“We warned him we weren’t very good with hits.”
December 13, 2017 3:39 AM   Subscribe

 
Lots of Achtung, Baby high up the list alongside the hoary old classic rock banner wavers. This makes it harder for me to complain about, except I'd pick a different order for songs on that album.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:10 AM on December 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


Came to check I hadn't missed anything good since deciding they'd "sold out". Was not disappointed.
posted by Molesome at 4:26 AM on December 13, 2017 [3 favorites]


Oh, good. This post gives me an excuse to link to this amazing cover of "Red Hill Mining Town".
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 4:36 AM on December 13, 2017 [6 favorites]


Oh man, this is giving me flashbacks to freshman year of college, when my terrible roommate (who later stole my term paper!) played All That You Can't Leave Behind endlessly for like 4 months. Especially that "New York" song, which he apparently found personally meaningful as a college freshman in New York, and which I quickly grew to hate with the fire of a thousand suns.

I would've put "Two Hearts Beat As One" way higher, top 10 for sure. Also "New Years Day". And "Sunday Bloody Sunday" should be #1, what a great song. The article praises the drums and violin but fails to mention the fantastic post-punky guitar.

Still, can't argue too much with the top 5.
posted by equalpants at 4:54 AM on December 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


By far my favorite U2 songs are "The Fly" and "Daddy's Gonna Pay for Your Crashed Car", which means I don't really like folk music but love electrofunk.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:05 AM on December 13, 2017 [4 favorites]


Oh, good. This post gives me an excuse to link to this amazing cover of "Red Hill Mining Town".

"Red Hill Mining Town" is only #89, therefore this list is garbage. Always #1 in my heart.

Those guys nailed it. Wow!
posted by candyland at 5:16 AM on December 13, 2017 [4 favorites]


#20 before we even get to HTDAAB. And #21 on ATYCLB.

Well, we can tell the list maker is over 40.
posted by Talez at 5:45 AM on December 13, 2017 [4 favorites]


I've had Songs of Experience basically on repeat for the last week. Even though Mullins isn't as anywhere near flamboyant as Peart, you have to admire the guy's absolute perfection in keeping time. He has the precision of a drum machine on every U2 album.
posted by Talez at 5:47 AM on December 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


I must admit, with Songs of Experience, there could be a lot of hits if it gets traction. Love Is All We Have Left, You're The Best Thing About Me, Get Out of Your Own Way, American Soul, Love Is Bigger Than Anything in Its Way all could chart if given the chance.

I absolutely adore You're The Best Thing About Me because it basically reminds me of how I feel about my wife.
posted by Talez at 5:53 AM on December 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


Glad to see "Hawkmoon 269" get some love...now that all the grar over Rattle & Hum has long since receded, it can stand on its own merits and it's always been one of my favourites (the studio tracks, anyway). And "All I Want Is You" is a headphone masterpiece; it literally still gives me the shivers. I guess if I were going to pick a #1 I'd go with "With Or Without You," though.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:57 AM on December 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


#1 is absolutely correct, forever, for anyone who heard it blow the roof off Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City in 1987. That one song made it totally worth skipping Chemistry AND Econ AND American Lit class to by tickets.
posted by Caxton1476 at 6:02 AM on December 13, 2017


Even though Mullins isn't as anywhere near flamboyant as Peart, you have to admire the guy's absolute perfection in keeping time. He has the precision of a drum machine on every U2 album.

from TFA:

58. “I Threw a Brick Through a Window,” October
The difference between the album version and the live version of this track is dramatic. On record, it’s interesting rhythmically, but feels lugubrious and stiff. This isn’t surprising when you learn that Larry Mullen could not get through the tempo and came back one day to find that the Edge had overdubbed the drums.

posted by thelonius at 6:06 AM on December 13, 2017


Ok maybe not their earlier albums when he was a fairly inexperienced drummer.
posted by Talez at 6:19 AM on December 13, 2017


Yeah that was a long time ago! Fuck Neal Peart anyway.
posted by thelonius at 6:21 AM on December 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


Well, we can tell the list maker is over 40.

And Bono is 57. Your point? Personally, I think that "40" should have been in the top ten:
It would close most of the band’s shows in the ’80s, and was one of those moments that became a crucial part of what U2 was to their fans. The spikiest mohawked punks would stand down, hold hands, put their arms around the people near them and sing their hearts out on the chorus. And there was nothing quite like making your way out of the venue and hearing the refrain echoing off the lobby walls, down the streets, and into the subways. It was — is still — a piece of U2 magic that is hard to explain adequately. It closes a show gently, with civility and unity. It lifts your heart up, which is what a psalm is meant to do, even if you’re a nonbeliever.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:26 AM on December 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'm over 40 and I enjoyed this list immensely. The selections are on point and the author has a long memory — but it's exceptionally well written and remains critical while conveying a fan's honest enthusiasm, and that's the big thing. It made me want to go back and listen to my U2 albums for the first time in ages.

(Also, I had forgotten that "Stay" was originally intended as a Frank Sinatra song, and that's kind of a neat bit of trivia.)
posted by Mothlight at 6:29 AM on December 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I have to agree that for a list-icle, it's pretty good, and the author has an impressive knowledge of the band's oeuvre.

