U2 – Boy (1980): Review

Produced by Steve Lillywhite
Label – Island

Given that the Dublin four piece would go on to record more critically acclaimed and bigger selling albums, their debut is undoubtedly undervalued in that it combines the sparse post punk atmospherics of low key indie expressionism with an exuberant pop spirit that reflects the band’s youthful bravado and imagination. In producer Steve Lillywhite they found an ally who could mould the rolling bass rhythms, use The Edge’s original and versatile lead guitar and combined with Bono’s emotive vocals fashion a sound that drifts from hypnotic ambience to stadium sized in an instant. O.K., one can agree that the album isn’t choc a block with their most memorable songs, but as a chronicle of their development, “Boy” feels like the sparkling musical fuse wire burning its short distance to the explosives of later recordings.

In egocentric front man Bono Vox (good voice), U2 had an apprentice rock God as their focal point, clad in leather pants, messing with his ever so deliberately tousled locks, climbing the lighting gantry and preaching his band’s plans incessantly. There’s a spirituality that’s more transparent in U2’s early works, and Bono would express his devout Christianity as a driving force behind both his compositions and ambitions. Indeed, the biggest hit and most memorable song from the album (“I Will Follow”), is laced with themes of faith and belief. With an almost dance oriented pulse, The Edge leads with a simple, yet effective two note coda, whilst Bono’s voice surges through with his modern mantra (“If you walk away, walk away, I walk away, walk away, I will follow”). “Out Of Control” and “A Day Without Me” have almost the same level of urgency, and one can almost feel the jolt of joyful intensity. The segueing of “An Cat Dubh” and “Into The Heart” works extremely well as it instrumentally brings out the best in both drummer Larry Mullen and bass player Adam Clayton’s tense but tight rhythms that allow The Edge to work his adventurous echo laden lead to flow in sonic harmony, skipping around the beats.

Overall “Boy” is a powerful introduction to a band that would eventually take over the world, and although there isn’t the variety and consistency of later recordings, it’s still a more than promising performance.

7/10

Track Listing
1 – I Will Follow 9
2 – Twilight 7
3 – An Cat Dubh 8
4 – Into The Heart 8
5 – Out Of Control 8
6 – Stories For Boys 7
7 – The Ocean 6
8 – A Day Without Me 8
9 – Another Time Another Place 7
10 – The Electric Co. 7
11 – Shadows And Tall Trees 6

I Will Follow

A Day Without Me

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