Staring at the sun....
Released March 1987
Recorded in Miami and Dublin
This is the final of U2's "industrial" dance-influenced albums, and, for many, it is the most clubby. It is again influenced by techno and electronica and uses tape loops, sampling and programmed drums. Poor old Larry Mullen. One of rock's great drummers often being replaced by a machine. Despite all that though, and that this sort of music is not by any means my favourite, I quite like this album, preferring it to "Zooropa". It has a few hidden secrets for me that beg for repeated listens. For many, though, it was not popular at all. It sold loads at the time, though not many since, and it is seen by many critics as a poor album. Maybe the fact that U2 hardly ever seem to play material from this album live says a lot, however. They would appear to have disowned it.
2. Do You Feel Loved
4. If God Will Send His Angels
5. Staring At The Sun
6. Last Night On Earth
9. The Playboy Mansion
10. If You Wear That Velvet Dress
12. Wake Up Dead Man
Certainly, the opener, "Discotheque" kicks off with huge, pulsating dance rhythms. It has an infectious, catchy refrain though so it is not just a song based on beat alone. Similarly, the slightly subtler, melodically bassy "Do You Feel Loved" has a catchiness to it, a rhythm that gets into you and a good vocal, together with some great scratchy guitar too. "Mofo" is a classic dance number, the most obvious one on the album, with frantic programmed, metronomic drums and weird guitar noises a-plenty. Bono's vocals are often incomprehensible and mumbled. Again, though, it is a bit of a shame to have a great voice like his muffled so much. There's an intoxicating bass line on this though.
"If God Will Send His Angels" is a good song. It is far less of the dance thing and far more of a typical U2 slow burning rock ballad, with some "proper" drums and rock guitar and an authentic, clear Bono vocal. "Staring at The Sun" is a good one too, and has U2 sounding remarkably like Oasis, especially in its rousing, stadium-style chorus and acoustic guitars. Similarly impressive and also a bit Oasis-like (not as much, though) is "Last Night On Earth". It is tracks like these last three that raise this album above "Zooropa" for me.
"Gone" has a stimulating, melodic bass line and a convincing Bono vocal, some searing electric guitar and some excellent drums. "Miami" is a most interesting track, full of weird drum sounds, guitar noises and a trippy vocal. "The Playboy Mansion" also has a dreamy, hippy appeal, with a sort of late sixties meets the mid-nineties feel. It has a suitably decadent feel. "If You Wear That Velvet Dress" is a sombre, mournful Bono ballad in the style of any previous album's closing tracks. "Please" is a yearning, soulful song with a captivating drum sound from Larry Mullen and some beseeching vocals from Bono bemoaning Northern Ireland's problems. "Wake Up Dead Man" apparently dates from the "Achtung Baby" sessions and is a dark, quasi-religious brooding number. This has not been a happy album, it has to be said, but that should not detract from its morose appeal, if that is not a contradiction. I'm sure you know what I mean.
Listening to this album, it is the first few tracks that are blatantly "dance", as it progresses it is far more like industrial rock and it is in the last two thirds of it that it appeals to me more than "Zooropa" but not more than "Achtung Baby", which is by far the best of the three, without question.
PS - "Gone", "Discotheque", "Staring At The Sun" and "If God Will Send His Angels" were all remixed for "The Best Of 1988-2000" and excellent remixes they are too, with far more room given for the tracks to breathe.