He also gets props for placing "The Fly" so high up the list. Prior to Achtung Baby, I always thought of U2 as "The Band who did New Year's Day" -- which was good, but didn't grab teenage-me's attention.

But on the Fly, which I heard on the radio waaaay back when, was totally different. The first few notes of Edge's guitar sounds like someone barging into the room, followed by that amazing beat. That production. That caterwauling guitar solo that just goes on and on, endlessly and wonderfully. Totally changed my opinion on what songwriting could be, to say nothing about changing my opinion on what U2 could be.
posted by jpolchlopek at 6:40 AM on December 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


Scrolling down, I wondered which would be the lowest-ranked song that I knew or remembered well enough to at least be able to hum. It turned out to be 171 - The Ground Beneath Her Feet. Its being the subject of a Salman Rushdie novel means I won't soon forget it. But I don't understand why it's ranked so low. The description only praises it, and it's amidst a bunch of other songs that the author seems to dislike.
posted by painquale at 6:43 AM on December 13, 2017


> Yeah, I have to agree that for a list-icle, it's pretty good, and the author has an impressive knowledge of the band's oeuvre.

All of these recent worst-to-best articles have been pretty good framing devices to discuss the artists in question in depth.

(The author of this one is a she.)
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:47 AM on December 13, 2017 [5 favorites]


I'll cop to not having followed the band after about Pop. What I've heard seemed kind of formulaic and rehashed. But that is probably a hasty take.
posted by thelonius at 6:53 AM on December 13, 2017


thelonius: What I've heard seemed kind of formulaic and rehashed.

I'm in the same boat as you. I had such high hopes for Songs Of Experience, particularly after this review by Tom Moon on NPR, which claimed that they sound "even a little bit scrappy" is a complete miss on my take. It's all polished pop stuff, which falls flat for me. There was no urgency, no real beauty, too much studio polish and shine.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:00 AM on December 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


He also gets props for placing "The Fly" so high up the list.

The author is female btw.

Your point?

I guess this list is biased to those who grew up with U2 vs those of us who grew up with our parents playing U2 and following them into their post-Pop era. Like this list wants to pretend Elevation doesn’t exist or that Miracle Drug isn’t a fantastic deep cut.
posted by Talez at 7:02 AM on December 13, 2017


My top 4:

1. Zooropa
2. Lemon
3. Stay (Faraway, So Close)
4. The Wanderer
posted by Beardman at 7:03 AM on December 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


"118. “Miracle Drug,” How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
The one thing that stops this song from being great is the chorus: “Freedom has a scent / Like the top of a newborn baby’s head,” which is of course Bono’s favorite line in the song."

You have to think this through. On first look, the line seems really saccharine, until you realize that *newborn * babies' heads are covered with blood, mucus, sweat, and more. Thus freedom has a scent like fear, exhaustion, pain, and exhilaration, IOW, a jailbreak.
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:10 AM on December 13, 2017 [5 favorites]


those who grew up with U2

They were really a breath of fresh air. There was nothing like them. Explosive live shows. My brother tells the story of a girl in a class with him in our high school who was hugely excited for some concert, maybe J. Geils Band, and wouldn't stop talking about it. The day after the show, she didn't care about anything but the opening band, an artist she'd never heard of, U2. I guess this was around "Boy" or "October".
posted by thelonius at 7:17 AM on December 13, 2017 [3 favorites]


The live version of "Bad" from "Wide Awake in America" is U2's best song.

So I was pleased with this list. Also with the anecdote about "Bad" live from "Live Aid" a year later.
posted by chavenet at 7:19 AM on December 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


Bad at Live Aid is probably third or forth best live performance ever recorded. Second being U2 at Superbowl XXXVI and first place being Queen at Live Aid.
posted by Talez at 7:21 AM on December 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


I love lists like this because they're wrong. But let me explain, they're only wrong to me. I think it all boils down to when you first discovered a band, work of art, actor, etc. I was introduced to U2 through their 90s albums: Achtung Baby, Zooropa, & Pop. It sort of solidified who U2 was for me. And then I went back to discover the best of their 80s albums (Rattle and Hum, Joshua Tree, etc.)

But I'll forever associate U2 with a giant glowing neon lemon, something I witnessed live on their Pop tour. I sort of fell out of love with U2 with All That You Can't Leave Behind. That was their last album that I recall really singing along to at the top of my lungs while driving with the windows rolled down. They've released some nice albums since then, but the songs just hasv't stayed with me in the same way that songs like Mysterious Ways and Numb have.
posted by Fizz at 7:21 AM on December 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


Just last month I finally got around to listening to Songs of Innocence after it was spammed into iTunes by U2 and Apple a few years ago. I found it mostly garbage and deleted it without listening to the whole thing. But now I want to revisit some of the older work.
posted by exogenous at 7:25 AM on December 13, 2017


No love for Womanfish?

Kidding. This is a pretty decent list.

Surprised just how many of these I haven't heard. I had all their B-sides and various bootlegs up until around Achtung, Baby and then I just sort of trailed off after Zooropa came out.

