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Old 02-19-2009, 06:41 PM   #1
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Passengers

I'm listening to this album for the first time ever right now. I've gotten up to track 7 so far (Miss Sarajevo).

Slug has something going on in there that reminds me of Cedars of Lebanon.

So far my opinion is pretty positive on this album. Since Million Dollar Hotel they haven't really gone all out experimental with any songs except Fez. Wish they'd do it more.

I love the atmosphere all the weird sounds create... they could totally incorporate the sounds they use here into more traditional U2 songs.
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Old 02-19-2009, 06:52 PM   #2
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Passengers, Achtung Baby and Unforgettable Fire are my favourites. They all sound rather abstract in comparison to the rest of the catalogue.
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Old 02-19-2009, 07:10 PM   #3
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Here's hoping NLOTH is a massive success, so that the boys are more willing - artistically and monetarily - to indulge in these kinds of departures more frequently.

Passengers is a real gem. Your Blue Room =
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Old 02-19-2009, 07:46 PM   #4
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Well said. I've just heard No Line for the first time, and I'm blown away. I actually love how similar it is to both Unforgettable Fire and the Passengers. Two albums that I feel are like beautiful watercolours.
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Old 02-19-2009, 08:01 PM   #5
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Your Blue Room is my favorite U2 song.
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Old 02-19-2009, 08:05 PM   #6
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I wrote a review of Passengers for epinions a month ago, and it sums up my feelings pretty well, so I'll just copy/paste that.

Quote:
As a new U2 release looms (specifically No Line On The Horizon, out March 3 in the US), I thought it would be nice to dig back into their discography to a place where no casual U2 acquaintance would dare to tread. A place where even U2 themselves tend to tug at their collar a bit. A place so experimental that even Zooropa begins to feel inadequate after the first seemingly aimless soundscapes within its borders come to greet it. You probably wouldn't even know what I'm talking about if it weren't for the title and cover of the album in question hanging over this review.

Within the history of entertainment and literature, there have been thousands of documented alter egos and pseudonyms. As the old saying goes, "give a man a mask, and he will tell you the truth." Anonymity can be quite liberating, as the thousands of idiots commenting on youtube right now can attest. When there are no expectations of you, nearly anything and everything becomes acceptable. U2 clearly had this in mind when they chose to release this album under the pseudonym Passengers. When you think about it, producer Brian Eno was in many ways an honorary member of U2 at that time, and had been for many years. After an 11 year partnership and numerous projects, to put him through whatever hazing rituals are involved in becoming a U2 member does not necessarily give off the impression that a shockingly experimental record will soon follow. However, as you read this review and possibly listen to the album for yourself, you'll realize that releasing this under a pseudonym was a necessary evil.

Most here at epinions have a cursory knowledge of U2. If you do not..

U2 were formed in 1976 as a Dublin punk rock quartet. Well, they were billed as one anyway. Influenced by the likes of Television, The Who, and Patti Smith, U2 had a bit more creative ambition than their peers, if not musical chops. Their 1980 debut, Boy, has always struck me as one of the most fully-formed and ambitious (yet simultaneously energetic) debut records of its time (EG: it's one of my favorites). U2 brought the atmospheric elements of Joy Division's gothic post-punk to straightforward punk rock to create the joyous, arena-sized rock n' roll heard on hits like "I Will Follow", "Gloria", "Sunday Bloody Sunday", and "New Years Day". Their sound changed on a dime in 1984 when they enlisted Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois to produce for them. They offered U2 the opportunity to turn over a more anthemic, atmospheric leaf, which they accepted wholeheartedly, and many ubiquitous radio hits resulted. In the late '80s, U2 grew weary of this direction and metamorphosed themselves into a glittery example of post-modern irony with Achtung Baby, the aforementioned Zooropa, and their resulting tour, ZooTV. Known for his seminal electronic rock and cinematic soundscapes recorded solo and with David Bowie in the late '70s, Brian Eno was no stranger to what U2 would follow up this already experimental duo of albums with. As a matter of fact, he was, in many ways, the driving force behind the project.

