U2

Just When I Thought I Was Out, The Music Pulls Me Back In…

I have had a hankering to listen to some tunes from my collection of CDs for a long while now. I never realized it would be such a big deal, but when you store your collection in large Rubbermaid containers, it can become a pain. To pull out the ol’ bin from the dark corner of the basement seemed like a very daunting task. Overwhelming, in fact:

So much good music in this bin, but it weighs a ton…and…oh man, forget it. I’ll just listen to music on YouTube…

When my iPod went belly-up two years ago, at the time I said to myself I was going to do something with those CDs once and for all. Rip ’em onto the terabyte so I could reacquaint myself with them. Well, it hasn’t happened, folks. For years, we have been concentrating on gaming and house renos – putting the CDs away, favouring instead other avenues to get music – Sirius Satellite radio, online streaming services like Google, Groove Music and Accuradio – and plain ol’ .mp3s fulfilled the need. Whenever I’d think of reacquainting myself with the CDs, the thought of moving around furniture again to make room to display them seemed impossible.

It was one Sunday in August when the hubs and I were at the mall on the hunt for the game Spot It (highly recommend!) when he said he wanted to go into Sunrise Records. Understand, we don’t do the mall. The last time we stepped foot in a mall was back in March when coincidentally, HMV, the only record store for miles was closing its doors. Sunrise has since opened in its place, and this August was the first time we checked it out. I haven’t bought physical music in a long while (I purchased Man Machine Poem by the Tragically Hip last fall).

Honestly, I have been out of the CD-buying game for a LONG TIME! I have been gleefully watching from the sidelines as Mike, Bop, Aaron, Geoff, Deke, 1537, J., JHubner73 (see blogroll for a who’s who), and the rest of you great music bloggers search, buy and review music. I haven’t bought music on a regular basis in years, partly because of my own self-imposed austerity, partly because of gaming, partly because of the wave of digital media, and well, I seem to get overwhelmed with the amount of stuff that accumulates versus the lack of time and energy to enjoy it. I have written on this blog how music changes my mood; it inspires, it entertains! And I have been feeling like I need to connect with my music again! So when we set foot into Sunrise, I found myself perusing the racks. And you wouldn’t believe what I found:

What?! U2’s The Joshua Tree, remastered!?!

I was in awe. The hubs said, “Well, that’s it, I don’t care what you say, we’re buying it.” Boy, am I glad we did.

The reissue was crisp-sounding, and since I hadn’t heard the Joshua Tree album in a long while, it was fun getting reacquainted with all of those songs. It brought me back to 1987 when Where The Streets Have No Name was hitting the charts. The first half of the album is well known to radio, while it’s also the last half – Trip Through Your Wires, In God’s Country, One Tree Hill, Mothers of the Disappeared – that I love the most. Yes, this is good! Yes, it inspired me.

Following that trip, the hubs and I have since pulled out our three bins of CDs, alphabetized them, and catalogued them using Discogs. Now, I am looking at my current collection more critically.

Lotsa CD-Rs…

Not so amazingly, when we went through the collection, we discovered at least 1/3 of it is burned CDs created from downloading! Looking back, I can’t believe how much effort went into downloading, printing covers and burning the CDs – a whole large Rubbermaid container full! Granted, some of the music were bootlegs or hard-to-find collections, but certainly not all of it! I couldn’t help but feel a bit of guilt.

I have started to legitimize my collection by acquiring the actual physical media of my favourite albums. My preference in media is for the CD (more accessible to me – I can listen to it in the car!), while the hubs is getting the vinyl fever (natch!). Regardless, if there is a remaster available on an album of interest, I will certainly consider that purchase. The ones I have purchased lately have been worth it.

The Majesty!

