Categories :

Similar artists

Albums

CD£13.99

Rock - Released January 1, 2011 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Sélection du Mercury Prize
Reinventions rarely come as thorough and effective as Achtung Baby, an album that completely changed U2's sound and style. The crashing, unrecognizable distorted guitars that open "Zoo Station" are a clear signal that U2 have traded their Americana pretensions for postmodern, contemporary European music. Drawing equally from Bowie's electronic, avant-garde explorations of the late '70s and the neo-psychedelic sounds of the thriving rave and Madchester club scenes of early-'90s England, Achtung Baby sounds vibrant and endlessly inventive. Unlike their inspirations, U2 rarely experiment with song structures over the course of the album. Instead, they use the thick dance beats, swirling guitars, layers of effects, and found sounds to break traditional songs out of their constraints, revealing the tortured emotional core of their songs with the hyper-loaded arrangements. In such a dense musical setting, it isn't surprising that U2 have abandoned the political for the personal on Achtung Baby, since the music, even with its inviting rhythms, is more introspective than anthemic. Bono has never been as emotionally naked as he is on Achtung Baby, creating a feverish nightmare of broken hearts and desperate loneliness; unlike other U2 albums, it's filled with sexual imagery, much of it quite disturbing, and it ends on a disquieting note. Few bands as far into their career as U2 have recorded an album as adventurous or fulfilled their ambitions quite as successfully as they do on Achtung Baby, and the result is arguably their best album. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
CD£7.99

Rock - Released January 1, 2007 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Using the textured sonics of The Unforgettable Fire as a basis, U2 expanded those innovations by scaling back the songs to a personal setting and adding a grittier attack for its follow-up, The Joshua Tree. It's a move that returns them to the sweeping, anthemic rock of War, but if War was an exploding political bomb, The Joshua Tree is a journey through its aftermath, trying to find sense and hope in the desperation. That means that even the anthems -- the epic opener "Where the Streets Have No Name," the yearning "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" -- have seeds of doubt within their soaring choruses, and those fears take root throughout the album, whether it's in the mournful sliding acoustic guitars of "Running to Stand Still," the surging "One Tree Hill," or the hypnotic elegy "Mothers of the Disappeared." So it might seem a little ironic that U2 became superstars on the back of such a dark record, but their focus has never been clearer, nor has their music been catchier, than on The Joshua Tree. Unexpectedly, U2 have also tempered their textural post-punk with American influences. Not only are Bono's lyrics obsessed with America, but country and blues influences are heard throughout the record, and instead of using these as roots, they're used as ways to add texture to the music. With the uniformly excellent songs -- only the clumsy, heavy rock and portentous lyrics of "Bullet the Blue Sky" fall flat -- the result is a powerful, uncompromising record that became a hit due to its vision and its melody. Never before have U2's big messages sounded so direct and personal. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
CD£12.49
War

Rock - Released January 1, 2008 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Opening with the ominous, fiery protest of "Sunday Bloody Sunday," War immediately announces itself as U2's most focused and hardest-rocking album to date. Blowing away the fuzzy, sonic indulgences of October with propulsive, martial rhythms and shards of guitar, War bristles with anger, despair, and above all, passion. Previously, Bono's attempts at messages came across as grandstanding, but his vision becomes remarkably clear on this record, as his anthems ("New Year's Day," "40," "Seconds") are balanced by effective, surprisingly emotional love songs ("Two Hearts Beat as One"), which are just as desperate and pleading as his protests. He performs the difficult task of making the universal sound personal, and the band helps him out by bringing the songs crashing home with muscular, forceful performances that reveal their varied, expressive textures upon repeated listens. U2 always aimed at greatness, but War was the first time they achieved it. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
CD£8.99

