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Old 04-26-2019, 07:42 AM   #1
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Reflecting on Year post-2000 albums

How are these albums shaping up for everyone now? I've been a fan for every new release since Pop (first got into the band in 1996). How do the 2000s albums shape up for you now?

My $0.02:

ATYCLB: Still a definitive album, but I really don't listen to it that much. The starting 5 clutch of songs have become fairly cliched for me, but they weren't at the time. When thinking of this album, I really only think of the starting 5-6 songs, although TBH, I probably play Grace the most when I need to feel like I'm floating down a river. My regard for this album has decreased over time.

HTDAAB: Their songwriting craft is really on display here, but the content or substance of the songs is lacking. For a long time I really didn't like this album, but my regard for this album recently has increased.

NLOTH: I think it's their weakest album of the 2000s, with some of their best songs (MoS, CoL). I rarely listen to this album except for those two songs. My regard for this album has gone down.

SOI: At first I didn't like this album. This was peak U2 blowback following the Apple debacle. Since that has subsided, I can actually appreciate this album more. I think the songs are strong and better than a lot of people would admit at the time. My regard has gone up.

SOE: When this first came out, I had listened to this album more than any of the others, for about 1 year. The substance is great and the music has a lot to unpack. Recently, my regard has gone down because I don't think the songwriting is as strong as SOI, but the final verdict remains to be seen, at least for another 5 years probably. It may end up being weaker than I first thought, or it may stabilize into the top-2 of the 2000s albums.

I basically never listen to the non-album singles. Invisible, Electrical Storm, Ordinary Love, Window in the Skies. I think Window is actually pretty terrible. Wave of Sorrow I do listen to sometimes.
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Old 04-26-2019, 11:49 PM   #2
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I don't listen to any of them, but some thoughts...

ATYCLB - comfortably the best for mine, very strong nostalgia tied to this record and sound and I love most of the songs here. The only one that I'm likely to ever revisit in full again.

HTDAAB - my first album and has some songs I'll love forever and ever, but not that enjoyable a listen anymore.

NLOTH - by far the most interesting and daring album they've released since Pop, and I will always give it high regard for that. unfortunately it is very uneven and contains some absolute stinkers (and I'm talking about Unknown Caller and Magnificent here, for the record, not Boots and Stand Up Comedy).

SOI - U2's worst album by a very long way.

SOE - about the best I could hope for from U2 of the modern day knowing all that we know about how they work. it has five or six songs I'd be quite happy to see live, which is a great feat.
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Old 04-26-2019, 11:59 PM   #3
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Old 04-27-2019, 02:41 AM   #4
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NLOTH, MDH and ATYCLB are the only ones I listen to anymore. HTDAAB holds nostalgia for me, but it isn't especially great as a listening experience. SOI and SOE aren't garbage but I feel my time would be better spent with any number of other records.

I like a lot of the non album tracks though. Electrical Storm, Mercy, Summer Rain, Flower Child, Fast Cars, all really good.
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Old 04-27-2019, 04:16 AM   #5
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ATYCLB: production sounds "nice", but musically it's anemic, the least ambitious of their entire career. Still don't dislike any of the songs, but I never get the urge to listen to it. Haven't heard the official tracklisting in 15 years, they really fucked this one up bad by switching it at the last minute. It doesn't need outtakes or alternative versions to improve it, it needed the band exploring this material longer in the studio, something they foolishly opted not to do on Eno's suggestion.

HTDAAB: the production does indeed suck (and this is the first instance of "too many cooks"), but IMO they make up for it with the energy missing from the last one. And while this isn't ambitious either, Bono seems to be writing with more intent (for better or worse) and Edge is at least playing on this one, albeit with nothing new. I'm not as sick of Vertigo, COBL, MD, OOTS as I am of the first four warhorses on ATYCLB. This is the last U2 album I can listen to from front to back without wanting to change the track order or remove any songs, so on one hand that would make this the "best" of their late period, but had they included Mercy and Fast Cars (and I guess dropping ABOY for an even 12), this would be a legitimately great album. Glad that they won their second AOTY Grammy for this instead of the previous one though, because I think someone in the future not as familiar with U2 listening to all the winners would be more impressed.

