Posts Tagged ‘Bono’

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

19 July 2010

When I was in high school, I had a regular column
in the sports section of the school newspaper (The
Sentinel
) called ‘Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down’. It was
easy to write and people liked it, so I recreate it here
for you now, as a quick guide of some of my likes
and dislikes in the world of music…


THUMBS UP: Disco (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Prog


THUMBS UP: The Flying Burrito Brothers

THUMBS DOWN: The Eagles (^)


THUMBS UP: The Beatles (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Oasis


THUMBS UP: PJ Harvey

THUMBS DOWN: Joanna Newsom (^)


THUMBS UP: Iggy Pop (^)

THUMBS DOWN: G.G. Allin


THUMBS UP: Off The Wall

THUMBS DOWN: Thriller (^)


THUMBS UP: Jungle Brothers

THUMBS DOWN: NWA (^)


THUMBS UP: Gregg Allman (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Cher (^)


THUMBS UP: The Fillmore (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Slim’s


THUMBS UP: Bluegrass In The Park

THUMBS DOWN: Ticketmaster (^)


THUMBS UP: The Doors

THUMBS DOWN: Jim Morrison, poet (^)


THUMBS UP: ‘Fire On The Mountain’

THUMBS DOWN: ‘Dark Star’


THUMBS UP: Blue Note (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Free Jazz


THUMBS UP: Cold Fact (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Coldplay


THUMBS UP: Keith Richards (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Toby Keith


THUMBS UP: Canned Heat

THUMBS DOWN: Canned ham (^)


THUMBS UP: Lester Bangs (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Richard Meltzer


THUMBS UP: Willie Nelson in concert

THUMBS DOWN: Shuggie Otis in concert (^)


THUMBS UP: LPs (^)

THUMBS DOWN: CDs


THUMBS UP: Rick Rubin

THUMBS DOWN: Phil Spector (^)


THUMBS UP: Nigel Tufnel (^)

THUMBS DOWN: David Coverdale


THUMBS UP: Joy Division (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Throbbing Gristle


THUMBS UP: Saxophone

THUMBS DOWN: Bagpipes (^)


THUMBS UP: Ice Cube, rapper (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Ice Cube, actor


THUMBS UP: Johnny Rotten

THUMBS DOWN: Sid Vicious (^)


THUMBS UP: Freedom Rock (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Jam bands


THUMBS UP: Willy Wonka (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Christopher Cross


THUMBS UP: Roky Erickson’s comeback

THUMBS DOWN: Sly Stone’s comeback (^)


THUMBS UP: The Rat Pack (^)

THUMBS DOWN: The Brat Pack


THUMBS UP: Jimi Hendrix

THUMBS DOWN: Jimmy Buffett (^)


THUMBS UP: Dave Davies (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Dave Matthews


THUMBS UP: Beastie Boys (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Eminem


THUMBS UP: Al Green

THUMBS DOWN: Weird Al (^)


THUMBS UP: Pearl Jam’s first 3 albums (^)

THUMBS DOWN: Pearl Jam’s last 3 albums


THUMBS UP: AC/DC (^)

THUMBS DOWN: R.E.M.


THUMBS UP: New wave Bono

THUMBS DOWN: Statesman Bono (^)

Buried Treasure: Melon

16 April 2009

[Today: U2 get in the groove...]

U2 | Melon

U2 spent the better part of the 90s making music that unsuccessfully tried to tap into the pulsating excitement of techno and electronica. 1993’s Zooropa and 1997’s Pop only grasped at the edges of what makes dance music tick. U2 is a rock band at heart (a punk band at that) and their glossy mid-90s albums come off as stilted imitations of good dance music, and smack of superstars playing outside their realm. There was way too much legitimately good electronica floating around at that time for U2’s variety to fly, so by the year 2000 the group was back to doing what they do best.