Rock - Released January 1, 2009 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Distinctions 3F de Télérama
A rock & roll open secret: U2 care very much about what other people say about them. Ever since they hit the big time in 1987 with The Joshua Tree, every album is a response to the last -- rather, a response to the response, a way to correct the mistakes of the last album: Achtung Baby erased the roots rock experiment Rattle and Hum, All That You Can't Leave Behind straightened out the fumbling Pop, and 2009's No Line on the Horizon is a riposte to the suggestion they played it too safe on 2004's How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. After recording two new cuts with Rick Rubin for the '06 compilation U218 and flirting with will.i.am, U2 reunited with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois (here billed as "Danny" for some reason), who not only produced The Joshua Tree but pointed the group toward aural architecture on The Unforgettable Fire. Much like All That You Can't and Atomic Bomb, which were largely recorded with their first producer, Steve Lillywhite, this is a return to the familiar for U2, but where their Lillywhite LPs are characterized by muscle, the Eno/Lanois records are where the band take risks, and so it is here that U2 attempts to recapture that spacy, mysterious atmosphere of The Unforgettable Fire and then take it further. Contrary to the suggestion of the clanking, sputtering first single "Get on Your Boots" -- its riffs and "Pump It Up" chant sounding like a cheap mashup stitched together in GarageBand -- this isn't a garish, gaudy electro-dalliance in the vein of Pop. Apart from a stilted middle section -- "Boots," the hamfisted white-boy funk "Stand Up Comedy," and the not-nearly-as-bad-as-its-title anthem "I'll Go Crazy if I Don't Go Crazy Tonight"; tellingly, the only three songs here to not bear co-writing credits from Eno and Lanois -- No Line on the Horizon is all austere grey tones and midtempo meditation. It's a record that yearns to be intimate but U2 don't do intimate, they only do majestic, or as Bono sings on one of the albums best tracks, they do "Magnificent." Here, as on "No Line on the Horizon" and "Breathe," U2 strike that unmistakable blend of soaring, widescreen sonics and unflinching openhearted emotion that's been their trademark, turning the intimate into something hauntingly universal. These songs resonate deeper and longer than anything on Atomic Bomb, their grandeur almost seeming effortless. It's the rest of the record that illustrates how difficult it is to sound so magnificent. With the exception of that strained middle triptych, the rest of the album is in the vein of "No Line on the Horizon", "Magnificent" and "Breathe," only quieter and unfocused, with its ideas drifting instead of gelling. Too often, the album whispers in a murmur so quiet it's quite easy to ignore -- "White as Snow," an adaptation of a traditional folk tune, and "Cedars of Lebanon," its verses not much more than a recitation, simmer so slowly they seem to evaporate -- but at least these poorly defined subtleties sustain the hazily melancholy mood of No Line on the Horizon. When U2, Eno, and Lanois push too hard -- the ill-begotten techno-speak overload of "Unknown Caller," the sound sculpture of "Fez-Being Born" -- the ideas collapse like a pyramid of cards, the confusion amplifying the aimless stretches of the album, turning it into a murky muddle. Upon first listen, No Line on the Horizon seems as if it would be a classic grower, an album that makes sense with repeated spins, but that repetition only makes the album more elusive, revealing not that U2 went into the studio with a dense, complicated blueprint, but rather, they had no plan at all. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo

Pop/Rock - Released January 1, 2007 | Mercury (Universal France)

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Download not available
Using the textured sonics of The Unforgettable Fire as a basis, U2 expanded those innovations by scaling back the songs to a personal setting and adding a grittier attack for its follow-up, The Joshua Tree. It's a move that returns them to the sweeping, anthemic rock of War, but if War was an exploding political bomb, The Joshua Tree is a journey through its aftermath, trying to find sense and hope in the desperation. That means that even the anthems -- the epic opener "Where the Streets Have No Name," the yearning "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" -- have seeds of doubt within their soaring choruses, and those fears take root throughout the album, whether it's in the mournful sliding acoustic guitars of "Running to Stand Still," the surging "One Tree Hill," or the hypnotic elegy "Mothers of the Disappeared." So it might seem a little ironic that U2 became superstars on the back of such a dark record, but their focus has never been clearer, nor has their music been catchier, than on The Joshua Tree. Unexpectedly, U2 have also tempered their textural post-punk with American influences. Not only are Bono's lyrics obsessed with America, but country and blues influences are heard throughout the record, and instead of using these as roots, they're used as ways to add texture to the music. With the uniformly excellent songs -- only the clumsy, heavy rock and portentous lyrics of "Bullet the Blue Sky" fall flat -- the result is a powerful, uncompromising record that became a hit due to its vision and its melody. Never before have U2's big messages sounded so direct and personal. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
CD£39.49
War

