Always

Somewhere across the vast expanses of the Internet, possibly on its millions of forums, across the masses of comments across the blogosphere, or on an iTunes or Amazon review, inevitably, some casual U2 fan who previously only owned The Joshua Tree has whined that this song is “a ripoff of Beautiful Day”; at which point those who know better smugly point out that it’s the reverse. More pressing than this is whether the right decision was made to change it – and to be really honest, the answer is probably yes. The basic spirit of U2’s third UK #1 hit is here in any event, and the song’s far enough along the line for someone to yell out “it’s a beautiful day!” at the start of the chorus (which is exactly what happened).

No, what changes is that there’s a greater dynamic in the hit single compared to the b-side, the verses quieter and the chorus more soaring. The technological vibe of the single isn’t here either – that clunking drum machine and whirring set of synths aren’t present. Some of the lyrics on “Always” are a little goofy, too – use of the phrase “dream out loud”, making a re-appearance from the ZooTV era, is a good move, but the line And always wear a safety belt is just plain ridiculous, as if it’d accidentally slipped in from a previous song comprised entirely of public safety messages. Yet that is, often, where the evolutionary approach U2 takes can work – “Always” isn’t worthy of great praise on its own, but it became a much better song, proof positive that its presence on a Dublin studio master tape is necessary, and its placement as a b-side is probably wisest.

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~ by 4trak on July 21, 2008.

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