Following the ZooTV tour, U2 found themselves physically exhausted, but still buzzing with creativity, misguided or otherwise. Following discussion of potentially working on a film soundtrack, Eno encouraged the group to start recording in a less controlled, more improvised manner, utilizing fewer overdubs. Released in 1995, Original Soundtracks 1 shows U2 not at a crossroads, but merely indulging in their every creative whim. The sessions were often closer to free-form jazz than the U2 of old and that, along with the highly conceptual air of the album as a whole (in the liner notes of the album, the tracks are matched with the films they were supposedly written for; some of the films actually exist, others were thought up in the studio), prompted U2 to release the album under the name Passengers.

Obviously, Original Soundtracks 1 was heavily influenced by Eno's solo work, specifically 1978's Music For Films. Unlike that album, however, OS1 is far more sprawling and boasts numerous tracks that surpass the 4:13 mark (the running time of the longest Music For Films track). It could be argued that Music For Films is more coherent, as it doesn't cover as much ground as OS1, but this album has more meat to it, and several of its tracks can stand on its own outside of the context of the album. Hell, "Miss Sarajevo" went to #6 in the UK.

For me, this album is split into two halves. One half being far more cohesive and, frankly, of higher quality (it also boasts the albums only tracks that the casual U2 fan will have any interest in), while the other half is comprised of musical experiments both fascinating and painful, though rarely pleasant. It is in this second half that the album begins to feel like the overlong, underwritten electronic mush that the first half could have been but avoided being, thanks in large part to superior songwriting. However, there are a few gems in there as well, so don't write it off just yet. Let's start with the first half.

Opening track "United Colours" is more or less the litmus test for your full enjoyment of OS1. If you get a kick out of its filtered drums, unsettling use of (electronic?) brass, and general cacophony, this might just be the album for you. Over time, I've genuinely come to appreciate this song's awkwardly funky beat and use of automobile engines for the use of sonic badassery, but there's no guarantee that you will see the good in this behemoth. "Slug", appropriately enough, feels like it's going in slow motion for the entire length of the song. The everlasting sustain and heavy delay on Edge's guitar is the main reason for this; for every 8 notes heard, Edge likely played only one of them. It's an incredibly hypnotic track, slowly building and unfolding, and Bono's obsessive listing of everything he wishes not to do "Don't want to overdress/Don't want to make a mess/Don't want you to confess/Not under duress" reinforces this.

At times, Passengers' debut does indeed feel like a journey of sorts, and not one of a Slug's pace. "Always Forever Now" in particular sounds like something right out of a car commercial, with its chugging tempo and ambient keyboards. Adam and Larry provide a thrilling beat, but the stars of U2, Edge and Bono, knock it out of the park; Edge guitar sounds like a jet engine, and Bono's vocal (which merely repeats the title) proves to be very tasteful. "A Different Kind Of Blue" has a certain understated beauty to it, even though it is just Brian Eno singing into a vocoder, and leads beautifully into "Beach Sequence", which was gorgeous enough to be used in a real film (specifically Beyond The Clouds, a Michael Antonioni/Wim Wenders flick comprised of four short stories). Certainly one of U2's most sweeping and sublime instrumentals, The Edge provides some of his most delicate and sensuous guitar work, while Bono, who usually has the musical skill of a Hershey bar, makes the most of his limited musical talents by providing a minimalistic yet lovely piano solo. He also sings one (somewhat cryptic) line, "time shoots on by", leaving the listener wanting more.

The two tracks that were written specifically to fit more easily into the U2 canon are "Your Blue Room" and "Miss Sarajevo". The former is among U2's most blatantly sexual, sounding more like something out of an arthouse film than an epic U2 anthem. Regardless, it's not all that far off the beaten path, and features a very palatable, well-arranged melody. Bono provides a sultry vocal while Edge actually does attempt to play the blues, or at least his version of it. Adam is the star though, providing a great bass line and a monologue near the end. The latter, inspired by a film about a beauty pageant that took place in the midst of war-torn Yugoslavia, protested the war in Bosnia, but does so in a more indirect way that appeals to the humanity of the listener. Despite the subject matter, it's a very placid track musically, with much of the tension being exorcised during an epic climax featuring a superb Luciano Pavarotti (yes, the opera singer) vocal. Both are prime '90s U2, delicate and sensuous on one hand, grand and graceful on the other.