Rock - Released January 1, 2008 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Opening with the ominous, fiery protest of "Sunday Bloody Sunday," War immediately announces itself as U2's most focused and hardest-rocking album to date. Blowing away the fuzzy, sonic indulgences of October with propulsive, martial rhythms and shards of guitar, War bristles with anger, despair, and above all, passion. Previously, Bono's attempts at messages came across as grandstanding, but his vision becomes remarkably clear on this record, as his anthems ("New Year's Day," "40," "Seconds") are balanced by effective, surprisingly emotional love songs ("Two Hearts Beat as One"), which are just as desperate and pleading as his protests. He performs the difficult task of making the universal sound personal, and the band helps him out by bringing the songs crashing home with muscular, forceful performances that reveal their varied, expressive textures upon repeated listens. U2 always aimed at greatness, but War was the first time they achieved it. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
CD£14.49

Rock - Released November 18, 1991 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Distinctions Stereophile: Record To Die For
Reinventions rarely come as thorough and effective as Achtung Baby, an album that completely changed U2's sound and style. The crashing, unrecognizable distorted guitars that open "Zoo Station" are a clear signal that U2 have traded their Americana pretensions for postmodern, contemporary European music. Drawing equally from Bowie's electronic, avant-garde explorations of the late '70s and the neo-psychedelic sounds of the thriving rave and Madchester club scenes of early-'90s England, Achtung Baby sounds vibrant and endlessly inventive. Unlike their inspirations, U2 rarely experiment with song structures over the course of the album. Instead, they use the thick dance beats, swirling guitars, layers of effects, and found sounds to break traditional songs out of their constraints, revealing the tortured emotional core of their songs with the hyper-loaded arrangements. In such a dense musical setting, it isn't surprising that U2 have abandoned the political for the personal on Achtung Baby, since the music, even with its inviting rhythms, is more introspective than anthemic. Bono has never been as emotionally naked as he is on Achtung Baby, creating a feverish nightmare of broken hearts and desperate loneliness; unlike other U2 albums, it's filled with sexual imagery, much of it quite disturbing, and it ends on a disquieting note. Few bands as far into their career as U2 have recorded an album as adventurous or fulfilled their ambitions quite as successfully as they do on Achtung Baby, and the result is arguably their best album. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
HI-RES£18.99
CD£13.49

Rock - Released December 1, 2017 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Hi-Res Booklet
Elijah is Bono’s son. Sian is The Edge’s daughter. They hold hands on the cover of these Songs Of Experience. Two “children” to evoke the world of 2017 and above all the legacy their parents intend to leave them…Recorded over three years with the help of an XL casting of producers such as Jacknife Lee, Ryan Tedder, Steve Lillywhite, Andy Barlow and Jolyon Thomas, this fourteenth studio album had to be the loud hailer of a world that is running less and less smoothly. Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump’s presidency and the migrant crisis are a good fuel for the writing of Bono, who’s still an expert in revolts. U2’s leader has the merit of being rather gifted in this area. Except that here, his starting point is something else. He says he’s been influenced by a conversation with his compatriot, the poet Brendan Kennelly, who would have advised him to write as if he was dead! Therefore, Bono imagined these songs as letters sent to his relatives, family, friends, and fans but also to himself. As for sound, we unsurprisingly find the spectacular 80s guitars from The Edge, whose hand has entered the rock history of the end of the 20th century. With a touch of modernity (the Auto-Tune on Love Is All We Have Left and Kendrick Lamar’s voice on Get Out Of Your Own Way) and a true quality in the band’s fundamentals, Songs Of Experience possesses enough arguments to keep the early fans of the Irish quartet excited and charm the others. © CM/Qobuz
HI-RES£19.49
CD£13.99

