U2 - "Boy" (1980)

Reviewed by: Joshua A. Pfeiffer

  Before U2 would go on to become one of the biggest bands in the world, (and arguably one of the most pompous bands in the world) these humble young lads from Dublin recorded one of the most endearing, beautiful, hopefull albums of all time, and definetly a high water mark for the dawn of the Post-Punk era. Boy is a great LP from beginning to end, and one of the few albums I can listen to all the way through without ever skipping a track.

  Boy starts with the hit single I Will Follow, an amazing piece on it's own, but also a wonderful way to kick off this masterpiece of an album. The Edge's guitar shreds sneak in over Boy's trademark Xylophone chimes and quickly Bono's heartfelt declaration of "I Will Follow" takes center stage. Regardless of the bands Spiritual affiliation, anyone can agree this is an incredibly uplifting song. That alone is quite a feat for any band coming from a particular religious background. The song is so catchy and instantly memorable, it's no wonder it was their lead off single for the album

  Twilight continues off the energy of I Will Follow, starting with a slower more mid-tempo pace, The Edge's guitar work once again steals the show, especially his solo's at the end of each chorus. Their is definitely a darker tone to this album as a whole, in comparrison to the groups later efforts. This can be heard most clearly on the next track, An Cat Dubh.

  By far my favorite track on the album. Immediately The Edge's icy guitars, and the low drones heard in the background suggest a much darker sound than the previous tracks on the album. This song has a disquieting child-like quality to it, the creepy xylophone doesn't help to discourage this statement either. It's easy to hear where this song influenced a number of later artists (i.e. The Chameleons) with it's eerie, ethereal atmosphere, that leads into a more uplifting sound through each chorus.

  Into the Heart flows right out of An Cat Dubh, and is almost indistinguishable from the previous song untill the lyrics kick in. it's as if it was intended to be the second half of the previous track. Such a beautiful melancholy piece of music. It's practically an instrumental, as the first half of the song just slowly builds using Adam Clayton's precise Bass playing to conjure the guitars, and chimes from the ether. About half way in the song picks up and really pulls at the heartstrings of the listener, just before settling back down to lead into the next track.

  Out of Control starts right off the last chime heard on Into the Heart, with Larry Mullens (Jr.) excellent Drumming and continues the vibe felt in tracks like Twilight and I Will Follow. This is a very driving powerful song. The breakdown right before the last verse slows the song down to resemble the atmosphere of Into the Heart, then brilliantly kicks the song back into full vibrant life really helping to throw the song over the edge. "No Pun Intended"

  Stories For Boys... (o.k. so I was wrong earlier.. An Cat Dubh, is "one of" my favorite tracks on the album.. but this one certainly ties for the position.) Incredibly powerful, short, to the point. A brilliant picture of a young boy coming of age and becoming a man. Actually the whole album tells this story through different scenarios. Larry Mullens once again tears things up on his drumkit, and The Edge never sounds better. Their's an almost Surf-Rock style in his guitar playing on this track. This is about as Punk as U2 ever get in their careers. An amazing song, one of the greatest Post-Punk tracks ever recorded.

  The Ocean is a very short (a little over a minute) song that recalls the mood of the more mellow songs on the album. A Day Without Me, conjures the ghosts of 60's psychedelia, and creates a nice mid-tempo atmosphere. Once again Adam Clayton really drives the track with his Bass playing. The guitars are a bit more subdued in this song, really only being used to accent Bono's vocals.

  Another Time Another Place, is the first we see on the album of U2's later sound. It reminds me of a lost track off of "The Joshua Tree", or "October". There is still a much darker tone throughout the song than on any of the later releases though. Bono even has a very sinister style of singing on the last verse, almost spitting the lyrics out in anger.

  While most albums would have lost some of their steam by this point, Boy just kicks the listener in the head, with Electric Co. Another great upbeat driving Post-Punk anthem. The drumming, guitar playing, singing and bass all sound amazing on this song. Another contender for a U2 "Punk" song. (Well Punk with epic breakdowns, that drive the listener to feel as if they are a bullet flying through a clear blue sky.."Pun Intended").

  The final track Shadows and Tall Trees, is another worthy contendor for best song of the album. A great dark, yet uplifting ballad. Acoustic guitar gives the song a very folky feel. Personally I can hear where "The Alarm" got their quasi-western sound from listening to this song. Ending with the chanted lyrics "Shadows, Shadows, Shadows, Shadows and Tall Trees" this song brings the album to a spectacular close, and seals the the title of Post-Punk Masterpiece firmly to the records sleeve.

  I'd like to mention quickly that Steve Lillywhite's production on this album certainley helped create such a perfect sound. He knew just the right atmosphere to achieve when mastering this release, and it's a credit to his long and illustrious career as one of the best producer's of the past century. As we all know U2 would of course go on to world wide acclaim as one the biggest rock bands of all time. And while the output later in their careers varies from excellent to passable, to downright horrible. Boy will always remain their best album in my heart.

Special Thanks to: U2's Official Homepage
and The www.ancatdubh.com Boy Fanlisting for the band image.