Thursday, October 27, 2005

Bono rates the U2 albums

One of the more fascinating parts of the generally fascinating Rolling Stone interview with Bono is his discussion of each of the U2 albums. Bono is, not unexpectedly, perhaps harsher on his lyrics than I would be although his comments often strike me as being really perceptive regarding each album’s relative strengths and weaknesses.

One comment that really struck me was about How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. Bono said (and I’m paraphrasing because I don’t have the interview in front of me) that it was perhaps their strongest collection of songs but that the whole was not more than the sum of its parts. Bono found that particularly annoying. (For a point of reference, he said that Achtung Baby was a counterexample – the whole of that album is more than the sum of its parts.)

Now I really like Atomic Bomb as an album. I agree that the collection of songs is amazing. But do I agree with Bono’s assessment? I’m not sure. As I thought about it though I started to think of albums that are better as albums then they are as individual songs. I immediately thought of Sgt. Pepper (Beatles). Then as I thought more I came up with Tommy (the who), Layla (Eric Clapton / Derek and the Dominos), Band on the Run (Paul McCartney), Plastic Ono Band (John Lennon), Beyond Nature (Phil Keaggy) and Brothers in Arms (Dire Straits).

But what about other albums I would also consider great? Are there other great albums that are more like a collection of great songs than a really coherant whole album? I think I would put one of my all-time favorite albums in this category – The Beatles’ Revolver. Who’s Next and Close to the Edge might be other examples.

So perhaps there are two ways to have a great album: 1) have such a killer selection of songs that the album reaches greatness just by the sheer heft of the material or 2) have an album that works as a whole, so that each song is better because of the company that it is in. I’m thinking of albums that really knock me out here – all of the albums that I’ve listed are albums that I put in some of the all-time-great-album category and, surprisingly, they seem to fall into both of these camps.

I’d love to hear some other examples of great albums and which of these categories readers think they fall into.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

seems to me you have an awful lot of time on your hands

Bar Bar A said...

This is a great post and I can't wait to come back and give my thoughts.

As for that comment - I'm glad you have time on your hands to post about this U2 and their music! I LOVE it! Be back later!

Bob K said...

Actually, I have a 45 minute commute every morning and evening - that will do it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Bob - I'm not really anonymous;it's just great to say hello to a fellow Revolver fan. Also love Beatles 65, and I'll never forget the first time I heard Rubber Soul - I was never the same. Kathy B.

Anonymous said...

I also have a 45 minute commute, and it does things to you. Before you know it, you'll be talking to yourself...

Ron Rienstra said...

Another category is the album that has a FABULOUS side A and a side B that makes you say "What the heck happened?"

(I know I know - I'm talking about way back when there were "Albums" and "sides".)

Bob K said...

Ron - I think In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida might qualify.

bethany said...

sides? Is that like tapes? (just kidding. I know what a record is. Kind of.)

Bob K said...

Yes, Bethany - you should know what an album is but, in your defense, I got my CD player about the same time you were born so records were phasing out at our house just as you were old enough to notice. I got on the CD bandwagon pretty early - I had to register my CD player with the government because I had a laser!

c said...

my 2 picks for great flow: neil young - after the goldrush; and radiohead - ok computer. for me it has to do with mixing the types of songs up (tempo) but not making a big mess of it.

and to your bono point - even though i love some of the tracks on how to dismantle an atomic bomb, it is my least favorite u2 album. i really can't pinpoint why, but the songs just don't flow for me (musically speaking).
peace

D said...

First of all want to say I like your bloggery Bob! Interesting question you pose about collection of great songs vs. a coherent album... I am always so immersed in music but never really gave that one thought. After some contemplation one major record comes to mind which is The Beach Boys 'Pet Sounds'. I would put that in the coherent album label. One of the greatest pop albums of all time. Another one to me is The Clash 'London Calling' now that one would go in the collection of great songs to me... And the 3rd (really 1st for me) would be U2's 'The Joshua Tree' - one to go in the coherent album label...
Also, was very surprised about the RS Bono interview and his comments about the U2 albums. It almost seemed to me he was downplaying the early stuff. And that bothered me because that is my favorite. My 3 top U2 albums are Unforgettable Fire, October (because of the spiritual themes) and The Joshua Tree. The new stuff (Atomic) is great but it does not stay with me like the old stuff.... I am biased towards the earlier stuff probably because the music impacted various transition stages in my life so....

c said...

i am beginning to agree with anonymous poster #1 that i don't have the time needed to figure this out!

i stand by my original comment on radiohead and neil young - they fall into the 2nd category for me.

for u2, i would say achtung baby and joshua tree clearly fall into both categories. great songs, great flow. unforgettable fire and pop are also favorites for me, and i think UF is in the "flow" category and pop is in the awesome song category. (someday bono will once again agree with that sentiment).

bono is not to be trusted as a u2 critic. guaranteed he will list his favorites differently depending on who asks, how cute they are, what country he is in, what year it is, how much wine he has drunk, etc. etc. etc....

peace