Rock - Released January 1, 2011 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Hi-Res
CD£15.99

Rock - Released November 2, 1998 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Island and U2 realized that longtime fans of the band wouldn't need The Best of 1980-1990. Unlike the proposed Best of 1990-2000, which would likely boast the non-LP "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me" and the Passengers' "Miss Sarajevo," 1980-1990 contained nothing but material culled directly from the albums, which didn't exactly entice hardcore followers. So, the label and the band decided to pair the compilation with a collection of the group's B-sides from the '80s, none of which had ever appeared on an album before. For die-hard U2 fans, this is something of a godsend -- not necessarily a holy grail, which would have been a complete B-sides collection, including the long-missing early EPs -- since many of these tracks have been out of print for years. That's not to say they'll be entirely pleased with what they hear. The B-Sides is wildly uneven, fluctuating between a handful of lost masterpieces ("Spanish Eyes," "Sweetest Thing," "Hallelujah Here She Comes," "Silver and Gold," "A Room at the Heartbreak Hotel," "Trash, Trampoline and the Party Girl"), a momentum-crushing triptych of mediocre karaoke ("Dancing Barefoot," "Everlasting Love," "Unchained Melody"), and formless filler (pretty much everything else). Despite the uneven music, fans will need The B-Sides, not just for the handful of worthy contenders but for its sheer rarity. Not only have the B-sides themselves been difficult to locate, but the disc itself was designed as a collector's item: after the first week of sales, The B-Sides was pulled from the market, and Island shipped only The Best of 1980-1990. Clearly, this was a tactic to raise press awareness and boost sales, but that doesn't mean that fans shouldn't take advantage of its limited release. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
CD£7.99

Pop - Released January 1, 2000 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Nearly ten years after beginning U2 Mach II with their brilliant seventh album Achtung Baby, U2 ease into their third phase with 2000's All That You Can't Leave Behind. The title signifies more than it seems, since the group sifts through its past, working with Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno, all in an effort to construct a classicist U2 album. Thankfully, it's a rock record from a band that absorbed all the elastic experimentation, studio trickery, dance flirtations, and genre bending of Achtung, Zooropa, and Pop -- all they've shed is the irony. U2 choose not to delve as darkly personal as they did on Achtung or Zooropa, yet they also avoid the alienating archness of Pop, returning to the generous spirit that flowed through their best '80s records. On that level, All may be reminiscent of The Joshua Tree, but this is a clever and craftsmanlike record, filled with nifty twists in the arrangements, small sonic details, and colors. U2 take subtle risks, such as their best pure pop song ever with "Wild Honey"; they're so self-confident they effortlessly write their best anthem in years with "Beautiful Day"; they offer the gospel-influenced "Stuck in a Moment," never once lowering it to the shtick it would have been on Rattle and Hum. Like any work from craftsmen, All That You Can't Leave Behind winds up being a work of modest pleasures, where the way the verse eases into the chorus means more than the overall message, and this is truly the first U2 album where that sentiment applies -- but there is genuine pleasure in their craft, for the band and listener alike. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
CD£32.99