I might have put Rejoice a bit higher, for that riff alone. I always loved that song. I had a bootleg cassette as a teenager that had a live version.

Around that age was when Rattle and Hum came out and I was in my peak U2 fandom. I *loved* the shit out of Rattle and Hum, too young and inexperienced to see how full of themselves they were. There was a break in God Part II that I would crank up every time. I also thought their cover of Helter Skelter was amazing, mostly just because they did it. I'm older and wiser now and don't have the same love for those songs as I did, but I still really like a lot of the material on that album.

So many great songs I've forgotten of. The echo in A Day Without Me. In the Under A Blood Red Sky video that's the song where Bono straps on an electric guitar. He famously just sort of wears guitars rather than plays them, but he strums a chord or two. I always enjoyed seeing him with an electric guitar on stage.

Seconds, off War, is one of my favorites. The lyrics are very 80s, of course, and it's mostly just one chord, but I've always loved the rhythm of it.

A Celebration is one of their all-time most kick-ass songs. Total guitar song.

Two Hearts Beat as One is The Edge playing his best rhythm guitar. So good.

I got to see The Edge play Van Diemen's Land on St. Patrick's Day at the old Boston Garden on (I think) the Zoo TV tour. After he did that Larry sang Dirty Old Town.

Silver and Gold is one of their lesser-known gems. So glad they pulled it out for the live show later on The Joshua Tree tour.

11 O'Clock Tick Tock is one of my least favorite U2 songs. I'd have put it much further back in the list.

About 40: "And there was nothing quite like making your way out of the venue and hearing the refrain echoing off the lobby walls, down the streets, and into the subways." THIS.

What else can one say about Streets. This is just the ultimate U2 anthem. Everything about it is just perfect.

I have such mixed feeling about the band now. I was such a fan in the 80s, I trailed off in the 90s and have been mostly indifferent since then, but I still find myself watching live videos on YouTube, even of their newer songs. They've had the same lineup for 40 years, with no major drama between them. I think I'll always really admire and respect them.

And The Edge will always be one of my all-time favorite guitarists. You can have your guitar face and lightning-fast solos, I'll take The Edge just standing there and playing The Edge any day.
posted by bondcliff at 7:29 AM on December 13, 2017


The Edge is unique because he took technology and used it effectively for the art and not for the sake of it. When you listen to his delay techniques the tracks layer over each other to create this ridiculously rich and full sound despite being only a single guitarist playing rhythm. It's so delicious.
posted by Talez at 7:33 AM on December 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


The Edge is unique because he took technology and used it effectively for the art and not for the sake of it. When you listen to his delay techniques the tracks layer over each other to create this ridiculously rich and full sound despite being only a single guitarist playing rhythm.

The first part of this video is my favorite video of The Edge demonstrating his technique.
posted by bondcliff at 7:36 AM on December 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


Goddamnit, I just wrote a nice bit of stuff to post to this thread, and then hit refresh instead of post and that is all lost, like tears in the rain.

To summarize: I have minor different personal opinions and have some experiences and attachment with a few songs that give me different opinions about this list, but generally I am pleased with it.

Also, concert anecdotes and mild arguments.
posted by hippybear at 7:36 AM on December 13, 2017 [5 favorites]


The Edge and Andy Summers are probably the two most influential guitarists from the 80's, at least outside of the shredders' island
posted by thelonius at 7:45 AM on December 13, 2017


The Edge and Andy Summers are probably the two most influential guitarists from the 80's, at least outside of the shredders' island

Everyone knows that Slash isn't real. My parents told me at 8 years old.
posted by Talez at 7:49 AM on December 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


I loved U2 for like one year in high school, but haven't thought or cared about them much in the years since. Achtung Baby was always the album that had all my favorites you didn't hear on the classic rock station, so I'm generally happy with this list.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:54 AM on December 13, 2017


Everyone knows that Slash isn't real.

Heh. I'd probably put Randy Rhoads above Slash, although for some reason, people into hard rock seem to think Slash is something really special (he always seemed pretty much quite good at the same-old-same-old to me), so I guess he has been very influential.
posted by thelonius at 7:55 AM on December 13, 2017


I loved U2 for like one year in high school, but haven't thought or cared about them much in the years since.

This sentence depends a whole lot on what year that was.
Not that you have to answer, natch.
But if it was 1983 or 1984, well alrighty then.
posted by chavenet at 7:58 AM on December 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


Oh god no, it was like 2001.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:59 AM on December 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


As a well-over-40 fan who thinks they peaked musically with War, I have a few issues with this list, but overall it's not bad.
posted by rocket88 at 8:05 AM on December 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


They hadn’t even met Eno then!
posted by Burhanistan at 8:09 AM on December 13, 2017


Some notes as I go through the list...

169. Oh man, I know it's not a favorite, but I love Wild Honey. It's just so damn fun and lovely.

133. Peace on Earth is possibly the angriest song U2 has ever recorded. I remember people saying they thought it was a treacly X-Mas song and I'm just... did you listen to the lyrics at all?

98. If You Wear That Velvet Dress is audio sex.

90. In A Little While is another lesser regarded ATYCLB track that's one of my favorites.

(God damn, U2 really has a lot of great songs. I'm not going to be able to see them again on the new tour and I thought I was OK with it but going through this list has really ignited my old passion for them.)

