Out of all the bands that came out of the woodwork in the international rock scene of the 80s perhaps none had a greater influence and impact than U2. The seminal rock band of that era defined rock ballads for an entire generation. And U2 are touring for their latest album in both the U.S. and Europe.
Their early work with Brian Eno and albums such as ‘Joshua Tree’ were ground breaking in the scope and musical ambition. Although frontman Bono became politically active in the 90s and is currently an outspoken activist for social causes from poverty to exploitation of oppressed peoples, his 80s persona was far more focused on the music and less on geopolitics (not that this was a bad thing).
Their guitarist Edge remains one of the most virtuoso players of the instrument in the world and no wonder the Edge and Bono combination led to some of the most memorable tracks in the world of Billboard charts.
U2 were always experimental and were pushing the boundaries of pop rock while remaining relevant to the mainstream in the 80s. Their work with Brian Eno was a strong indication that the band was fearless with pushing the boundaries of music. Although their 90s albums began to pare down and had lost quite a bit of their 80s touch overall the 80s remain the hallmark of their musical career.
Today U2 is known more their causes than their music but few can recall the sheer genius that went behind the album that catapulted them to fame – ‘Joshua Tree’.
Their single ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ about the Irish Republican Army’s terrorist attacks and the bombing of a church on a Sunday remains one of the most popular rock songs of all time. It was even featured on the Rolling Stone magazine list of 100 greatest rock songs ever.
U2 always kept their music simple. Bono with his baritone vocals and plain lyrics mesmerized crowds with the playful licks from the guitar wizardry from Edge. Their early albums was full of playfulness that they lost during the coming decades but with boy were the 80s an era for U2!
Take their album ‘Rattle and Hum’– an energetic and utterly hypnotic set of ballads that is tacked one after another with hardly a misstep- the album represented the pinnacle of what U2 could achieve. With tracks such as ‘A Beautiful Day’ that served as rock anthems and romantic ballads all at once U2 achieved what few could have envisioned for the band in their early days – a total ease with multiple modes of song writing and composition unmatched in versatility.
2017 has been an interesting year for U2. First, they turned up on Kendrick Lamar’s album DAMN on the single ‘XXX’. That was a totally out of the left field collaboration that they managed to pull off with aplomb. Their new album ‘Songs of Experience’ packs a similar punch.
Taking on the rising tide of fascism around the world the album addresses important issues such as the need to counter hate with solidarity and in songs such as ‘American Soul’ they take direct pot-shots at the global order that is rapidly changing.
This might be U2’s most ambitious effort yet and even the title of the album proclaims their vision what with the name being borrowed from William Blake’s poetry opus. Critics have already started dissecting the album and laurels are being handed out. In an already excellent year for rock, U2 (http://www.lifeinquebec.com/u2-experience-innocence-tour-2018-june-5-2018-at-8-pm-bell-centre-15291/
) is a welcome addition.