Barney Hoskyns, NME - October
U2, I guess, will continue to "move" in live performance, just like James Brown. But they will only move on the lightest surface...
So what is it that the excessive plaintiveness of Bono's voice and the forced power of U2's sound is trying to hide? Consider the adventure of Dram-rock from inside. Let us compare U2's 'Gloria' with, say, 'Show Of Strength' -- the openers, respectively, on 'October' and 'Heaven Up Here'. Both are conventionally structured tunes, both are curled and laced in swooping guitars -- The Edge's comes from Alan Rankine of the Associates, Will Sergeant's from Richard Lloyd -- and both are sung in pretentious, over-emotive voices. The difference is that 'Gloria' (and have no fear, it's not a tribute to Van Morrison) tugs openly, vulgarly at your emotions, thundering down from the nave of the cathedral of sound like trumpet-blasts at the gates of heaven: Gloria in excelsis deo. Inside this wholesome blast of pretty noise (which, faded both in and out, gives itself airs of the absolute) there is no tension or drama of sound itself. Everything reaches out, asserts, grasps at nothing. At the end of each single sound likes a vacuum; there is no turning back into the structure. In the drive towards ever greater emotion, this flagrant emulation of the Associates rings with all the blind need of religious devotion.
Bono's cry on this record -- and it's not even an incantation -- is "Rejoice!". But as his own rejoicing voice, straining and waving like an archangel's wings, arches its chords towards the lost paradise -- where everything is golden and exultant forever -- you start to wonder if maybe you missed something. Where did it go? But "love me, come with me," says the voice, "this is your voice, my brother, for you two are U2." Anata mo, anata mo . . .
Obviously rock doesn't expire just because groups run out of ways to change it. U2, I guess, will continue to "move" in live performance, just like James Brown. But they will only move on the lightest surface. Their music does "soar" -- in fact it wings its way pretty serenely over danger zones like The Fall or The Birthday Party. But then 'God' knows, there are other religions . . .