27. Love is Blindness has very direct lyrics, but on a second layer it's also about the Troubles.

6. One is my favorite U2 song, and the Edge's quote here is why: “‘Get to’ is the key,” Edge said, “‘Got to’ would be too obvious and platitudinous. ‘Get to’ suggests it is our privilege to carry one another.”

Can't argue with any of the top of the list though. They're all fucking amazing songs.
posted by kmz at 8:10 AM on December 13, 2017


The first time I heard "New Years Day" was on a C64. Someone had arranged it for the SID chip, and it worked. They were all over MTV and part of the landscape in the 80's. In high school I had a friend who just would not shut up about them and how profound they were. He's a politician now. The video for "All I Want Is You" - which is the only song of theirs that I really, truly like - made me sob uncontrollably the first time I saw it. In 1992 they played Yankee Stadium and I got to work the Amnesty International booth which also allowed my friend and I to take breaks and wander around near the front row. I got Bono sweat on me.

The whole enterprise lost me, though, when the bug-eyed glasses that Bono donned for Zoo TV tour turned into permanent face implants.
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:11 AM on December 13, 2017


When Boy came out, I loved it. It wasn’t punk rock by any stretch but it was still different to the old bullshit that came before. I thought, this is a band to watch. Then their second album came out and it just seemed dull, dull, dull. I’ve never gotten back into them.
posted by evilDoug at 8:14 AM on December 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


Biases on the table: I am a U2 devotee that has seen them in concert more than 40 times going back to PopMart. I certainly love their pre-2000 stuff far more than recent efforts, but that hasn't stopped me from gobbling up the energy of their live shows.

I have some differences of opinion, but the author gets to her choices honestly and I respect that. I appreciate that her putting "I Will Follow" at #2 is for entirely personal reasons (not that it isn't a great song in its own right).

Their arrangement of "Red Hill Mining Town" on this years Joshua Tree 30th anniversary tour made the song sound like it could fit in the just-below-upper-tier live catalogue, which is something given that it had never been played live before 2017. It had Edge on piano and a layered in horn section. Mostly the urgency of Bono's vocals propelled it.

And while we're talking about the tour, the original JT tour was before my fan days so it was my first time hearing "Exit" live, and holy shit.

More than anything else this list gives me a strong craving to re-listen to their 90s albums. I totally love Pop, for what it was trying to be, and for the songs on the album that landed ("Mofo", "Please", "Velvet Dress", "Gone", and "Wake Up Dead Man"), and there are so many brilliant tracks on Achtung Baby and Zooropa.

Personal Top 10:

Bad (cheating because it's the live version that transcends)
Ultraviolet
Please
Streets
Until the End of the World
Drowning Man
One Tree Hill
Stay
Out of Control
Breathe (the only redeeming track on NLOTH)
posted by dry white toast at 8:17 AM on December 13, 2017 [1 favorite]




A couple weeks ago I took the notion to listen to Achtung Baby for the first time since high school. (I am 41.) Honestly, I haven't stopped listening to it since. Over and over! Achtung Baby is fucking great! This list maker is correct that One is the best song on it, but I'd vote for Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses as second.
posted by something something at 8:23 AM on December 13, 2017


Also, if for some reason, you haven't seen Edge's outro solo from the live performance of "Love Is Blindness", it is mind-blowing. It's Edge telling you that he could shred with Slash, Hendrix, and Prince, but it's just not what he's about.
posted by dry white toast at 8:24 AM on December 13, 2017 [4 favorites]


Love is Blindness has very direct lyrics, but on a second layer it's also about the Troubles.

Honestly this is the kind of thing that attracted me in high school. In retrospect my devotion to internet descriptions of what songs were "really about" was bordering on Gnostic, except that a lot of the meanings were actually way more transparent that I would have let on.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:25 AM on December 13, 2017


When Boy came out, I loved it. It wasn’t punk rock by any stretch but it was still different to the old bullshit that came before. I thought, this is a band to watch. Then their second album came out and it just seemed dull, dull, dull. I’ve never gotten back into them.

Anyone who liked them after U23 is just a poser, imo.
posted by bondcliff at 8:36 AM on December 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


Skipped straight to #1, snorted derisively, dismissed entire effort.
posted by senor biggles at 8:40 AM on December 13, 2017 [5 favorites]


Reading the entire list filled me with sorrow and joy in equal measures. For those who skipped the list, or skip U2 generally, I feel genuinely sorry. What a fantastic library of fascinating songs.

The author's notes about each song are also very good. Kudos to her.
posted by pwinn at 8:49 AM on December 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


Babyface: An ode to the many supermodels who began keeping company with U2 in the ’90s. It’s a sweet little love song.
That is... not how I would interpret that song.

