U2 has come along way from their post-punk, working class roots when bassist Adam Clayton, guitarist Dave Evans (aka The Edge) and Paul Hewson (aka Bono) started playing together in drummer Larry Mullen's Dublin basement 21 years ago (they called themselves "Feedback" and then "The Hype" before changing to U2 in 1978).
Their first two albums, Boy and October, offered a unique and slightly spiritually flavored approach to the New Wave scene during the early Eighties. Their next two releases, Unforgettable Fire and Joshua Tree, found U2 becoming more proficient at their writing abilities, however, they were also becoming more self-righteous and anthematic. Nonetheless, they were quickly becoming a huge world wide success commercially.
It wasn't until Achtung Baby that U2 shifted gears and started experimenting with different sounds. Zooropa, their next release pushed the envelope even farther with it's ambient, techno feel.
Their latest release Pop blends the melodic anthems of old with the futuristic sounds of Achtung Baby and Zooropa for a stimulating album that should please old U2 fans as well as new.
"Discotheque", the opening cut and first single off Pop, sets the tone for the rest of the album with it's '70's techno disco rhythms, maniacal guitar riffs and Bono's sex-driven vocals.
Although sounding a little familiar, "Staring At The Sun" and "If God Will Send His Angels", manage to stay fresh with heavy breathing keyboards, treated guitars and a penetrating bass vibe (one which dominates the entire album). In "The Playboy Mansion", Bono asks, "Have I got the gifts to get me through the gates of that mansion?". If The Edge is with him, playing this funky 'Stones in the disco-era' guitar line, Hugh will be at the gates himself having the lads tailored for smoking jackets.
The real treats, however, are the over-the-top industrial driven wonderments "Mofo" and "Miami". In the menacing "Mofo", Bono coolly scats "Bubble poppin', sugar droppin' rock and roll", while The Edge's guitar drills though Clayton's brooding bass-line. The hip-hop infected "Miami", like it's namesake, is both sexy and seedy (you can almost feel the body fluids pumping though this one).
On the closing track, "Wake Up Dead Man", U2 revisit their Christian beliefs as Bono pleads in a lost and lonely voice to Jesus for spiritual guidance.
"You wanted to get somewhere so badly, you had to lose yourself along the way", Bono proclaims in the song "Gone". While not entirely losing themselves on the road to Pop, U2 manage to get where, at least, we want them to be.
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