U2 are one of those bands that either provokes either high praise to the heavens or truckloads of reactionary bile. Actually, plenty of bands are like that; what probably makes U2 different is that the criticisms are probably often harsh enough to provoke praise which in turn provokes criticism. It doesn’t matter; the point is, U2 are always going to be on the receiving end of intense criticism, and if the critics move beyond Bono, the Edge will get an accusation of being a one-pedal guitarist.

Which is laughable. “Elevation” is essentially Exhibits #87-144 as to why; see the following:

a) the opening, oscillating funk-like effect.
b) a distortion occurring during the end phrase of each chorus
c) a trebly, tinny effect during the pre-chorus
d) after the first pre-chorus, a variation on a) that sounds somewhat more brittle
e) distorted tremolo during the second chorus
f) high distortion (i.e. bordering on static) erupting out of the bridge
g) possibly reversed loops during the bridge
h) something during the outro that sounds similar to a), but with more wah and phase

(there might actually be more than that, but it’s what was spotted here)

…add to this the bell-like sounds of the intro, the snatches of vocal and other trickery of the bridge, and a drumbeat that only adds more power, and you have three-quarters of a classic. Three-quarters, because it has to be said that Bono’s lyrics are on the silly side (that said, the A mole/Digging in a hole pre-chorus, whilst risible, is hardly the among worst set of lyrics in the world. Come on, it edges out anything by James Blunt straight away), yet it’s not really like he lets the side down; like Oasis, who are also mentioned in that link, here the lyrics are a mere placeholder to give context (that said, this is a long way from Oasis’ tendency towards Beatles-lite). It’s really meant to be all about, well, this, which is why it possesses U2’s daftest refrain – something off at a tangent from Blur’s “Song 2”. Its inclusion on ATYCLB is thus vital in that it adds a) rock amidst a ballad-heavy album and b) a bit of digital amidst all this instruments-made-out-of-wood “authenticity” that Americans seemingly dig. That doesn’t just mean counterpoint to “Beautiful Day” et al., it also means that the album is truly All U2 Can’t Leave Behind, Pop as well as Joshua Tree. The new U2, U2 3.0 as it were, is one that can still dare to be humourus, silly and strange. Unfortunately this was lost somewhat on HTDAAB.

“Elevation” is one of the few songs to have been played at every gig since it debuted, although considering that amounts to two tours, it remains to be seen whether it has the staying power of “One”. It charted at #3 in the UK, although it didn’t do so on the main Billboard Hot 100, which is all R&B and hip-hop nowadays anyway. Even so, a daft falsetto cry, a storming rhythm section and a mass of guitar tech all conspire to make sure that the U2 of the 2000s isn’t one to be written off.


~ by 4trak on September 21, 2008.

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