I listened to Songs of Experience and wondered, at points, if it might be a subtle parody, but unfortunately, I think they meant it. It is exceedingly mediocre. Like others up thread, new U2 brings me back to old U2. Achtung Baby is a magnificent work. It reached out and grabbed my 16-year-old self, and now that I'm 42 out still touches me, but for different reasons. I don't know how Until the End of the World isn't higher up.
posted by curiousgene at 8:50 AM on December 13, 2017


My favourite thing from that Page/Edge/White video series is when Jack White 'teaches' them the Seven Nation Army riff, i.e., the simplest riff in history. And then fucking Jimmy Page and fucking The Edge start dutifully chugging along with him, and all three of them are just plunking out this boneheaded riff like three kids in their parents' basement. It's so funny.
posted by Beardman at 8:52 AM on December 13, 2017 [6 favorites]


Beardman, that scene saved the movie from it's own opening scene of White building a 2x4 guitar. The rest of the movie I couldn't stop laughing at White.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:06 AM on December 13, 2017


My love once sang in my ear while snuggled hiding under the covers from a cold stormy Sunday: "On rainy days we go swimming out, on rainy days swimming in the sound..."

I'm not saying it's a good song, but Electrical Storm should have made the top hundred, is all I'm saying.
posted by Eleven at 9:08 AM on December 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


The rest of the movie I couldn't stop laughing at White.
On the one hand, I respect anyone who can make a living as a working musician. It's difficult. Also, Jack White wrote We Are Going to be Friends, which is a beautiful song.

On the other hand, what an insufferable douchebag.
posted by curiousgene at 9:18 AM on December 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


For me, U2 has three near perfect albums (War, The Joshua Tree, Achtung Baby), and then a lot of sporadically interesting albums. Those three, though.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:41 AM on December 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


Personal top 5, in order:

Sunday Bloody Sunday
I Will Follow
One
New Year's Day
Bad

I do think there is a pretty broad agreement as to which U2 songs are the best ones (you can rearrange the order, but still), which isn't the case with every band.
posted by breakin' the law at 10:22 AM on December 13, 2017


My personal history with U2 is mixed: knew them first from their first big singles: War, New Year's Day & sunday Bloody Sunday, then was a huge music snob when Joshua Tree was released and you could basically play the whole album through osmosis. That's peak U2 for me, their nineties and post-millennium work never appealed to me, but "Where the Streets Have No Name" takes me back immediately to being twelve and listening to the top forty each week and Countdown on Wednesdays.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:32 AM on December 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


I do think there is a pretty broad agreement as to which U2 songs are the best ones

Ha. "Sunday Bloody Sunday", I can do without, personally. Too bombastic, and the harbinger of Bono-saves-the-world pretension. I liked it back in the day, though.
posted by thelonius at 10:44 AM on December 13, 2017


One thing I hate about these lists is that they pretend to a sort of fine-granularity that doesn’t exist in most cases — sure, you can probably make some broad statements about the top and bottom 10% and maybe s few tiers in between, but the exact ordering suggests s precision that cant exist in the wild.

Essentially, all your lists are wrong.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:48 AM on December 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


U2 was a band that taught me a lesson; never read a review for something you already have tickets to. Make that two lessons; unless it's the Grateful Dead, it's not worth seeing a musician in a fucking stadium; stadium concerts are like watching TV if your TV is really big, but really far away from you.

I was reading the review for the Zoo TV tour and it pointed out that Bono had like 6 costume changes during the concert; which by any standards is just a *bit* much; like his costume was more important than his friggin' music. So I had tickets (gifted to me, went with some friends) and I was watching those costume changes and the whole thing seemed ridiculous.

Anyways, I ended up at a couple of more stadium concerts in my life, but other than the Grateful Dead, they were always a mistake. And I never read another review for something I had tickets to again in my life.
posted by el io at 11:24 AM on December 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


unless it's the Grateful Dead, it's not worth seeing a musician in a fucking stadium

Counterpoint: yes it is. Pink Floyd, Rush, NiN, Roger Waters, Wilco, Radiohead, Bruno Mars and Lionel Ritchie, to name a few, put on amazing shows which could only exist in a stadium setting. I saw the same U2 concert and all it did was make me not like U2.
posted by grumpybear69 at 11:54 AM on December 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


Related - U2 singles ranked (unfortunately grouped in blocks of ten or so) from earlier this year (pre-Songs of Experience). Spoiler: Vulture's #6 is this list's #1.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:04 PM on December 13, 2017


"One" should have been way higher. I mean it's right there in the name!
posted by rabbitrabbit at 12:23 PM on December 13, 2017 [3 favorites]


my favorite U2 song is the C+C Music Factory cover of "Pride (In The Name of Love)" because it never fails to crack me up
posted by roger ackroyd at 12:24 PM on December 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


If I was gonna pick #1 U2 that comes back to blow your mind 30 years later and completely shatter your heart in a way like you never would have expected, I would pick Running To Stand Still to be that song. It just waxes your ass on the floor with it's unbridled heart.

And GOD DAMNIT U2 why do I gotta fucking like y'all.
posted by Annika Cicada at 12:29 PM on December 13, 2017


The listmaker and I have several fundamental differences in taste and opinion that could seriously hinder our hypothetical friendship.

At least Gloria and some of the Rattle & Hum era tracks are getting more love than usual.
posted by monopas at 12:33 PM on December 13, 2017


“‘Get to’ is the key,” Edge said, “‘Got to’ would be too obvious and platitudinous. ‘Get to’ suggests it is our privilege to carry one another.”