Rock - Released March 3, 1987 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Booklet
Using the textured sonics of The Unforgettable Fire as a basis, U2 expanded those innovations by scaling back the songs to a personal setting and adding a grittier attack for its follow-up, The Joshua Tree. It's a move that returns them to the sweeping, anthemic rock of War, but if War was an exploding political bomb, The Joshua Tree is a journey through its aftermath, trying to find sense and hope in the desperation. That means that even the anthems -- the epic opener "Where the Streets Have No Name," the yearning "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" -- have seeds of doubt within their soaring choruses, and those fears take root throughout the album, whether it's in the mournful sliding acoustic guitars of "Running to Stand Still," the surging "One Tree Hill," or the hypnotic elegy "Mothers of the Disappeared." So it might seem a little ironic that U2 became superstars on the back of such a dark record, but their focus has never been clearer, nor has their music been catchier, than on The Joshua Tree. Unexpectedly, U2 have also tempered their textural post-punk with American influences. Not only are Bono's lyrics obsessed with America, but country and blues influences are heard throughout the record, and instead of using these as roots, they're used as ways to add texture to the music. With the uniformly excellent songs -- only the clumsy, heavy rock and portentous lyrics of "Bullet the Blue Sky" fall flat -- the result is a powerful, uncompromising record that became a hit due to its vision and its melody. Never before have U2's big messages sounded so direct and personal. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
CD£16.49

Rock - Released January 1, 2006 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

U2's first two greatest-hits albums neatly divided themselves by decade, with the first covering the '80s and the second summing up the '90s. Their third hits comp, 2006's U218 Singles, is at once more ambitious and more concise, offering an overview of their first 26 years on a single disc comprised of 18 tracks -- and since two of those are new songs, that leaves just 16 songs to tell their whole story. That's not much space for a band with a career as lengthy and ambitious as U2, so it's inevitable that some painful cuts have been made. Nothing from October, Zooropa or Pop is here, and unless you're buying various import editions that have "I Will Follow" as a bonus track, there's nothing from Boy, either. There's only one cut each from The Unforgettable Fire and Rattle and Hum -- and bucking conventional wisdom, none of their three widely accepted masterpieces -- War, The Joshua Tree, or Achtung Baby -- provide the most songs here. No, out of all their albums the one that dominates U218 Singles is All That You Can't Leave Behind, their 2000 comeback from the depths of the misguided Pop, and one of two records that they've released since their last hits compilation, The Best of 1990-2000. The other record they've released since then is How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, which provides two songs here -- or, as many as there are from War and Achtung Baby. What this means is that this compilation skews very heavily toward latter-day U2 -- eight out of 18 tracks, a full 44 percent of the collection, are from 2000 on, which means that U218 Singles presents the classicist version of the band, featuring the anthems from U2 at their peak, plus the highlights from when U2 were trying their best to sound like U2 at their peak. They did it quite well, of course, from both a commercial and artistic standpoint, sometimes writing songs that stood proudly alongside "Pride (In the Name of Love)" and "Sunday Bloody Sunday" (as in "Beautiful Day") and sometimes not ("Elevation"). When it's all mixed together, it paints a portrait of a band that's a little slicker and streamlined than it often was, and it's hard not to miss the big-hearted yet moody band that made "Bad," "Gloria," and "A Sort of Homecoming," not to mention the middle-aged Euro experimentalists responsible for "Numb" and "Stay! (Faraway, So Close)," two essential components of the band that has been forced aside by the arena rock pros on display here. Then again, U2 always were the best arena rockers of their generation, and for those who love the spectacle and sound of the band in full flight, U218 Singles serves up that side of the band quite well, along with two new entries that find the band continuing the assured, even-handed sound of Atomic Bomb: a cover of the Skids' "The Saints Are Coming," recorded with Green Day and rewritten to vaguely address the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and "Window in the Skies," an anthemic pop number that relies too heavily on synth strings yet is saved by the band's sturdy songwriting and reliable performance. As such, it might not cover all the bases, but it covers enough of the major ones to be a good summary for fellow travelers who just know U2 from the radio, and it's also a good one-stop introduction to the basics for neophytes. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
CD£13.99

Rock - Released January 1, 2009 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

