Rattle And Hum


Island Records, 1988


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


First off, this is not a true live album. It's half live and half studio, and it's the soundtrack to the documentary of the same name. Both were released on U2's The Joshua Tree tour, in which the band cemented its status as the biggest band in the world.

The album has been unfairly maligned over the years, but it's actually the logical conclusion to the band's fascination with America began on The Unforgettable Fire. Excursions with B.B. King (the excellent blues-rock of "When Loves Comes to Town") and 50s-style rock ("Desire") are among the studio highlights, while a live cover of "All Along the Watchtower," the tribute "Angel of Harlem" and the gospel-influenced version of "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" draw from different portraits of Americana.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

But this Irish band also pays tribute to the Beatles twice, first on the opening "Helter Skelter" and later in "God Pt. 2," a response of sorts to John Lennon's "God," in which Bono seems to channel Lennon in a character study that reveals the ex-Beatle's virtues and flaws ("Don't believe in cocaine / Got a speedball in my head ... Don't believe in the Uzi / That just went off in my hand").

As for the other live tracks, "Silver and Gold" is a great B-side and "Bullet the Blue Sky" much improves on the original; you can't help but love Bono's comment at the end of the latter when he says "I can't tell the difference between ABC News, Hill Street Blues and a preacher in the Old Time Gospel Hour, stealing money from the sick and the old. Well, the God I believe in isn't short of cash, mister."

As for the other studio tracks, they work well as soundtrack music but not as strong songs on their own. "Hawkmoon 269" and "Love Rescue Me" are redundant and "Van Diemen's Land" is an average-at-best showcase for The Edge's singing. "Heartland" is a moody ballad that would have fit on The Unforgettable Fire and "All I Want Is You" closes out the album - and this portion of U2's career - on a subdued but hopeful note.

So, the broad range of styles and lack of cohesion make this less than necessary for casual fans, but as a travelogue and soundtrack it works quite well, and the best of the moments rank up with U2's best work of the 1980s. It's also the last album of its kind, as the band would pursue a radically different direction in the decade to come.

Rating: B

User Rating: B-



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