Island Records, 1981


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It almost seems sacreligious to say anything negative about U2, but I have to commit blasphemy here: Even though I've owned October, the second release from the Irish quartet, for nearly two decades, I still don't get it.

While there are some signs of improvement over their debut release Boy, Bono and crew still seemed to be struggling with just where they wanted to take their songwriting on this disc. The end result is an album that sounds a bit unfinished. (In retrospect, this seems understandable; recently Bono was reunited with a suitcase stolen from him 23 years ago, which contained the original ideas for many of the songs on this album.)my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

October may be best known for the minor hit "Gloria," which is a somewhat decent attempt at pop, if not a total success. But the more memorable songs on this disc are the ones which don't immediately pop up in the listener's radar screen. Tracks like "Tomorrow" and "October" dare to turn introspective and act as thought-provoking numbers (though the band leaves the line of thinking up to the listener) without ever sounding overblown or pompous.

If only that had been the strategy for the bulk of the disc. No, I'm not saying that U2 is pompous on this album. (In my mind, that stage was still ahead for them -- and this is coming from someone who likes the band.) Instead, U2 is left awash in half-constructed ideas which don't really seem to have a focused goal in sight. Take songs like "I Fall Down" and "I Threw A Brick Through A Window" -- easily the dumbest song title U2 ever came up with. These songs aren't bad, in all honesty, but they just seem very listless in their structure and their performance. It's not that October is a bad album, but it never is given a roadmap to find potential greatness.

That being said, one does hear the improvements over Boy. There seems to be more confidence and maturity in Bono's vocals, and as much as I'm bashing the songwriting, one does notice steps in the right direction being taken. "Gloria" is growth over "I Will Follow," for example -- better song structure, a few more chances being taken, and more confident delivery. Likewise, U2 don't try to be something they're not by writing lengthy numbers -- the longest track clocks in at just under five minutes -- and they do try to funnel everything down a little more to its musical essence.

One has to wonder what would have happened had that suitcase never been stolen from Bono, and how October would have been affected for good or for bad. As it stands, this disc still remains one for the diehard fans only, but it does have a glimmer of promise for the future.

Rating: C+

User Rating: A-



© 2004 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Island Records, and is used for informational purposes only.