Huh, that line struck me as being a bit ironic or sarcastic when I heard it as a teen, as if it's a joke about the "pleasure" of dealing with with others' unnecessary burdens. But I was kind of a pessimistic git so that may explain it.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:36 PM on December 13, 2017


Good fucking god I misread the title of this as all 218 UB40 songs and let me tell you it has been a wild and utterly baffling ride.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:38 PM on December 13, 2017 [8 favorites]


oh man I hope Red, Red Wine is #1.
posted by bondcliff at 1:12 PM on December 13, 2017 [6 favorites]


My feelings are very closely aligned with the author of this, particularly in thinking Rattle and Hum is wildly underrated and Achtung Baby has some of their best work.

It's easy to forget how insanely dirty The Fly was as a song to be on mainstream radio in 1991. In every way. And that solo in love is blindness is so raw it's barely music, but it's amazing.

I stopped listening dead with, um, Pop? I will be checking out some of the higher placed recent ones.
posted by Sebmojo at 1:24 PM on December 13, 2017 [1 favorite]




Nthing enjoying The Edge in It Might Get Loud; not being much more than a Greatest Hits U2 listener, I was surprised at how engaging and fun he was, and would've preferred a whole movie of him. Page is also charming, though my wariness of '70s rock guys always kicks in. White leaves you feeling embarrassed, sort of went cold on him after that.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 1:45 PM on December 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


I mean, I don't even care how douchey White is, or comes across even, his body of work, his style, what gets appreciated, it's the very definition of "derivative".
posted by humboldt32 at 1:49 PM on December 13, 2017


When I was a kid, I got up at like 4:30 one morning because MTV was going to premiere two new Joan Jett videos (for some reason, at a cow-milking hour), and while I was waiting, I heard "Pride" for the first time. It changed my life. I will never forget what it was like to hear a guitar sound like that for the first time.
posted by 4ster at 1:50 PM on December 13, 2017 [2 favorites]


Not a fan myself ('An Cat Dubh' was my favourite, anyway) but what I learned from glancing at this list: yes, the video for 'Sweetest Thing' is actually pretty funny.
posted by ovvl at 2:18 PM on December 13, 2017


This is a very fine run down and the author makes a compelling case again and again for her choices. I really cannot imagine a list like this without “A Sort of Homecoming” in the top five or at the very least top 10 but I will accept the top 15. Seeing “Ultraviolet (Light My Way)” so high up was also encouraging. The only thing that I think was a real swing and miss is her assessment of the two songs from The Million Dollar Hotel soundtrack, particularly “Stateless”—both of those songs are gorgeous and atmospheric.

Oh, and the low placement of “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses” and especially “Two Hearts Beat as One” is not defensible. Again, very good list, tho.
posted by koavf at 4:38 PM on December 13, 2017


I got into U2 right away back when "Boy" was released, and bought every album since, with the exception of "October". Critics were so lukewarm about it, I just avoided even listening to it - until, I bought it a at thrift store last year for a couple bucks. What a fool I was - I love "October". There's something about it that resonates with me. It has a driving innocent earnestness that the current U2 sadly lacks.
posted by davebush at 6:53 PM on December 13, 2017 [3 favorites]


In middle and Highschool, I listened to a lot of Classic Rock radio, whose massive and varied playlists inexplicably included a lot of Joshua Tree and War, despite coming out less than five years prior. Also, Bruce Springsteen and John Cougar Mellencamp and some real recent Billy Joel. In hindsight, it was a rock-and-roll channel that refused to go anywhere near the metal or the "LA Scene" cacophany that had completely taken over the "hard rock" stations of the time.

I discovered Jane's Addiction and RHCP and the Pixies and Husquer Du by way of insomnia on Sunday nights (MTV 120 minutes, after midnight on a sunday, please don't let this stuff take over pop... aaaaand it took over pop), and knew something was up. I didn't really sign on to the grunge thing, but now we have Sonic Youth and Black Crows and...

The Fly happened. At the same time the Internet was happening and if U2 could get away with this, all bets were off.

Things That Actually Happened On The Radio In Daytona Beach in the Early to Mid 90's When I was in College:

- One of the four Classic Country stations, the ones that would only play country songs with an entire orchestral string section backing a terrible cover of an actually good country song, switched its format to Alternative Rock. It did this by playing The Pizzicato 5's "Twiggy" on repeat for 72 hours, with complaint calls spliced in. (I had the album, it's great!)

- An FM political news channel couldn't get the Rush Lindbergh[sic] show due to some fuckery with the other FM political news channel and an exclusive deal, and so they changed their format to love and sex advice shows, with both local and syndicated talent. This was sixteen hours a day, five days a week. The rest of the time? Well, it had been a student operated college channel before the Fairness Doctrine was repealed. They had, for some reason, kept the wax and the tape in nicely climate-controlled store-rooms. And the transgressive nerds running the show had a vast library of obscure artists and deep tracks from the New Wave and Synth-Pop movements of the early '80s, the ones that Hard Rock stations running "LA Scene Metal" and grunge devotees told us were the nadir of awful... spoiler? They were the opposite. So smart and tight and purposeful! Emotion and intellect. It's like you opened a door labeled "The Smiths" and were sucked into a vast world where Morrisey and The Smiths were but the tip of a spear a mile long.