No Line: Still the most frustrating of their career, because all the elements for success were there. Removing the middle 3 and adding (some version of) Winter and Soon still wouldn't make this a masterpiece, because they got cold feet somewhere earlier in the process in terms of retaining too much of their classic sound. It's hard for me to properly rate an album that arguably has the highest highs post-2000, and starts and ends so well, when there's a giant suckhole in the middle. Is this kind of a mix better than something consistent that aims lower? If I'm using my own tracklisting, it's better. But as it stands I have to put it below.

SOI: The elements for success were here too, and his name was Danger Mouse. Some would argue the potential with these sessions was even greater than that of No Line. If we're judging by the DM-produced tracks that were actually released, it's certainly possible. But the production on the other 2/3 is just so desperate it's hard to stomach, Luckily the songwriting is still very good; I can make a convincing tracklisting using Invisible, Crystal Ballroom, and the original EBW that brings it 1/3 closer to what it could have been. There's not anything I strongly dislike on here, either. So that puts it slightly above No Line.

SOE: This only has like two songs that were produced well, and it's another situation of way too many people dipping their fingers in; like this is a Top Chef season's worth of cooks. And it's not just behind the soundboard but randos playing additional instruments as well. The guest spots could have been used better, too. Where the hell is the band? Where is Edge? The songwriting saves them once again, because they somehow managed to finish and release 14 tracks from these sessions, and only one for me is an unmitigated disaster (Get Out). I don't think the political material is interwoven well with Bono's near-death rumination, but again, I give him credit for trying and not being as lazy as his guitarist. When this first came out I said it had more standout tracks than any album since Pop, and that may still be true because of sheer quantity. I have trouble listening to it straight through because I think it's all over the place (The Showman at #8? The Blackout at #11?), but I'm only skipping the one track. Ugh. I go back and forth with this and SOI but at the moment it's the former. Ask me tomorrow.

I can't even write out a list because putting No Line at #4 just seems wrong. And I really can't reconcile the original versions with my own custom ones to do any kind of objective ranking.
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Old 04-27-2019, 12:58 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lazarus View Post
ATYCLB: production sounds "nice", but musically it's anemic, the least ambitious of their entire career. Still don't dislike any of the songs, but I never get the urge to listen to it. Haven't heard the official tracklisting in 15 years, they really fucked this one up bad by switching it at the last minute.
I've heard of their original tracklistings for no line and SOI (opening with reach me now), but never for ATYCLB. What was the big diff? Diff opener/closer? Or better yet, source regarding a last min change?
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Old 04-27-2019, 07:15 PM   #7
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1. BD
2. Elevation
3. Walk On
4. Stuck
5. Peace on Earth
6. Kite
—-
7. New York
8. In A Little While
9. Wild Honey
10. When I Look At The World
11. Grace

I don’t have the source handy, but this was a dispute between Bono and Edge. From what I recall, Edge’s order won out.

The problem with the official one, IMO, is putting the very personal Stuck in-between the anthem of BD and the frivolous/upbeat Elevation, and then following that with the powerful Walk On. It’s schizophrenic tone-wise. The original order gets the fun out of the way earlier by putting Elevation second, before moving to the anthemic but meaningful Walk On, then stays on the serious path with Stuck followed by Peace on Earth, which deserves a more prominent spot than being buried on side 2.

New York now opens the second half with its energy, and in its place in the penultimate spot is WILATW, which has more depth like its forbearers Acrobat, Please, Exit. Staying together are IALW and Wild Honey, more lighthearted and in the middle of side 2 as they should be.