In many ways, U2 took their fondness for sonic bombast as far as it could go on War, so it isn't a complete surprise that they chose to explore the intricacies of the Edge's layered, effects-laden guitar on the follow-up, The Unforgettable Fire. Working with producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, U2 created a dark, near-hallucinatory series of interlocking soundscapes that are occasionally punctuated by recognizable songs and melodies. In such a setting, the band both flourishes and flounders, creating some of their greatest music, as well as some of their worst. "Elvis Presley and America" may well be Bono's most embarrassing attempt at poetry, yet it is redeemed by the chilling and wonderful "Bad," a two-chord elegy for an addict that is stunning in its control and mastery. Similarly, the wet, shimmering textures of the title track, the charging "A Sort of Homecoming," and the surging Martin Luther King, Jr. tribute "Pride (In the Name of Love)" are all remarkable, ranking among U2's very best music, making the missteps that clutter the remainder of the album somewhat forgivable. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
CD£11.49

Rock - Released January 1, 1988 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Functioning as both the soundtrack to the group's disastrous feature-film documentary and as a tentative follow-up to their career-making blockbuster, Rattle and Hum is all over the place. The live cuts lack the revelatory power of Under a Blood Red Sky and are undercut by heavy-handed performances and Bono's embarrassing stage patter; prefacing a leaden cover of "Helter Skelter" with "This is a song Charles Manson stole from the Beatles, and now we're stealing it back" is bad enough, but it pales next to Bono's exhortation "OK, Edge, play the blues!" on the worthy, decidedly unbluesy "Silver and Gold." Both comments reveal more than they intend -- throughout the album, U2 sound paralyzed by their new status as "rock's most important band." They react by attempting to boost their classic rock credibility. They embrace American roots rock, something they ignored before. Occasionally, these experiments work: "Desire" has an intoxicating Bo Diddley beat, "Angel of Harlem" is a punchy, sunny Stax-soul tribute, "When Loves Come to Town" is an endearingly awkward blues duet with B.B. King, and the Dylan collaboration "Love Rescue Me" is an overlooked minor bluesy gem. However, these get swallowed up in the bluster of the live tracks, the misguided gospel interpretation of "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" and the shameful answer to John Lennon's searing confession "God," "God, Pt. 2." A couple of affecting laments -- the cascading "All I Want Is You" and "Heartland," which sounds like a Joshua Tree outtake -- do slip out underneath the posturing, but Rattle and Hum is by far the least-focused record U2 ever made, and it's little wonder that they retreated for three years after its release to rethink their whole approach. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
HI-RES£20.99
CD£14.99

Rock - Released November 18, 1991 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Hi-Res
CD£19.49

