on 6 October 2014
I've always had the feeling that many people have U2 all wrong (Mark Kermode, I'm looking at you). It's a joy to go back to the source, their only deceptively stripped down debut album (one reviewer at the time saying “the production is so ambitious its hard to know what to make of it”). One of the great debut albums for sure, and one of the great albums about adolescence – not the obvious sex and drugs kind, either. At once a headlong charge of optimism and yet tinged throughout with melancholy (that would become a occasionally little over-wrought in the follow-up, October) and even fear.
U2 had been playing for four years when their debut was released, and this 2 disc affair offers glimpses of the path that led them there, all manna from heaven for the true early-U2 devotee. All present and correct are their first 3 track ep on CBS and its follow up Another Day, and then the track that topped the Hot Press annual readers poll for years, 11 O Clock Tick Tock helmed by Joy Division producer Martin Hammet and its B side. All more angular, more self-consciously New Wave than the album which was to come, good in their own right but missing the unique essence that Lillywhite was able to coax out of the band, even when the songs were the same (Out Of Control / Stories For Boys).
But back even further it goes – Cartoon World was an early favourite but was never recorded and features here in a live version occasionally drowned in feedback – no electronic rose-tinted touching up here. And no Street Missions – their first awkward anthem - in this version sadly.
Then there's 2 tracks recorded for the Boy sessions but dropped – an early live instrumental, Speed of Life was a wise one to let go as it didn't reflect their new found confidence-amid-emotional-fragility, while Saturday Night which splintered off into October's Fire with a new melody and lyric from Bono on the one hand, while the solo'd guitar drowned in reverb ended up as an early easter egg at the end of Shadows and Tall Trees (and happily restored here, missing from the earlier CD version). Actually this version works perfectly well to me though – I might even prefer it to Fire for its typically Boy-ish fragility. Then there's an interesting if slightly less magical alternative mix of I Will Follow, with much less glock but with a frantic acoustic guitar and more ambient distorted guitar in its place. An early slightly fumbling recording of Twilight, and raw live versions of Boy / Girl and 11 O Clock Tick Tock recorded at one of their legendary early London gigs.
In some ways, this remains my favourite U2 album. The wide-eyed innocence of The Boy on the cover, reflected perfectly in the music itself, all possibilities lying before both.
on 20 November 2014
This is the debut album from U2 , an unknown band from Dublin whose music can probably be best described as new wave . It's not their first contribution to the world of music and had released several singles in their own country . As a massive U2 junkie / completist in the mid 1980s I hunted down their early singles exclusive to Ireland and was rather disappointed by their early stuff . By no means bad those early tracks lacked any sort of polish or sheen and don't hint at a band who had any pretence to longevity . Three of these early tracks namely Twilight , Out Of Control and Stories For Boys appear on this debut album and it's very obvious indeed that producer Steve Lillywhite takes a massive amount of credit for creating the early band's sonic soundscape . What were very basic demo tracks become very different songs indeed
Now I'm not going to come on here and say that's a bad thing because this is a very accomplished album and has a timeless quality . A combination of producer vision and streamlined passion from the band combine to make an unpretentious album that would have sounded great in 1977 , 1987 , 1997 or 2027 . In other words it's an album that has a timeless quality
The opening track I Will Follow is basically three chords but is a track that is genuinely life affirming . It's my favourite track from the band and is my all time favourite song . Enough said . Twilight is entirely different from the B side single release while the two other previously released tracks Out Of Control and Stories For Boys are again superior thanks to Lillywhite . . The album finishes with Shadows And Tall Trees and if you've heard the early demos on youtube you'll realise once again that the producer has turned it in to an entirely different moody track that brings a closure to album in much the same as a sunset brings closure to a day
There's a theme to this album , one of wild eyed innocence of childhood about to give way to the angst ridden universe of adolescence . This mirrors life when we often look back to our childhood days and wish we were back there and on a contextual level as a fan of U2 I often wish they'd kept this sound . One problem with hindsight hat seems shocking is that the band used iconography of a young boy in their early years . The American distributors were frightened by this and changed the cover art for the American release of Boy and with hindsight this iconography was rather dodgy and there's no way an up and coming band would get away with this now
But imagery aside it's the music that matters and this is a classic album and an accomplished debut . It opens with an intense mind blowing track and closes with a brooding and introspective one and the tracks in between are almost all equal in their intensity . While not being a commercial success it remains one of the band's best albums and is nothing less than a timeless classic
on 26 August 2009
Fantastic debut album from U2 that shows amazing maturity for a bunch of guys barely out of school.Although the band's signature sound would come a few years later, this album shows the potential that U2 would go on to fulfil.Steve Lilywhite does a fantastic job with the production and I think this is one of the appealing things about this album, it has a very basic yet enchanting feel to it unlike a lot of the music that was coming out at the time.There's many songs on here that made up U2's live set for the next few years, but apart from the obvious classics like "I Will Follow" and "Out Of Control" there are a few lost gems on here such as "Twilight",the brooding "An Cat Dubh" and "The Ocean" which although is just over a minute long has a wonderful atmosphere and again showcases the band's imagination to full effect.I'm glad to see that a lot of the material on this album has been put back into the "Under A Blood Red Sky" dvd having not made the original cut.A true testament to some great songs,a soundtrack to childhood innocence and a reminder of how creative young people used to be before the i-pod generation!