The album sort of falls apart in its second half, partially due to a lack of cohesion among its tracks, and partially due to the presence of some laughably bad tracks, most notably "Elvis Ate America", which more or less defines the word "cacophony". A backwards tribal shoutalong lacking melody and purpose within the context of the album, EAA makes light of Elvis Presley's many foibles, but proves to be just a hair too lighthearted for this album, and far too terrible for any album.

Elsewhere, U2 tries something a bit more exotic with "Ito Okashi", an atmospheric track featuring chimes and Japanese singer Holi. It's creepy as hell, but quite pretty. "Corpse (These Chains Are Way Too Long)" is just plain creepy. It's the musical equivalent of a mummy stumbling towards you with bullwhips in each hand and a beanie cap on its head. Edge sings lead on this one, but the melody is a bit banal, which kind of limits the value of the song to that of novelty only. "One Minute Warning" is disturbing, thrilling, and leaves you wondering exactly what band you're listening to. It's filled with more filtered drums and skittering, mechanical clatter, but boasts something of a melody and turns out to be a rewarding listening experience. There's kind of a mini-choir near the end that chants some really creepy/cool lyrics that would make for a depressing epitaph:

A lonesome soul
In an old black coat
A lonesome road
What a way to go

Chasing down
The strings to hold
In an old black coat
A lonesome soul

The final three tracks are frustratingly repetitive instrumentals that are all pleasant but aren't exactly knockouts. The midtempo "Plot 180" sounds entirely synthetic, like the music from an Ivan Drago training scene from Rocky IV. "Theme From The Swan" is barely audible and features some atmospheric violins, complemented by some Edge noodling. "Theme From Let's Go Native", while certainly repetitive, features a funky bass line, some unintelligible, soulful vocals (I still consider this one an instrumental in spite of their presence), and a generally upbeat atmosphere that makes it a favorite of mine...from the second half of this album anyway. It always puts a smile on my face.

So, in conclusion, do I recommend this record? I suppose that would depend on what kind of music you're into. If you're a huge U2 fan, you should already know about this album, or at least "Miss Sarajevo", so my recommendation isn't really necessary. If you're a casual fan and like Eno's solo work, I would say this album is a must. If you're only into the hits and don't really care for ambient music, it would probably be best if you passed this one by. As for me, I can't get enough of this album, in spite of its flaws. After years of playing U2's most popular albums into the ground, this idiosyncratic entry still feels fresh to me. It's one of those albums that can take the listener out of their cars/bedrooms/living rooms/cubicles to other locales; there's something very evocative and engrossing about the album. Just the same, there's a reason that the music industry more or less passed this one by. Be warned, but be encouraged as well; there's more to U2 than "One".
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Old 02-19-2009, 08:21 PM   #7
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OS1 is an amazing album. I'm glad that they seem to be channeling it a bit in NLOTH.
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Old 02-19-2009, 08:24 PM   #8
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Excellent review. With the Passengers, it's easy to hate the indulgent notions that the album evokes. I often measure my life by the fact that the only book I've written so far is quite average in comparison to works like Sacher-Masoch's "Venus in Furs" or Pasolinini's film "Porcile"... or U2's song "One." Knowing that these individuals have written such transcendent works, when I listen to the Passengers' LP, I just feel like it's the sound of wandering, partying, being in many places in a short time, drinking wine and indulging in all that life has to offer, while not entirely knowing where any of it is going. Just capturing the sights, sounds and smells as they pass you by. It's truly like being a passenger in life, and from the POV of a group of people who have a world of luxury at their fingertips. It's truly one of pop music's most indulgent, yet satisfying, high-art projects.

Maybe you can tell I love it?
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Old 02-19-2009, 08:33 PM   #9
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Zooming in
Zooming out
Nothing I can do about
A lens to see it all up close
Magnifying what everybody knows
Never in conflict
Never alone
No car alarm
No cellular phone
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Old 02-19-2009, 08:34 PM   #10
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Moment of Surrender sounds a hell of a lot more like Your Blue Room and Miss Sarajevo than One. I have no idea where the comparisons with the latter are coming from.
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Old 02-19-2009, 08:40 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LemonMelon View Post
Moment of Surrender sounds a hell of a lot more like Your Blue Room and Miss Sarajevo than One. I have no idea where the comparisons with the latter are coming from.
Definitely.
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