Even at about 7pm, I was really tired and seriously considering falling onto my bed and going to sleep. Yet, for some weird reason, at around 8pm, I whipped out the André's U2 Cover Band versions of Elevation and Desire. Of course, that hyped me up and so I spent the next couple of hours plowing through the mountains of old LJ comments that had built up in my inbox. Not much past 10pm, I was on Interference and a thread appeared, proclaiming the leak of Hut Dab, but then it seemed like it was just a hoax, so I headed off to bed.
I'd been lying there for about five minutes listening to the storm rumbling outside when I heard the bleep of an incoming message on AIM. I initially thought that I'd just roll over and ignore it, but curiousity got the better of me and I made my way back to the computer to check. It was bono_man asking if the album had leaked, and I said the thread on Interference was a hoax, but I'm such an addict that I decided to check the forums once more. As luck would have it, I loaded up the 'hoax' thread just as a link to Miracle Drug was posted. I pretty quickly began downloading it, although I was skeptical in a big way, as evidenced by the file name of 'Possibly Miracle Drug'.
The second I played the song, not only were all doubts eliminated, I was left sitting there, staring at my computer in awe. All plans to wait until 22 November had gone out the window. I had to hear the rest of it and STRAIGHT AWAY. Miracle Drug is stunning, it's the next With Or Without You and it's definitely the best song made since 1987. I was absolutely loving it and really got into the Unforgettable Fire-ness of the slide solo ... then straight after "God, I need your help tonight," KA-BAM! Edge just rips into that other solo; it's like the transition from The First Time to Bullet The Blue Sky from ZooTV. DAMN. And then when Edge sings the final verse! GUH. I love it when he sings, I really do.
So I sat there, drowning in the brilliance of Miracle Drug, and the rest of the tracks progressively leaked. It was such an experience; I sat there frantically refreshing the relevant thread on Interference, eagerly awaiting the news that another new song had been fully uploaded and then hurriedly downloading it onto my computer and whacking it on my playlist at the same time.
Some irony struck, of course. Just as I began to download City Of Blinding Lights, a blinding light shot out of the sky, and then suddenly everything went off as this huge clap of thunder shook the house. I screamed out "FUUUUCK!" (I don't think I've ever said it that loud), but to my great relief, the power came back on just as I found my torch, and I madly scrambled to get my computer running and COBL downloading again. The rest of the download process was somewhat nerve-wracking, as the storm was raging in a big way and I was paranoid the power would cut out again. It thankfully didn't, and I managed to receive the whole album safely.
The beauty of this album is that there are no weak tracks at all. I've already spoken at length in the past on Vertigo, and I guess I've pretty much covered Miracle Drug, so here's the rest.
3. Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own
(I uploaded this earlier and the link still works: If you download this, you probably should buy the album.)
This song begins with some guitar that sounds VERY similar to some older song that I really don't like, but I just can't place it. Indeed, when I first added the song to my playlist, those notes made me think we'd been duped, but then Bono's singing began and all was well. The song progresses along nicely enough for the first three minutes, although I was almost feeling disappointed until that new guitar kicked in and Bono lets rip with that amazing "siiiiiiiiiiing." After twenty years of abusing his voice and treating it terribly, he can still sing that. DAMN. By all logic, Bono should have no voice left. If nothing else, he has one of the strongest, most enduring voices ever. The falsetto in the choruses - which I think is Bono and Edge together - is wonderful, and all in all, it's an incredibly emotionally charged song (for those who don't know, Bono wrote it after his father died and sung it at the funeral).
4. Love And Peace Or Else
DAMN. What can I say? This is experimental U2 from Zooropa totally rocked up and rocked out. The distortion in the first minute is just wonderful, and then it suddenly slips into this rocking groove and powers along for the next few minutes. The lyrics are politically charged, and just ... wow, that is a ROCKING song. The 2:20 mark is when this one really comes alive for me; this is a song to which you can rock! It has that sinister, dark guitar driving you along and oh wow, it is going to be amazing live.
5. City Of Blinding Lights
It's progressive-intro U2! Streets! You can tell that Where The Streets Have No Name is the parent of this song - the thematic idea behind it was conceived during a performance of WTSHNN at the first New York concert after 2001-09-11. Apparently this song first began developing during the Pop era, and I think the experience of playing in New York is what really created this one into the brilliant number that it is. With Streets, arguably the definitive rock track, as its parent, it's got to be special, and the anthemic, rousing chorus and music are second-to-none. It rises, it evolves, it takes you swirling in the city located some distance from the desert plain where the streets have no name. U2 haven't named the streets, but they've filled them with traffic, lights, and humanity feeling a broad spectrum of emotions.
