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Old 09-24-2004, 12:33 AM   #1
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Great Vertigo Review Article!

Posted by Damon Muma on September 23, 2004 09:32 PM (See all posts by Damon Muma)
Filed under: Music, Music: Alternative Rock, Music: Pop, Music: Rock

I'd say it's fairly evident that U2 plays a large part in my life. Not so much these days, as I've been lead astray by other magnificent musics and slightly disillusioned by the last album, but in the end I keep coming back. U2 was the first band I loved, I have heard every song they've ever released many times, stood one row from the stage, sung along, learned the name of Edge's guitar tech. It goes on. It's rather mad. But the point of all of this, is that when they release something new, Damon pays attention. And as a qualified expert on the subject of U2 (I think lots of people a bit less than a half decade ago knew me only in relation to my obsession) I feel that upon hearing the first new song from the band in two years from the first new album from the band in four years, it is my duty to share my thoughts.

They've been grinding out and ramping up the publicity for the new album over the last weeks and months, and I've been paying close attention, but often more out of habit than real excitement. This comes because their last album, All That You Can't Leave Behind made me doubt them for the first time. It wasn't a bad album. It was even a good album, with some really good songs. But it was just U2 doing what they knew they knew how to do, and coming pretty close to being boring. It was not particularly interesting, nor was it particularly exciting. But it sold huge. It catapulted them back into the hearts of the public. U2 earned 7 grammy awards from it. People gobbled it up, and why wouldn't they? It was a very well made album. But it was also very safe, almost lazy. My opinion on initially hearing it was positive, and remains so. But I dislike what it represents. Of course U2 can write an album of good anthemic rock songs, but they can do MORE. And when a band starts getting older and does something like that, you can't help but worry that they're not going to bother trying to push limits. So I was pretty apprehensive about hearing the new single, Vertigo. All the hype has been saying "U2 return to their rock and roll roots" and I thought, 'great, yeah that's what the fans want, and yeah it'll be good, but will it be great?'

So disillusioned was I with U2 that I waited 3 hours after the mp3 of it went online to download it. I played ping pong while I was pretty certain it was probably online. And then I moseyed over, checked the U2 message board, found a link and casually downloaded it (this may seem fairly obsessive, but then it's nothing compared to 4 years ago). When I heard the first 2 seconds of the song though, like a rush of demented, teleporting vampire weasels clawing across my mind, I suddely got really, really excited. 'What is this sound? I haven't heard U2 make this sound before!' thought I. And yea, 'twas good. Of course after 9 seconds it returned to more familiar territory, but the connection had been made. The fire had been lit.

Meanwhile, twenty listens later...

I wasn't one of the fans going bananas at the possibility of U2's "Return To Rock". I was a fan of them doing anything so long as it was interesting, and good. With Vertigo, U2 has returned to rock, and they have done it very well, and not been boring about it. There's pieces of all different U2 eras here. One can't help but be reminded a little of Elevation, or the initial 3 early 80s albums, or the darkness and seriousness of Achtung Baby, or that specific way a late 80s U2 b-side always manages to sound. But of course it sounds like U2, because it is. But put all the pieces together (and don't worry there's plenty of brand new ones to fit into this puzzle) and the picture you get is one of U2 rocking full tilt. Ragged and raw and fast and loose. A few years ago Bono described the album as "punk rock from Venus" and for once he may be right. There's a ripping bass line, awesome guitars (even the jangly ones we expect from U2), driving beat, and it sounds to me faster and louder than any song U2 has released in a good long time. After it's over, it leaves its mark in the ringing silence left behind.

And oh how it oozes with style. There's something to be said for honest and direct music that just leaves its message on the listener's heart, but there's also something to be said (as U2 proved beyond a shadow of a doubt on the monumental ZooTV tour) about the importance of style. Listening to Bono count in the song in Spanish and say "turn it up loud, captain" as Edge wails on the guitar, I realize that U2 is at least pretending to take themselves a little less seriously than they did throughout the first few years of this decade. They have the swagger back that made the Achtung era so damn cool. They think they're awesome and now rather than trying to arrogantly prove it like on the last album, they're just having a laugh about it and almost nonchalantly kicking some ass. One of the things that made Achtung Baby so incredible was the dichotomy between its dark, brooding, heavy side and the eazy-going, fun, rocking side. I'm starting to think U2 may have some part of that back on How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb... Here's hoping!

I also have to make mention of the lyrics. One of my least favourite things about All That You Can't Leave Behind was the words. They were often cliched and not full of the captivating imagery and turn of phrase I know Bono is capable of. These lyrics are very much back to form. They're not entirely spelled out, and leave something to the imagination; they don't necessarily mean a whole lot, but they mean nothing much better than the lyrics of Elevation meant nothing. Plus, they're into Spanish now.

This isn't U2's best, but it's what I love about them and it keeps me listening. Who knows what the album will sound like, or if Vertigo will continue to keep me coming back for more (and not fizzle on me after a day)...but for now, U2 have won me back.


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Old 09-24-2004, 12:42 AM   #2
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highly amusing that Vertigo isn't even mentioned once without immediately being compared to something from U2's past

perhaps a great article when you're not tired yet of people confusing their opinion on ATYCLB with whatever U2 tried to achieve (and I don't know what they tried either)
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