But U2 did release a fine dance album during the 90s – just not through the usual channels. Melon, released in 1995 as a ride-along with the group’s fan club magazine Propaganda, features nine U2 songs remixed by seven different artists, including Massive Attack, Paul Oakenfold, and the Soul Assassins. When you want a job done right, you bring in a professional, and these pros did the job for U2. Melon compiles remixes of tracks from Zooropa and Achtung Baby, twisting some of the latter album’s best songs into interesting new shapes. Oakenfold mutates ‘Mysterious Ways’ into a flute-laced chill-out classic, while Massive Attack takes the same tune in a completely different direction. ‘Lemon’ makes sense as an extended dance track, with Bono’s grating falsetto almost rising to disco-diva status behind Oakenfold’s driving beats. Best of all, Pete Heller and Terry Farley’s remix of the B-side ‘Salomé’ represents U2’s single most exciting foray into electronica.

Released in a limited run of 20,000 copies, Melon became an instant collector’s item (word to the wise: the genuine article was only released in a cardboard sleeve – all others are fakes) that inspired a series of unauthorized, fruit-themed U2 bootlegs that have become affectionately known as ‘fruitlegs‘. There are more than 30 fruitlegs currently in circulation, but the original is still the one to get.

Listen: Salomé (Zooromancer Remix) [Pete Heller and Terry Farley]

Listen: Lemon (The Perfecto Mix) [Paul Oakenfold]

Stuck In My Head: New Year’s Day

1 January 2009

U2 | New Year's Day

“All is quiet on New Year’s Day/A world in white gets underway,” sings Bono on U2’s first hit song. The lyrics set the scene in a peaceful, snow-covered city, but the image also works as a metaphor for a fresh calendar that’s unsoiled by mistakes and unmarked by regrets. In those two lines, with their quiet, snowy city streets, Bono captures the scene, as well as the spirit of the first day of January.

The single went #10 in the UK, and helped establish U2 as fledgling stars. The video for this song was their first to see heavy rotation on MTV, but they play with the fire of a group that’s still a couple of albums away from selling out arenas. The song supposedly refers to Lech Walesa’s solidarity movement in Poland, but the lyrics sound every bit like a pledge of solidarity to a separated lover. Even though the calendar is changing, Bono still wants to be with you (you lucky unspecified person you).

“Nothing changes on New Year’s Day,” he concludes. With 2008 firmly in the rearview mirror, I’m hoping he’s wrong about that…

Listen: New Year’s Day

Across The Universe

6 March 2008

Across The Universe

Like bakelite, Packards, and Dwight D. Eisenhower, musicals are a quaint relic from another era, two complete generations removed from the Internet age. So watching people burst into song can be a little unnerving and off-putting, to say the least. Across The Universe follows the adventures of a group of friends living in the New York City counterculture of the turbulent late-60’s. And oh by the way, the characters are all named for Beatles songs (Max, Jude, Lucy, Jo Jo, Prudence, Sadie, etc), and their stories are told through the words and music of the Fab Four.

Surviving the first half hour is the key to enjoying this film. For 30 minutes you’re treated to a head-scratching blur of characters and settings, and you’ll undoubtedly think something along the lines of ‘Who are these twerps singing Beatles songs?’ Fight through it. When the song ‘Let It Be’ swings the action to a burning Detroit ghetto, the music – featuring 15 year-old Timothy Mitchum and a gospel choir – takes flight and adds another dimension to the Beatles work. Quite simply, you will never hear this song the same way after seeing these mesmerizing images.

The same could be said of the scenes that use ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ and ‘I Want You/She’s So Heavy’. The latter song is part of a creepy Army induction scene that builds to a squadron of boxer-clad soldiers lugging the Statue Of Liberty through a war-torn jungle. It’s a harrowing vision of the military that turns this Beatles tune on its ear and drains it of any other meaning.

Bono makes an excellent cameo appearance as Dr Robert, a psychedelic astronaut captain who is transparently based on Ken Kesey. His CGI-enhanced take on ‘I Am The Walrus’ is one of the most authentically trippy scenes ever captured on film, and worth the price of admission alone. Also notable is Eddie Izzard’s turn as Mr. Kite, which plays like an outtake from The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Not everything about Across The Universe works. It’s hokey in places. The plot drags at the beginning. And this bright and shiny take on the 60’s counterculture will undoubtedly rile anyone who actually lived through those times. But this movie has enough pleasant twists and thought-provoking images to make it worth your time. It’s no surprise that the music of The Beatles tells such a complete story of the 60’s experience. The surprise is that this movie proves to be so worthy of using those songs.


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