6. All Because Of You
OK, firstly, a health warning: be careful when playing this song through headphones! The ringing first note is piercing. The song then starts seriously rocking, with a major primal scream from Bono before Edge's wonderful solo. It would seem to have been influenced by The Who and The Rolling Stones, and I particularly love the lyrics of the second verse. Heee, intellectual tortoise!
7. A Man And A Woman
I agree with whoever on Interference said that this should have a different title, such as The Mysterious Distance. The title is about all that I do not like about it. It's probably the weakest track on the album and definitely the one I've listened to the least, but that's not to take away from it whatsoever. It's not really a song U2 have tried before, though it would probably sit well with songs such as Staring At The Sun and Summer Rain. It's definitely one of those deeper summer songs, and even seems to be a confessional on behalf of Bono. One thing I can say is that it's not the ballad I predicted.
8. Crumbs From Your Table
After Miracle Drug and LAPOE, this is quite possibly my favourite song on the album. I've been playing it a lot, particularly this afternoon, and I feel it has the best lyrics of any song on the album. It's political, it's about Africa, and it makes so many good points. "Why would you deny for others what you demand for yourself?" "From the brightest star comes the blackest hole." "Where you live should not decide whether you live or die." However, my favourite part is the chorus.
You speak of signs and wonders
But I need something other
I would believe if I was able
But I'm waiting on the crumbs from your table
I'm very keen on the guitar: it's somewhat like a mixture of I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For and Walk On. Live, this song will be fantastic and I'm sure it will be very fun for the band to play. After all, they initially created it when they were drunk!
9. One Step Closer
This song is like a good wine. That truly is the best way to put it. You can't just listen to this song superficially; you need to let it wash over you and you must take the time to drown in it, taste its rich texture, and savour its subtle flavour. This is the Running To Stand Still or Heartland of the album and it's deceptive in the way that its subtle beauty could slip past the casual listener judging songs on a more shallow level or expecting a song that rocks and gets their blood pumping. Only U2 are good enough to create an album where All Because Of You and One Step Closer are separated by just two songs and don't feel out of place.
10. Original Of The Species
We thought this song was beautiful when we heard the stripped-down, somewhat improvised performance from the Apple press conference! With the full band together, it is absolutely stunning; it begins softly and builds up to a moving and passionate climax, "sugar come on, show your soul/You're keeping your love under controoool!" I'm not really sure what to say about it, to be honest. It's just a wonderfully beautiful number and follows in the tradition of some of U2's classics by having an AMAZING song near the end - i.e. One Tree Hill/Exit/Mothers Of The Disappeared from The Joshua Tree and Acrobat/Love Is Blindness from Achtung Baby.
Some were expecting the second coming of 40, but this is much different for it is the first Yahweh. I'm not sure if it's the best album closer U2 have ever made, but it's sure able to compete with legendary songs such as 40, Mothers Of The Disappeared, Love Is Blindness, and Wake Up Dead Man. I think a lot of people will miss the subtlety of the lyrics - some of it is confessional and personal, some is uplifting, and some is very politically charged ("a city should be shining on a hill" is a message to all the Americans out there), and it all fits together perfectly. What a wonderful closing song for an outstanding album!
Outstanding is definitely the word for Hut Dab. These four men have done what is supposedly not possible and released a definitive and classic album in their forties. All the snide comments that U2 have nothing more to say have been proven fallacious with one of the most charged albums of their career. It must be said that it is not experimental and does not push the envelope in a Zooropan manner, but it is classic U2. Indeed, one of its beauties is that while it evokes old U2, it is wholly new; it is a Best Of comprised of new songs, if that's possible.
What does it take to be a masterpiece? It has to match up to The Unforgettable Fire and The Joshua Tree. Why do I choose those two albums? Well, The Joshua Tree is pretty obvious - not only is it U2's most successful album, it contains their classic sound and is full of outstanding songs that are just as brilliant out of context as they are within the bounds of the album. I have chosen to use The Unforgettable Fire instead of Achtung Baby because I feel UF is lightyears ahead in terms of superiority, but I have chosen it for essentially the same reason as most other people choose Achtung Baby (though I don't see this in Achtung Baby like they do): it flows together perfectly. Some songs from The Unforgettable Fire are weak when taken out of the context of the album, ESPECIALLY 4th Of July, but together, the album is a wonderful example of craftsmen mastering their art and weaving together an album with atmosphere and a common binding force. It's ethereal and anthemic at the same time and paints lavish and vivid musical landscapes here, there, and anywhere. For me, it's what music is all about.
