Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Rattle and Hum

I've been a U2 fan for as long as I can remember. Literally, I can not remember a single point in my life, including my early childhood when I didn't know who they were or that I loved them. I can't remember the first time I heard their music, or how I felt about it. They have been a part of my life for my whole life, and I will always return to them as an old standby. It's nostalgic, really. The last few years as a U2 fan have been rather difficult for me, as I haven't loved their last few albums, and I've honestly gotten a little tired of Bono's "other life" as a political activist and all of that. I'm generally not a fan of musicians and actors who are so politically involved as that. Just my opinion. Anyway, after I wrote that last post and referenced how I've always thought of Joshua Tree as a single work, and not just a collection of songs, I realized how long it had been since I'd actually listened to that album, and I threw it in last night.

And so has begun a new phase of music obsession for me, I think. Damn, that is an unbelievable album, and classic U2 is good, good shit. Listening to the album reminded me of how much I love the last few songs on Rattle and Hum. The last half hour or so of that film is amazing (I mean, I think the whole thing is amazing, but more on that below); from the Star Spangled Banner through Pride is by far the best part of the film. I just bought the album last night from iTunes, because I remembered that my old CD was among those stolen out of my car years ago (along with War, which was the first CD I ever owned - bummer). While it was downloading, I read some of the reviews on iTunes, and was really surprised by what I saw. I just read a few similar reviews on Amazon today, and I'm truly surprised. Did you know there are people out there who are not completely enamored with Rattle and Hum? I was amazed to learn this.

Below is a video of the opening of the film, wherein U2 plays "Helter Skelter," introducing it with the powerful "This is a song that Charles Manson stole from the Beatles, and we're stealing it back."

You can't deny the brilliance.

I guess a lot of people simply didn't get it. It wasn't designed to be just a live concert; it's a "rockumentary," if you'll indulge the use of that weird term. It's a journal. It's a behind the scenes of U2's life in America touring the Joshua Tree album. It's live and studio tracks, from various shows and studios. It's a bunch of really great versions of some of these songs! The complaint I saw in reviews seemed to be disappointment. And I think a lot of that stemmed from the fact that Joshua Tree was a big as it was. People were expecting to see Joshua Tree played out live on stage, but what they got was so much more, and they just weren't prepared. I saw a few reviews to the effect of how it needed a few listens before it really occurred to them just how good it was, and I applaud these people, for at least they took the time to realize the magic of what they were hearing. "Bullet the Blue Sky" and "Running to Stand Still" are so much deeper and darker than the studio versions, and take on so much more meaning for it; "Sunday Bloody Sunday" is amazing on Rattle and Hum for the intro and the emotion and background that is poured into it; "Pride" is almost breathtaking for the feeling and love and happiness in it. I could go on all day. Some of the amazing songs in the film somehow didn't make it onto the accompanying CD "soundtrack," which is truly disappointing. You need to see the movie to get the true experience.

Joshua Tree was an album written in America, about America. With Rattle and Hum, the band really just dumped all of themselves "into the arms of America," of an America that they love and embrace wholeheartedly. If you're seen Rattle and Hum before, and weren't completely impressed, give it another watch.

EDIT: 1/15/09: I just need to point out three more tracks on Rattle & Hum: 1) Van Diemen's Land - Soulfully and beautifully sung by The Edge - when else are you going to hear something like this?; 2) When Love Comes to Town, w/ BB King - This was written for a duet with BB, and it just brilliant. These's a scene on the film where BB says something to Bono about him being too young to have such deep lyrics or something like that, and that kind of speaks to the band as a whole. Insightful.; 3) All I Want is You is a beautiful song, and this version is so emotional, it can make you want to cry.

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