Sunday, October 26, 2008

Fresh_sounds: U2 October (1981)

This is the first installment of CD reviews and my approach is quite random. I have about 500 CD's sitting in a giant library-dresser type thing in the garage. Due to its proximity to the living room I rarely dig into it, and when I do it's usually to hear some mad-beats in the garage or backyard. I was a firm believer that CD's would never become obsolete, but with the advent of digital files, the Licorice Pizza's of the world are no longer with us and the CD's gather dust.

And so it goes. My random drawer pick drew U2's "October" CD. I remember the first time I heard U2 way back in the early 1980s at a junior high dance. Me, the wallflower, wondered who they were and soon searched for the tape. By this point U2 "War" was out so that's what I bought first, then I got "October" and "Boy". While "War" was the one they broke through with in the US, it was "October" that intrigued me most. It's much more of a soulful, spiritual album that's as raw as "Boy" and less studio than "War". Plenty of spiritual overtone mark this album from start to finish but it's not in your face because the accompanying music is spectacular with great changes of pace and the refreshing use of piano on a number of tracks.

The early stuff is awesome because this is when they were literally "garage". The Edge's guitar playing is rabid and un-polished, Larry Mullen, Jr's drumming is succinct and loose, and of course Bono's tone is more "garage" than he certainly is today.

There's plenty of "New Wave" pace in it but it's not the caramel, keyboard, Euro stuff but instead more progressive licks byway of guitar and drum. While most of it has the traditional U2 sound and pace that's similar to "Boy" the real standouts for me are the slow one's like track #4 called Rejoice and track #7 the albums namesake, October. The knee-jerk choice by most is track #1 Gloria, but I favor track #6 Tomorrow and track #9 Stranger in a Strange Land.

Sophomore albums are notorious for lacking the energy of the first and such is the case for this one compared to "Boy", and at the time "October" got shelled though some of it is similar to "Boy". By the time "War" hit the streets, "October" was forgotten and if you ask any mild U2 fan what they know of "October" they won't have a clue.

While I haven't listened to this CD in a long time, it was refreshing to hear the early U2 again. And when you compare it to their new stuff or even something like "Zooropa", it becomes an immediate reminder of how "garage" these guys used to sound. A part of me wishes they would return to that for just 1 album.

TIME: 41 minutes, 8 seconds
LABEL: Island
OTHER SLEEP CD: U2 "Wide Awake in America". The track Boy is incredible.