So that's basically the prerequisites. Each track, with maybe one or two exceptions, has to be outstanding in both isolation and context to equal The Joshua Tree, and the entire album has to flow together sonically and/or thematically to equal The Unforgettable Fire (or Achtung Baby, depending upon your personal preference).
The question is: so does it do that?
The answer is a resounding 'YES!' on both the UF and JT counts. Yep, BOTH. As I just made pretty evident above, there is not a single weak track on the album. I feel that the weakest track, A Man And A Woman, is surpassed by only a few songs on U2's two previous releases (Pop: Last Night On Earth, Gone, Wake Up Dead Man. ATYCLB: Walk On, Kite, The Ground Beneath Her Feet.) and none of the songs require the context of the rest of the album to display their full potential and brilliance. How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb is not only on the level of The Joshua Tree, it surpasses it, because Trip Through Your Wires can seem quite weak when taken in isolation, and although Exit is one of my very favourite songs live, the mix on the album is not of a fantastic quality. I also feel that most of the songs surpass the majority of those on The Unforgettable Fire. However, does it have the thematic connection and the musical beauty? Go take a look at songs such as Miracle Drug, City Of Blinding Lights, and One Step Closer: they can paint just as well as A Sort Of Homecoming or Promenade. Now in a broad album sense, it definitely flows, as evidenced by One Step Closer and All Because Of You being located so closely but not feeling out of place. There does seem to be a common theme running through the album, evidenced by the multiple references to kneeling, but I am yet to interpret this theme. That probably won't happen for a while, but I definitely feel it is also up to the challenge of The Unforgettable Fire.
Is the album a masterpiece? It satisfies the prerequisites established by both The Joshua Tree and The Unforgettable Fire, and is most certainly U2's fourth classic after UF, JT, and AB. It is one of their definitive works and it has shot straight to number one on my ranking of U2 albums. That's not because it's new U2 material; that's because it deserves that position. What a remarkable album! U2 have done the impossible. U2 are BACK and they aren't going away any time soon. As Bono said, this is only their first album.
I have one final comment to make about Hut Dab. There needs to be a notice from the department of censorship on the cover. Warning: This album induces profanity. Miracle Drug and Love And Peace Or Else are astounding.
On a slightly different U2 note, I headed down to the shops this morning and purchased the single of Vertigo. More precisely, I purchased three copies - the two different CD singles (Vertigo/Are You Gonna Wait Forever? and Vertigo/Vertigo (Jacknife Lee 10")/Neon Lights) and the DVD single, all for a cool AUS$25. As you can imagine, I'm pretty happy with the purchases; I've finally paid U2 for material that I've already heard/seen and already gushed about profusely in the past! (Edit: here's a link to a copy of Are You Gonna Wait Forever? that I uploaded. If you download this, I'd prefer it if you'd support U2 and buy the single as well. If you just want free music, this is One Tree Hill from 26 December 1989, Dublin. Scummy MP3s, I know, but it would take too long to upload SHN/FLAC.)
Do I have anything on a non-U2 note to say today? Don't think I do. Oh! Two hour long Geography exam tomorrow for which I have not done much study, but all will be well. Come on, it's Geography, my traditional best subject. Not a whole lot can go wrong.
Yeah! Yeah! Well let me tell you something. I've had enough of Irish-Americans who haven't been back to their country in twenty or thirty years come up to me and talk to me about the Resistance, the Revolution back home, and the glory of the Revolution, and the glory of dying for the Revolution.
FUCK THE REVOLUTION!
They don't talk about the glory of killing for the Revolution. What's the glory in taking a man from his bed and gunning him down in front of his wife and his children? Where's the glory in that? Where's the glory in bombing a Remembrance Day parade of old age pensioners, their medals taken out and polished up for the day, where's the glory in that? ... to leave them dying, or crippled for life, or dead ... under the rubble of the Revolution ... that the majority of the people of my country don't want.
- After Edge's solo during Sunday Bloody Sunday, 8 November 1987, McNichol's Arena, Denver
It's true we are immune, when fact is fiction and TV reality. Today, the millions cry; we eat and drink while tomorrow they die. No more! Sing, no more! *raises white flag* No more!