But there were no DJ's after hours to tell us what we were listening to, and they didn't answer the phone or reply to letters... so I have these songs stuck in my head, I'll never know the name to nor who performed them. They were of one time and place, and then became of another without their intention or knowing.

- The local college channels started playing techno (little "t" for the pedants) after midnight on Sunday. Then Saturday. Now it rules the world. I'm not certain if I'm happy about that. I'll just nestle in with my Vaporwave and Futurefunk and Outrun and remember a time when it wasn't taking over the world and goddammit... Really? They are?

It's all right, it's all right, it's all right. She moves in mysterious ways.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:06 PM on December 13, 2017


I didn't get into U2 until Joshua Tree, but it was enough to get me trying to find everything else they had done. This was the 80s and I was a teenager so it was not as easy to find their earlier releases as it would be now. They wound up being the first big rock concert I ever went to (classical concerts somehow count in a different way) and let me tell you I had a job convincing my extremely conservative parents that this was going to be ok. I think it was only because I went with friends and one of their mums came as well. Anyway, we got to the stadium (somewhere near Philly) super early and hung about for ages, waiting. And as we waited we could hear them warming up with the opening bits of Where the Streets Have No Name and it was just magical; ethereal because they didn't have the amps fully operating, but so full of anticipation and longing. To this day, the opening bars of that song will get me every time.

And of course Joshua Tree and The Unforgettable Fire and Rattle and Hum became part of the soundtrack of my intensely felt and lived adolescence, so it is impossible for me to hear them without feeling shadows of those emotions. Achtung Baby came out when I was at uni and I somehow wound up getting tickets to see them again. That album grew and grew on me over time and I still love its rawness, its sexiness, its darkness. Then I lost them and didn't pick them up again until All That You Can't Leave Behind came out. Stuck in a Moment really annoyed me with its facile advice and yet I found myself having - well, I'd call it a mid-life crisis except I was too young for that, but that's the kind of thing it was - and Stuck was one of the songs that somehow helped me get through. Years later, as my life fell apart again, Walk On helped me believe I would.

I lost track of them again after that, despite the automatic itunes download. Life feels pretty tough again now. Maybe when I get done re-listening to Achtung Baby I'll check out some of their more recent work, see if once again they can bolster my hope.
posted by Athanassiel at 9:19 PM on December 13, 2017 [3 favorites]


when I remember how I felt about U2 when I was 13, I feel a physical pain somewhere in my body that is about like I imagine it feels right when enough bile accretes in your secret places to turn into a gallstone. it gets worse when people say mean things about U2 and it gets worst when people say impassioned affectionate things about them.

People like to give Bono a really hard time


ha ha we sure do don't we
thank god he deserves it all

-- "All I Want is You" is a beautiful song, maybe the most beautiful song. you can make me ashamed to say it but you can never make me pretend it is not so. at least until the howling starts. that makes it a standout in the U2 catalog, so many of whose songs are not good until the howling starts.
posted by queenofbithynia at 10:41 PM on December 13, 2017


I was kind of meh about much of their output until they released Bullet The Blue Sky.

I love the way that song is put together.
posted by flabdablet at 12:34 AM on December 14, 2017 [1 favorite]


I also think it owes a great deal to Careful With That Axe, Eugene.
posted by flabdablet at 12:52 AM on December 14, 2017 [3 favorites]


At age 12, U2 was my first musical love. The first one which kept me awake at night. Obsessively listening over and over again on that cheap tape deck I could play under the pillow without waking anyone up. "New Year's Day" was a song I could never tire of. Still think it's amazing to this day.

Was a great band to grow up with. A great band when you know you're on your way out of Christian culture, but you still have to navigate the fundamentalist landscape. The first album I bought with my own money was October. Chosen over War because I knew October was their Christian album, and was maybe the only Christian album in the early 80's which wasn't utter dreck. To this day, I still kinda love the melancholy and sincerity of it.

Anyways, thanks for posting the list. I kinda broke with U2 in the late 80's when Bono started being Bono, and because of Negativland. Came back briefly because Actung Baby was amazing despite Bono being Bono. And haven't touched them much since. I'd never really thought much about their legacy or innovations, but this list made all of that clear. My inner pre-teen is cheering that part on, and overcoming my normal skepticism about them.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 1:52 AM on December 14, 2017 [5 favorites]


I'm 45. I have both loved and ignored U2 several times in my life. I've seen them in concert 3 times. I've seen my cold hearted wife tear up watching The Edge. I've rolled my eyes at Bono preaching. When we saw them back in June, for the Joshua Tree anniversary tour thing, I noted:
People around me at U2
  • Old man who claps offbeat and sings off key
  • Dude who screamed "build the wall" during refugee video
  • Loud whistlers
  • And 50,000 nice people, mostly enjoying being taken back to when their lives were simpler.
  • oh, and a whole slew of arhythmic chair dancers. Seriously there were a lot of Elaine dancers out there.

