Friday, 7 September 2018

U2 - Boy (1980)


  

Released October 1980

Recorded at Windmill Studios, Dublin

I remember seeing U2 in December 1980 supporting Talking Heads at the old Hammersmith Palais. I knew nothing about them, but they appeared to have a huge, enthusiastic following. I had never seen a support band given such energetic, committed support and in such numbers. It must have been as a result of this raw, edgy debut album.

A track I recall from the gig was the opener, the catchy, riffy "I Will Follow" and singer Bono's charismatic posturing while singing it. I must admit, even then, I always took him with a bit of a pinch of salt. He didn't particularly do it for me, for some reason, but he obviously had something. All the tracks on the album have a considerable amount of post-punk-ish industrial guitar attack, pounding drums and throbbing bass and Bono's haughty but strong, throaty vocals. "Twilight" fits that description, full of searing guitar and relentless drums. The mysterious, intense "An Cat Dubh" has an Echo & The Bunnymen feel to it, with those typical post-punk vocals that are impossible to properly describe but instantly recognisable. The backing has hints of Patti Smith's "Horses" and also Siouxsie & The Banshees about it, too. Even the more sombre tacks like this still have a "who-ho-ho" anthemic chorus refrain in them. For me, there's a lot of Magazine in the riffing and drum sound at the end.

"Into The Heart" is a slowly building, haunting number the introduces that trademark twangy U2 guitar riff. They were definitely developing a guitar sound that was all their own and it separated this album from others of the same basic ilk. "Out Of Control" has more of a punky energy to it, with its rolling drums and stabbing guitar riffs. No twangy, jangly riffs on this one. Not until near the end, at least. Again, introducing it then was what was making them different, a regular punker would have carried on as it had begun.

"Stories For Boys" begins with a breakneck drum roll and some Jam-style bass, before that guitar sound kicks in again. This was an upbeat, punchy number, though and is a little-mentioned song when U2 are spoken of. I quite like it. "The Ocean" is an ambient short track that ends just as one is starting to enjoy it. "A Day Without Me" is a catchy melodic number whose upbeat tones are cut apart by yet more guitar virtuosity from David "The Edge" Evans. Even on this Bono has some "bah bah" singalong bits, he treats every song as if it is an anthem. "Another Time Another Place" is a true post-punk intense song of its time. So very 1980-81. Dark, brooding and just a little pretentious, but also atmospherically captivating.

"The Electric Co." has a great kick off riff and some kick posterior drums from Larry Mullen Jr. (always my favourite U2 member). Again it has that rise on the refrain that makes it somewhat rabble-rousing. I remember seeing fans punching their fists in the air shouting "the electric co..." and thought it bizarre at the time. I guess I still would. I love the bit where the beat drops down and Bono sort of improvises. Again, this was something that lifted them above the mass of other bands. "Shadows And Tall Trees" maybe many people's favourite but I'm afraid I find it a bit dull, lacking the vitality of the rest of the album. It has good bits, even so, particularly the guitar/drum interplay in the middle and towards the end when they go all Doors-like. Overall, this was an impressive debut album, however. U2 were certainly on to something.

B-

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