Rock - Released January 1, 2014 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Booklet
Many U2 albums experience a difficult birth, but their 13th studio record underwent a particularly extended labor. Gestating for years, possibly started immediately after 2009's No Line on the Horizon and ushered into existence by many midwives, Songs of Innocence appeared suddenly in September 2014, nearly nine months after "Invisible," the presumptive lead single for the record, flopped. "Invisible" is nowhere to be found on Songs of Innocence, yet its vaguely electronic thrum did indeed turn out to be a taste of where U2 were headed after those endless sessions wound up shepherded by Danger Mouse. Songs of Innocence -- its title taken from William Blake, although many music nerds may first think of David Axelrod -- does indeed incorporate electronic elements in a way no U2 album since Pop has, weaving samples, loops, and other flourishes within music that otherwise adheres to the self-conscious classicism that has been the band's stock in trade since Y2K. Which is another way of saying that where the U2 of the '90s looked forward, the 2014 U2 are looking back, aware of a legacy that includes decades of arena-filling anthems, the deliberate reinvention of Achtung Baby, and their initial inspiration from the great spark of punk rock. The latter also provides the thematic fuel on Songs of Innocence, a quasi-autobiographical coming-of-age story from Bono that begins with the big bang of "The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)." This opening fanfare doesn't sound a thing like the Ramones, nor does "This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now" sound like its reported inspiration, the Clash: they, like everything else here, sound like U2, albeit a U2 who are beginning to carry the weight of their years somewhat uneasily. Majesty doesn't come easily to them anymore, so they've replaced surging melodrama with a brittle, insistent clamor that's intended to dazzle. It's busy enough to be bracing yet it's also wearying, exuding a faint air of desperation that dampens the emotional pull of such lovely moments as "Song for Someone" and "The Troubles" (the latter featuring vocals from Lykke Li) while merely providing clatter elsewhere. Often, there's a nagging sense U2 could've pushed themselves a little harder sonically -- "Raised by Wolves" benefits from the coiled paranoia created by its frenetically circling vocals and guitars -- but that would've required risk, which they've been avoiding since Pop's garbled rollout. Instead, Songs of Innocence showcases how U2 desire to have things both ways. They camouflage their nostalgia in the sound of modernity; they play gigantic music about intimacy; they want to expand their horizons without leaving home. They want to be everything to everyone and, in attempting to do so, they've wound up with a record that appeals to a narrow audience: fellow travelers who either thrill at the spectacle or dig for the subtleties buried underneath the digital din. [Upon the surprise digital release of Songs of Innocence in September 2014, U2 announced the physical edition would appear a month later with an extra disc of bonus tracks. The band kept their promise, adding a second disc (along with finished artwork) to their thirteenth studio album for its physical release. Depending how you keep score, this second disc contains either 5, 10, or 11 tracks; the count is thrown off by five cuts being sequenced as one 22-minute track called "Acoustic Sessions" and a slightly alternate version of "Invisible" being buried as a hidden track at the end. Along with these "Acoustic Sessions" -- most being more fully arranged than the title suggests, particularly "Raised by Wolves" -- there is an alternate version of "The Troubles" and an "alternate perspective mix by Tchad Blake" for "Sleep Like a Baby Tonight," welcome variations all but which basically leave two songs as enticements for anybody other than the hardcore: "Lucifer's Hands" and "The Crystal Ballroom." Neither song seems to belong thematically to the loose semi-autobiographical narrative of the proper album and they're also more nimble than much of the record, with "Lucifer's Hands" benefitting from a dense percolating arrangement anchored by a trashy little guitar riff and "The Crystal Ballroom" evoking an arch, art-punk disco quite well. They might not have fit snugly onto the record but as individual songs, they're stronger than some of the tunes that made the cut.] © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
CD£13.99

Rock - Released January 1, 2008 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Although recorded on July 4, 1987, this bootleg from the Joshua Tree era wasn’t officially released until 2007, when U2 included a DVD of the performance in the remastered Joshua Tree box set. One year later, the audio version was released as a digital download. The 18-track set list spans the first decade of U2’s career, from the set-opening “I Will Follow” to a handful of the band's late-'80s hits. This isn't a full concert -- the group played a handful of cover songs that night, three of which are absent from the remaster -- but it's certainly close, and Live from Paris is the only album apart from Rattle and Hum to document U2's acclaimed Joshua Tree tour. © Andrew Leahey /TiVo
CD£11.49

Rock - Released January 1, 2008 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

War turned U2 into arena rock stars, and the EP Under a Blood Red Sky captures the band on its supporting tour as the bandmembers adjusted to their larger audiences. Unsurprisingly for a band that always favored the grand statement, the group flourished in such a setting, as this mini-EP attests. Comprised of material recorded in America and Germany, Under a Blood Red Sky draws equally from the band's first three albums, and these live versions, while less textured, are considerably tougher than their studio counterparts and illustrate quite effectively why U2 were considered one of the best, most exhilarating live bands of the '80s. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
CD£11.49