  • posted by DigDoug at 7:09 AM on December 14, 2017 [1 favorite]


    I also think it owes a great deal to Careful With That Axe, Eugene.

    I think you meant Stranglehold.
    posted by humboldt32 at 11:53 AM on December 14, 2017 [1 favorite]


    The one time I saw U2 live (the Elevation tour) I sprung for some pretty good seats because my girlfriend (now wife) had been a fan since the age of 12 and had never seen them. Shortly before the show started the row behind us filled up with a bunch of finance/law/whatever bros, a couple of whom were W-A-S-T-E-D, and the drunks immediately started ceaselessly yelling "YEEEAAHGHHGHHHH YOOOOOOO TOOOOOOOOOO WOO WOO AHHHH WOOOOOOOOOO" and high-fiving each other and spilling beer and shit (mercifully they'd skipped the opening act, PJ Harvey). I was worried they were going to ruin it for my wife but after about two or three songs I realized they'd quieted down so I looked back and the two wasted dudes were passed out in their seats, a condition they remained in for the rest of the night, thank Christ.
    posted by The Card Cheat at 1:53 PM on December 14, 2017


    so they were singing "The Refugee?"
    posted by the phlegmatic king at 1:57 PM on December 14, 2017 [2 favorites]


    I think you meant Stranglehold.

    Having just now listened through that, and having yet again heard Ted Nugent flog a white-hot riff and bass line all the way to a dull red, I really don't think so.
    posted by flabdablet at 5:03 PM on December 14, 2017


    It's literally the same riff. It pains me you don't hear it.
    posted by humboldt32 at 5:58 PM on December 14, 2017


    I hear the riff. I just don't think U2 owes Ted Nugent anything for using it because it's not about the riff, which is in any case not by any means rare; it's about the feel, which Nugent, as per usual, fails to demonstrate.

    Edge extracts more emotional power from any single note struck on that track than Nugent could achieve with hours of his interminable noodling.
    posted by flabdablet at 8:12 PM on December 14, 2017


    Gosh, sorry. I wasn't being literal. I just meant it's closer than CWTAE. I think our intentions were misunderstood.
    posted by humboldt32 at 8:28 PM on December 14, 2017


    I have some minor issues with the rankings, but really the commentary on the tracks is the draw here.

    Did you know the Manic Street Preachers wrote a U2 song? Achtung era sound. Looking back towards Joshua Tree.
    posted by snuffleupagus at 8:32 PM on December 14, 2017 [1 favorite]



    Did you know the Manic Street Preachers wrote a U2 song yt ? Achtung era sound. Looking back towards Joshua Tree.
    posted by snuffleupagus at 11:32 PM on December 14 [+] [!]


    Wow. I thought you were kidding, but that really does sound like U2. It is a great song.
    posted by 4ster at 10:43 AM on December 16, 2017


    40 years together as a band - mostly spent at a level of global fame - encompasses an awful lot of people's formative years and important moments. For me, who watched "Bad" on Live Aid on my last day at school, it was "The Unforgettable Fire" - an album where the band seem to be pushing themselves musically much farther than they had been before - and yet not finding their limits. Bono's venture over the barrier and into the crowd at Wembly seems like a literal embodiment of that moment in their history. Yet they still seem like an Irish band at that stage -rather than a sort of international brand.

    I like the author's anecdote about the rest of the band's bitching about not getting time to fit "Pride, in the Name of Love" into the set (even Paul Young - who had preceded the band onto the stage, had managed to cram in 4 numbers versus U2s two). But "Pride", or "A sort of Homecoming" would have been equally effective passages to global stardom, no doubt.
    posted by rongorongo at 10:59 PM on December 16, 2017


    Better than most such lists - based on personal preference but at least with insight and interesting anecdotes. For me the biggest miss on it is Do You Feel Loved? I love that song, especially the opening and closing guitar melody, at once exciting and promising and hauntingly elusive. If I had a personal musical theme, it would be that one.... Plus it has lines like "you've got my head filled with songs, you've got my shoelaces undone..." It doesn't sound at all unfinished to me. In fact, that may be one of the reasons that, unlike in this and many other lists, POP is one of my favourite albums. Most of their subsequent material is, often wildly, over-produced: at core good songs but ending up, gotta say it, kind of cheesy. Individual tracks like Electrical Storm prove they still have it, just have gotten stuck in a groove for their overall sound. Agree with number one though!
    posted by blue shadows at 2:25 PM on December 17, 2017 [2 favorites]


    One last note, i think this 2001 Boston gig for the Elevation tour is maybe peak U2 - effortless control, total passion.
    posted by Sebmojo at 1:32 AM on December 19, 2017


    I've always liked Mexico City 2006.
    posted by snuffleupagus at 8:34 AM on December 19, 2017 [1 favorite]


    The Mexico City Popmart show that MTV broadcast was pretty good too.
    posted by snuffleupagus at 8:36 AM on December 19, 2017


    Shut up, Bono.
    "I think music has gotten very girly. And there are some good things about that, but hip-hop is the only place for young male anger at the moment — and that's not good," he said.
    posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:24 PM on December 28, 2017 [1 favorite]


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