This newfound interest in my music collection has led me to explore some albums that eluded me back in the day. While I can freely peruse the stacks at Sunrise, the thriftin’ bug also catches my attention. What with CDs as little as $0.50 to $2.99 at the junk shops and used media stores, I have managed to gain some headway on this front, quite cheaply. Many people are dumping out of their physical media, which works out great for me. I’ve been using my two-hour daily commute to my advantage too, by taking my music spoils for a spin in the car and have discovered some really awesome new-to-me albums…and I have also found some no-so-great albums…which I can cast aside, guilt free!

I hope to talk more about my love for the tunes here on the blog. For now, I am just really enjoying this experience.

The Top 15 Music Albums I Was Listening To At 15

Further to yesterday’s blogpost where I listed my top 15 albums of all-time (on the 15th of this month), I thought it would be fun to piggyback on Boppin’s post from yesterday where he listed his top 15 albums he was into at 15. Thanks, Boppin, for the inspiration!

For me, age 15 fell in between 1989 and 1990. During that time I was listening to many of bands I listen to today.

It was around this time in my life where my Mom loosened her standards on what music I bought and listened to. This was likely due to the obvious generation gap between us in age and music tastes. I was growing up and was able to formulate my dissent if she criticized my music. We were also both experiencing our own physical “hormonal shift” that saw us often at each other’s throats  during that time. Puberty and menopause – what an explosive combo! (It’s all good, and we both laugh about it now.)

Unlike my top 15 on the 15th where many of those albums were first owned on a maxell tape, I am happy to say almost all of the below were store-bought on cassette, and some later replaced with a CD.

Without further ado, here it is, my top 15 albums I was listening to when I was 15, in alphabetical order, sorted by artist:

Crowded House – Temple of Low Men (1988)

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The Cure – Standing on a Beach: The Singles (1986)

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Deee-lite – World Clique (1990)

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Depeche Mode – Violator (1990)

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Fine Young Cannibals – the Raw and the Cooked (1988)

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The Grapes of Wrath – Now and Again (1989)

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INXS – Listen Like Thieves (1985)

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Janet Jackson – Rhythm Nation 1814 (1989)

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Led Zeppelin – IV (1971)

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Midnight Oil – Diesel and Dust (1987)

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Peter Murphy – Deep (1989)

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New Order – Technique (1989)

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The Smiths – Louder Than Bombs (1987)

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U2 – War (1983)

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Yaz  – Upstairs at Eric’s (1982)

What top 15 albums would your fifteen-year-old self’s list have on it?

[Music] U2: Songs of Innocence (2014)

This review is to commemorate Mike and Aaron‘s third annual “Toronto Record Store Excursion” and is dedicated to all my music blogger peeps…you know who you are! There is a little bit of all of you in this review. Let’s GIVE ‘ER!

[A long time U2 fan over here…what’s that you say? There is a FREE U2 ALBUM available on iTunes?!? How tempting!

But, wait a second…I hate iTunes! I have never bought any music on iTunes!

Oh, just download it will ya! Soon it won’t be free any longer. The Edge has to pay his bills somehow, you know…]

The above is the internal monologue that took place in my head just last Monday. I have read complaints of how people now own U2’s latest album, Songs of Innocence, and don’t want to…and they can’t exorcise it from their iOSs . It would seem I am the last to have this album (as a fan anyway), I guess it’s a direct result of never syncing my iPod Touch to iTunes. But what the hey. I decided to download the album because I am a U2 fan, and heck, I am a bloody cheapskate. It’s free? I’ll take it!

With all the critiquing this album has received, combined with my ambivalence towards U2’s last release, No Line on the Horizon, I was expecting to either hate Songs of Innocence, or never listen to it again.

I first listened to this album at my desk at work. I had to keep the volume down because, let’s face it: my place of employment doesn’t appreciate the RAWK. But I have since listened to it half a dozen times on my commute to and from work. What did I think?