Rock - Released January 1, 2014 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Booklet
Many U2 albums experience a difficult birth, but their 13th studio record underwent a particularly extended labor. Gestating for years, possibly started immediately after 2009's No Line on the Horizon and ushered into existence by many midwives, Songs of Innocence appeared suddenly in September 2014, nearly nine months after "Invisible," the presumptive lead single for the record, flopped. "Invisible" is nowhere to be found on Songs of Innocence, yet its vaguely electronic thrum did indeed turn out to be a taste of where U2 were headed after those endless sessions wound up shepherded by Danger Mouse. Songs of Innocence -- its title taken from William Blake, although many music nerds may first think of David Axelrod -- does indeed incorporate electronic elements in a way no U2 album since Pop has, weaving samples, loops, and other flourishes within music that otherwise adheres to the self-conscious classicism that has been the band's stock in trade since Y2K. Which is another way of saying that where the U2 of the '90s looked forward, the 2014 U2 are looking back, aware of a legacy that includes decades of arena-filling anthems, the deliberate reinvention of Achtung Baby, and their initial inspiration from the great spark of punk rock. The latter also provides the thematic fuel on Songs of Innocence, a quasi-autobiographical coming-of-age story from Bono that begins with the big bang of "The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)." This opening fanfare doesn't sound a thing like the Ramones, nor does "This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now" sound like its reported inspiration, the Clash: they, like everything else here, sound like U2, albeit a U2 who are beginning to carry the weight of their years somewhat uneasily. Majesty doesn't come easily to them anymore, so they've replaced surging melodrama with a brittle, insistent clamor that's intended to dazzle. It's busy enough to be bracing yet it's also wearying, exuding a faint air of desperation that dampens the emotional pull of such lovely moments as "Song for Someone" and "The Troubles" (the latter featuring vocals from Lykke Li) while merely providing clatter elsewhere. Often, there's a nagging sense U2 could've pushed themselves a little harder sonically -- "Raised by Wolves" benefits from the coiled paranoia created by its frenetically circling vocals and guitars -- but that would've required risk, which they've been avoiding since Pop's garbled rollout. Instead, Songs of Innocence showcases how U2 desire to have things both ways. They camouflage their nostalgia in the sound of modernity; they play gigantic music about intimacy; they want to expand their horizons without leaving home. They want to be everything to everyone and, in attempting to do so, they've wound up with a record that appeals to a narrow audience: fellow travelers who either thrill at the spectacle or dig for the subtleties buried underneath the digital din. [Upon the surprise digital release of Songs of Innocence in September 2014, U2 announced the physical edition would appear a month later with an extra disc of bonus tracks. The band kept their promise, adding a second disc (along with finished artwork) to their thirteenth studio album for its physical release. Depending how you keep score, this second disc contains either 5, 10, or 11 tracks; the count is thrown off by five cuts being sequenced as one 22-minute track called "Acoustic Sessions" and a slightly alternate version of "Invisible" being buried as a hidden track at the end. Along with these "Acoustic Sessions" -- most being more fully arranged than the title suggests, particularly "Raised by Wolves" -- there is an alternate version of "The Troubles" and an "alternate perspective mix by Tchad Blake" for "Sleep Like a Baby Tonight," welcome variations all but which basically leave two songs as enticements for anybody other than the hardcore: "Lucifer's Hands" and "The Crystal Ballroom." Neither song seems to belong thematically to the loose semi-autobiographical narrative of the proper album and they're also more nimble than much of the record, with "Lucifer's Hands" benefitting from a dense percolating arrangement anchored by a trashy little guitar riff and "The Crystal Ballroom" evoking an arch, art-punk disco quite well. They might not have fit snugly onto the record but as individual songs, they're stronger than some of the tunes that made the cut.] © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo

Artist

U2 in the magazine
  • The Super Bowl halftime show: sports... but music too!
    The Super Bowl halftime show: sports... but music too! The Super Bowl LIV, the 54th annual championship and the most hotly contested American football game in the world took place on Sunday. But the game is often eclipsed by its halftime show, a musica...
  • Happy New Year!
    Happy New Year! Welcome to 2020! What better way to ring in the New Year than to take a look back at some songs from the likes of ABBA, Snoop Dogg and Van "The Man" Morrison...