04 October 1980
Melody Maker - 4 October 80
It is time to nix the predictable howls of 'hype' and 'overkill' that have arisen in responce to the critical adulation afforded to U2.
Here is the vinyl evidence to justify every superlative that has been heaped ontot he band, a breathtaking surge of freshness ansd energy to tilt our emotion over the edge.
U2's live performances have raised their audiences expectation to what must have seemed like an impossible height, but not only have they yreached that peak with their fist album, they've risen above it.
'Boy' is more than just a collection of good tracks assembled in the arbitary order. As its title and cover(showing the face of a young boy0 indicate, it's a spit in the face of musical fashion, a retreat from the world-weary stance of the band's comtemporaries into youthful innocence and confusion.
'Into the heart if a child, I can go ther, I cna stay for a while', sings Bono, on 'Into The Heart' it's sentiments summing up the theme of the album and its title expressing the emotional impact.
'Boy' awakens hidden memories and dreams, its music and words bound into a unified whole that evolves an uncanny feeling of deja vu. Like all great rock, you feel like you must have heard these songs somewhere else - and yet they're unlike anyting you can think of.
The Edge's scaring, acidic guitar work which dominates and defines U2, is familiar, you think. But no - there's nobody else who plays like that. Okay, perhaps the band have the power of the Who at times - but they don't sound anything like the Who.
The brief'Ocean' holds more strange experience, a richly impressionistic fragment of wonder, enhanced with almost subliminal touches like creaking masks and bubbling water. In fact, Syeve Lillywhite has excelled himself with his best production to date, esing effects like tinkling glockenspielt and kicked over milk bottles to add a touch of magic rather than just to make things 'interesting'.
Faced with an album as rich as this it seems pointless trying to pick out the 'best' track. From the opener, 'I Will Follow', a racing adrenalin surge that approaches the excitment of Springsteen's 'Born to Run', through to the final largely accoustic 'Shadows and Tall Trees'. 'Boy' is a succession of heartfelt experiences and feelings, that balances light against shade, optimisim against poignancy.
I suppose it'll attract sneers, but what the hell - the music here is enough to make you cry. Welcome to the new Eighties.