Overall a much better flow.
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Old 04-29-2019, 07:31 PM   #8
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U2 in the 2000s is a frustrating, if at times fascinating band. Let's try this:

ATYLCB is pure nostalgia for me. It was my first U2 album and I just have so many memories attached to it when I purchased it in the summer of 2002. There are still tracks on it I like, so it's a fine, if slightly dull record musically for me. I really like New York, which is not popular I realize (awful lyrics), but great riff and percussion. Also, I unabashedly enjoy Elevation and it's forever tied to Tomb Raider for me, so there's that. I sadly didn't see them on Elevation Tour, but by all accounts it was a lively and exciting affair, which reinvented U2 in the 2000s and brought them a new audience.

HTDAAB doubles down on ATCYLB, but more rawk. As said, the first album with way too many producers, but it's got a pretty consistent sound and style throughout. That may also explain why it's kinda dull, plus that ubiquitous iPod commercial didn't help. Still, U2 was very much in the public consciousness and the Vertigo Tour was pretty lively, even if it was mostly a rehash of the previous stage setup. I quite like Crumbs from Your Table, A Man and a Woman (which is pretty hated), One Step Closer, OOTS, ABOY and LAPOE. Fast Cars is very good and should've been on the album I felt.

NLOTH - I was experiencing super U2 fandom at this point and it was my first time seeing the live. The 360 Tour was cool enough, but stadiums were not how this album was meant to be heard. Of the 11 tracks, I generally enjoy 8, with the middle 3 being the exception (not an unpopular opinion I realize). The production is a little polished and the experimentation didn't not go far enough. Of course, Winter and Soon were nowhere to be found, ignoring Eno once again, how unlike them? I liked Bono's shouty vocal style and his writing in the third person from various characters was a novel approach. The Linear film that accompanied it was a neat idea too, if not entirely successful. Although that might be more U2's fault than Corbijn's. Finally this is probably my favorite album cover of the 2000s from them.

SOI - I like it...generally. It's got some strong songwriting, Bono's lyrics are quite solid too. Still, Ryan Tedder has no business here and I hope he is dropped from now on . I am not crazy about The Miracle or Song for Someone, but everything is good to great. The back half of the album in particularly stands out, most notably Raised by Wolves, SLABT, TIWYCRMN and The Troubles (thank you Danger Mouse). A very unique and innovative tour to accompany it as well and though I didn't see them on it, they seemed to be excited to be back.

SOE - I had hoped this album would've come out a lot sooner, but this is U2 we're talking about. Simply an exhausting number of producers here and it's quite distressing frankly. I like a number of songs, but the production is a bit too polished, which Adam had said they wanted to not do this time as they felt SOI was too sheen. Love Is All We Have Left is a nice opener, very subdued and low-key, which is kinda new for them, especially in the 2000s. I really love that track and wished that direction was explored more. Still, plenty of fun tunes, Lights of Home, Summer of Love, Red Flag Day, The Blackout, 13 (There is a Light) to name a few. And of course, the fantastic Book of Your Heart isn't on the album.

I enjoyed the E&I tour and saw it with my dad on Father's Day, so this album/tour/era will forever have that fond memory associated with it. Also, as I didn't see I&E, it was nice to experience the stage setup.

Combine SOI and SOE into one album and you might have something pretty amazing, but as it stands both are fine, if somewhat middling rock albums form a band in their late 50s.

I'd say ATYCLB is still my favorite (my first love), but NLOTH/SOE aren't far from it because of some special memories.

Hearing this new Springsteen single makes me wonder what U2 could do if they just embraced their age more and did something a bit more meditative and subtle.
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Old 05-03-2019, 05:33 AM   #9
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Hearing this new Springsteen single makes me wonder what U2 could do if they just embraced their age more and did something a bit more meditative and subtle.
Springsteen's late-career resurgence has been rolling since 2002, which is longer than his initial period of success before his nineties slump! Yeah, maybe whatever he's doing, U2 should emulate. Fewer than twenty billion producers per album might be a good start.
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Old 05-04-2019, 09:45 PM   #10
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I basically never listen to the non-album singles. Invisible, Electrical Storm, Ordinary Love, Window in the Skies. I think Window is actually pretty terrible. Wave of Sorrow I do listen to sometimes.
What. Wave of Sorrow is an Always Skip for me.
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