From the first couple of listens, Songs of Innocence was not an instant love. But, persistent me, I kept listening to it.  Since then, there are aspects that have grown on me, but this album was definitely slow to stoke any fires. Upon subsequent listens, there is one thought that stuck in my head at first listen that remains there today: I can’t help but think every song sounds like it was composed to be used in car commercials; either by its repeated use of crashing crescendos, quick fades or sweeping piano stylings. Thank goodness I didn’t hear a ukelele, because then I would know this is meant to be used commercially – in which case I would have thrown my iPod into my 32 gallon fish tank (look out, Nugget!).

the edge smurf

The first track, The Miracle (of Joey Ramone) is that song heard everywhere right now. It has excellent fuzz distortion, and a catchy chorus (“The most beautiful sound I ever heard…”). Not bad at all, and one of the strongest songs on the album, but I don’t find it all that original, and yet I can’t put my finger on where I have heard it before.

The calming second track, Every Breaking Wave is a delicate song, reminiscent of their earlier Joshua Tree days. This is one of my favourites from the album.

Then, onward to the third track, California (There is No End to Love), we run into one of a handful of cringe-worthy songs on the album; you know, those songs that just don’t sound right to your ears or the lyrics are so drippy you wish you had Immodium nearby. California sounds overprocessed. The piano sounds saloonish, and Bono must have had a terrible cold ’cause everything he sings here is getting pushed through his nose. I know my auditory processing is off when I hear Bono sing, “She’s a rich snob…she’s a rich snob in love” when he’s actually singing, “There is no…there is no end to love.” Wow…that’s some Sinusitis, Bono…

Track four relieves the listener from the cringe with the touchy-feely Song for Someone. It’s another track we’re familiar with (think With or Without You). It’s not terribly original, but definitely welcoming.

Then, we’re back in the Ew Zone with the fifth track, Iris (Hold Me Close). One of my least favourite songs, because I am positive I have heard this before somewhere. It uses bits from different songs from different 80s bands and tries to blend them together to make a song, but I don’t think it sounds right. Unfortunately, this song earworms, so I get it stuck in my head!

Then, finally, we start to hit U2 pay dirt with the sixth track, Volcano. A great bassline by Adam Clayton sets up a tour-de-force that delicately and awesomely pulls from different 80s influences, including INXS and an awesome New Order Bernie Sumner riff. Effn right!

Whoaaaa! Better get that foam collar for the whiplash you’ll experience once you stop listening to Volcano and rush right into the seventh track, Raised By Wolves, probably my most hated tune on Songs of Innocence. Just watch: this will be one of the songs they plan to push up the charts, right? I’m sure the lyrics have some meaning behind them, but I just didn’t care for this song.

bono smurf

Then, out of nowhere comes more epic gold – arguably their strongest and best-produced song on the album. Track eight is Cedarwood Road; a rocker to the extreme. It’s reminiscent of that time Paul Weller broke into Led Zeppelin’s Out on the Tiles sessions and started playing.* This track is solid all the way. When I heard it, I actually said, “Yes, finally!! I want more of THIS!!”^ Unfortunately, you have to wait until track 8 to hear it…

Track nine, Sleep Like a Baby Tonight sounds an awful lot like Justin Timberlake’s stylings in “SexyBack”, minus the electronica. Seriously.

This is Where You Can Reach Me, song ten on the LP, is a funky little ditty with a warm whiskey guitar. And is that a Theremin+ I hear? And seagulls? This song sounds very much like something Michael Hutchence would have written.

And finally, the last track on the album, The Troubles, is a bit of a creep-fest in that I half expect to hear this song on a long lost episode of Dexter. That isn’t all bad, by the way. I kind of like it. Smokey and mysterious…

Now that I have explored this album more in depth, I have to say Songs of Innocence isn’t terrible, if a little derivative. Unfortunately, this album was not an instant love affair. It took me several listens to get into it, and I think even harder core U2 fans might have a bit of a problem with it. But there are some gems here deemed worthy to listen to and appreciate.

6.8/10

*Oh, yeah, it happened alright…IN MY DREAMS!!

^Yep, stopped at the light with the windows rolls down.

+ A Theremin? Think the music from The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951).

Songs of Innocence / U2
Island Records, 2014
MP3, free on iTunes