattle & Hum’

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The first album to be 10-Tracked is U2’s ‘Rattle & Hum.’  And it is hard to imagine an album more in need of being 10-Tracked then this monstrosity.

As discussed when ‘Rattle & Hum’ got Given the Cheese, this is one incoherent mess of an album.  Bloated to 17 tracks and over 70 minutes long, the album is a  mix of studio tracks and live tracks that make no sense next to each other.  As a result, the album is awful to listen through from start to finish.

It’s not that the content is bad.  By enlarge most of the tracks are actually good, some are even great.  The problem is they are not served well at all by the overall concept of the album.

The first step was to get rid of all of the live tracks.  It’s either a live album or a studio album…it can’t be both.  And the studio material is strong here.  Some of the live stuff is great and that’s okay – they’d make great b-sides.

That leaves 9 studio tracks but sadly we had to lose one of them, ‘God Part II’, on the grounds of it being a total shit-sandwitch.  It’s a sequel to John Lennon’s ‘God’, one of the greatest songs ever written.  It’s not only that the song is not all that good, especially when compared to the original.  It was also total proof to anyone who needed it that U2 had disappeared up their own ass by 1988 if they felt they should be the band to write a sequel to that song.  It shouldn’t even be a b-side, the concept is that ridiculous.  It can be on the bonus disc of the 20th anniversary edition of Rattle & Hum though.  That’s okay.

To get us to 10 tracks, the answer is pretty obvious.  Rattle & Hum had some decent studio b-sides, though most of them were covers.  ‘Everlasting Love’ is the most famous of these and is still played on local radio 26 years later.  Two killer b-sides were ‘Hallelujah Here She Comes’ and ‘A Room At The Heartbreak Hotel.’  Neither are up there with the great hits  from this album (Desire, Angel Of Harlem & All I Want Is You) but they are every bit as good as any of the album tracks.

I kept ‘When Love Comes To Town’ even though I think it might suck.  It’s kind of a shitty song but it was fairly popular, so why leave it off?  People sort of liked it at the time, I guess.

So, the first track listing of an album to be 10-Tracked looks like this…

Side One
1.  Van Diemen’s Land
2.  Desire
3.  Hawkmoon 269
4.  When Love Comes To Town
5.  Hallelujah Here She Comes

Side Two
1.  Heartland
2.  Angel Of Harlem
3.  Love Rescue Me
4.  A Room At The Heartbreak Hotel
5.  All I Want Is You

Much better.

Side Two is probably a bit of a cheat because it goes slow-fast-slow-fast-slow.  But I like it.  I like there are two singles per side, I like Heartland opening Side Two.

10 tracks.  Nice and clean.

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U2 Gets Given The Cheese

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In the final analysis, the correct ranking of U2’s albums is:

01  Achtung Baby
02  The Joshua Tree
03  Zooropa
04  The Unforgettable Fire
05  Pop
06  All That You Can’t Leave Behind
07  Rattle & Hum
08  Boy
09  War
10  How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb
11  No Line On The Horizon
12  October

Albums 1-3 are three of my all-time favourite album by any band.

The Unforgettable Fire is not far behind the top 3.  Not really at all.

Albums 5-9 are all fundamently flawed in one way or another but have enough strong moments to make them good albums.

Albums 10-12 are shite.

So…U2 has been given the Cheese.

cheerssweetbaby

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U2 – Non-Album Tracks

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These non-album tracks from U2 would rank high if they were included on one of their albums.  Most probably should have been put on an album.  Though some are covers…so, yeah, that probably would not be okay with me having them on an album.  But anyway, these songs are really good :

11 O’Clock Tick Tock
Love Comes Tumbling
A Room At The Heartbreak Hotel
Everlasting Love
Heaven & Hell
Slow Dancing
Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me
The Sweetest Thing
The Ground Beneath Her Feet
Never Let Me Go
Electrical Storm
Mercy
Winter