Imagine, if you will, an alternate reality. In this alternate reality, U2 failed to take the enormous stylistic left turn required to conquer the world, and instead carried on with more of the same after reaching a commercial and creative apex in the mid 80's, and thus, fell victim to the inevitable law of diminishing returns. To this end, U2 carried on making the same type of bombastically naïve records they trademarked in their formative years, never headlined anywhere bigger than a 10,000 seat arena, and eventually fell into disgrace when Nirvana killed the old music dead. In this reality, U2 plodded on for a bit before they split up and made largely ignored solo records.
Think... that's how close it could've been for U2. Instead, as we all know, they invented stadium rock, before turning into some kind of leftfield, weird art music project for most of the 90's, and conquering the world in the 00's as an institution. Until recently, U2 meanwhile, have fiercely resisted the temptation to become a nostalgia act : it is only with these releases and last years "Joshua Tree" set that U2 have started to look like historians. Not for them, the Greatest Hits tour, or the We're-Playing-The-Whole-Of-An-Ancient-Album tour. Until last year, U2 have always been pushing forward.
Taken on their own merits, "Boy", "October" and "War" are good, but not great albums. The sound of a band growing into itself. On "Boy" the songs sound like the products of cramped rehearsal rooms, of snatched moments forged on and off stage, of people exploring themselves and barely scratching the surface of the possibility. The original LP is a classic of its kind, a left-field assortment of songs that told us U2 could go in any direction they wanted to, with influences write large such as the American Art Rock of the 70's, of Television and the Ramones and Talking Heads and also, very definitely, their own people, their own identity, doing only what greats have ever done, in terms of making them sound like more than the sum of the parts, of a product of their environment yet also, definitely their own men. The production is brash and light and the band sound oddly confident (which is almost, but not quite arrogant) in their abilities. "Boy" is an embryo of an album, and thus, perhaps an underlooked addition to their work : it hints clearly at the band they would become whilst telegraphing where they have been. Debut albums rarely came so assured, or competent, in those days.
The bonus disc - as with all the extra tracks on these packages - are unfortunately a unforgivable disappointment for the knowledgable U2 fan. Whilst it thankfully compiles all the bands non-album songs of the era, it cruelly neglects to include both the first demo tape, and the legendary Boston 1981 concert is present only in small fragments as they were later used as b-sides : (both this demo, and the full 60 minute concert, were recently digitally remastered and released on the iTunes only "Complete U2" Box Set so their exclusion is frankly unforgivable). There is certainly space on the discs, with some careful sequencing, to include all the available stuff, and this release is a halfway house that pleases nobody. Quite why it is missing is baffling and a little insulting to fans who prefer the old fashioned age of the physical product. Also missing - though this would've required a third disc - is a televised Dublin 1980 concert which contained several unreleased songs, or the oft-bootlegged early demos. Of the unreleased stuff on the second "Boy" disc, there is a virtually indistinguishable alternate mix of "I Will Follow", two pretty good songs that should've come out at the time ("Speed Of Life" and "Saturday Night"), and a live version of "Cartoon World" from the aforementioned Dublin concert. Overall, whilst the extra disc is an interesting curio, it is sequenced non-chronologically that presents a frustrating experience to actually sit down and listen to, and fails to make much sense, as the band travel backwards in time towards the discs conclusion. The omission of a large amount of previously-released material when there is ample space across the two CD's is also at best baffling, and, at worst the sound of a band missing an open goal to create an overall satisfactory package. Maybe they're holding this stuff back for another box set or reissue in 2018. Thanks guys!
on 1 August 2007
It's 1980 and getting towards the start of a new era of music, it was Post Punk. U2 had been doing the scene for around 5 years before this album was ever released due to there inabilty to get it right live when it mattered most (when music execs came to watch). They got the album out thanks to Island records, and thank god they did, because without U2 my own mucisical journey wouldn't be where it is today, and i'm sure that can be mirrored by thousands of other music lovers. It was an album purley about childhood and growing up and realising what may lay ahead, the band were no where near the final product but you can see where they were heading with this, it was how Bono put it "three cords and the truth"
Get this album... even if it's your first U2 album, It'll suprise you.
stand out tracks are....
I will follow
Into the heart
Out of Control
A Day Without Me
Buy it and enjoy it.