Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Pearl Jam News!


Good news, gang...Pearl Jam's new album, Backspacer, is set for a September release and their new Cameron Crowe-directed video, "The Fixer" is available as a free download from iTunes. You can also score a digital download of the single, and while you're at it, pre-order the album, why don'cha? Yay! It's almost too much to bear.

Here is the fantastic new video if you absolutely cannot make your way over to iTunes, for your viewing pleasure:

Apparently this video is part of a larger commercial deal with the Target corporation, which is pretty eyebrow-raising indeed for such a vehemently anti-capitalist band. But like their manager Kelly Curtis said, it wasn't like they weren't releasing albums for Sony for almost two decades (Backspacer will be released by Universal Music Group). Go figure.

Here's a short about the making of the Backspacer album:

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Soundtrack of Your Life: The Best 20 U2 Songs of the '90s

U2 - ACHTUNG BABY (1991)

U2 - ZOOROPA (1993)

U2 - POP (1997)

This special edition of "Soundtrack of Your Life" is in response to two things specifically: 1.) News from that the European leg of their current 360° Tour is winding down and will be wending its way into the U.S., where I will be catching it at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on October 25. Click on the website for tour dates in your area! Hurry!!

2.) Paste Magazine put up a very interesting list of The 20 Best U2 Songs of All Time on August 4...I was dismayed to see the list lacking in U2's formidable '90s output, so I decided to sate '90's U2 fans with our own list. So there!



It's so tough to write a list U2's best '90's songs without putting the entirety of Achtung Baby on the list, thereby defeating the purpose of said list. This classic U2 album, startlingly under-represented on Paste's list, is fawned over and argued about by rock music fans to this day. And out of an album full of gorgeous tunes, "One" is the one, hands down.

I remember being enthralled with this song in the early Nineties; I taped it off the radio and listened to it every chance I could get; I loved that it had three totally different videos in rotation on MTV, directed by Anton Corbijn, Mark Pellington and Phil Joanou, repectively.

"One" was the glue that held the band together in the face of creative strife. There seemed to be a divide between continuing to sound like the U2 of the '80's and progressing into a newer sound, inspired by younger rock bands and electronic dance music. "One" clearly shows that U2 was not down for the count yet in terms of raw spirit, as its presence on many "Best Rock Songs" lists shows.

Here is a great documentary on the song "One" called "A Story of One," in two parts:

U2 also performed this song live in 2005 in New York with '90's R&B diva, Damn The Man fave and Yonkers, NY native, Mary J. Blige, which was later recorded and placed on her 2005 album, The Breakthrough. I have to say, Mary kills this song.


I bet you thought I was going to talk about "Mysterious Ways" next... I will.

One of my best friends in college had a radio show right before mine for a while called "Like A Fish Needs A Bicycle." Love this song. Underrated and sexy as hell.


First of all, Zooropa is that ish. Do not be swayed by U2 snobs who turn their nose up at the band's innovative genre-melding post-80's work. Zooropa will make your booty bounce.

It has to be said: "Lemon" is an awesome song. Quite unlike anything else in their catalogue, but a manifestation of previous ideas harbored by The Edge and Bono, it is Teutonic electronic dance majesty. Combined with Bono's in-concert red-devil-horned alter-ego MacPhisto, it doesn't get any better. Proved that U2 had many styles, and rockin' the dance floor was one of them.

The really cool video, directed by Mark Neale (who also directed videos for the Counting Crows, among others), was actually a tribute to 19th century English photographer Eadweard Muybridge, who was a pioneer in capturing motion on film using multiple cameras, then projecting the result using his zoopraxiscope device. It seems as if his photos of American bison set in motion may have been a reference for the Mark Pellington video version of "One":

(The main inspiration for that video is actually photographs of buffalo by '80's gay NYC artist David Wojnarowicz.)

I think the vocal arrangements and Bono's falsetto are pretty remarkable in this song. I also like the Pet Shop Boys-ish Euro-sophisticate quality of it.


I love this promo photo because it was on the cassingle my Mom bought for us, she loved the song too. In fact, we bought several copies of this song throughout the years, in a vain search for superior sound quality. The need to hear this song as crisp and clear as a bell was that strong.

I do also remember that the B-side to this song was a duet with Frank Sinatra and Bono on the song "I've Got You Under My Skin"; written by Cole Porter song, it became a hit for Sinatra in 1956. It was re-popularized in the 90's by bands like U2 and Jawbox.

"Stay (Faraway, So Close!) was actually recorded with Frank Sinatra in mind; in fact, the song bore the working title "Sinatra" throughout the recording process. The song had already found life during the Achtung Baby sessions, but was only completed after German film director Wim Wenders requested a song for his 1993 film "Faraway, So Close!," a sequel to his 1987 classic film, "Wings of Desire."

I love "Wings of Desire," so I adored the poignant video for "Stay," directed by Wenders and Mark Neale. Enjoy:


"If God Will Send His Angels" is kind of like "Stay" Part Two, especially if you consider that the song was featured on the 1998 film "City of Angels" soundtrack, which was an American remake of Wim Wenders's 1987 film "Wings of Desire," directed by Brad Silberling. My best friend and I listened to this song over and over again in the dorm at college...we thought our hearts might break from its sheer beauty. A lot of U2 fanatics like to poop on Pop, but I suggest you don't go there.

Longtime U2 collaborator Phil Joanou directed the video for the song, which I am only just now getting the pleasure to watch. Thank you YouTube!

GONE (POP, 1997)

My husband is a fan of this song..."Gone" is a song about the emotional twists and turns of being a rock star, and is often dedicated in concert to the late INXS frontman Michael Hutchence, who committed suicide the same year that Pop was released.


This song did not make the Paste Top 20 U2 list, and for why, I'm not sure. This song heralded the return of U2 in the '90's as the Sexiest Band On Earth, and with good reason. Its snaky, sinewy exotic vibe, throbbing guitar line and Bono in his ruffly red shirt, black-black hair and tight leather pants in the video was all one needed to know, really.

The much-played video was directed in Morocco by French person Stéphane Sednaoui, who was responsible for many a dope video in the Nineties, including Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Give It Away," "Breaking The Girl" and "Scar Tissue," Smashing Pumpkins' "Today," Björk's "Big Time Sensuality" and "Possibly Maybe," Garbage's "Queer," Alanis Morrissette's "Ironic," and U2's own "Discothèque."

Though I am unable to embed a copy of that fabulous video for you all, here is the wonderful "Solar Plexus Extended Club Remix" of the song for your perusal:


"Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses" is one of the more overlooked songs on 1991's Achtung Baby, and again, I'm not sure why. This song is as ravishing a song of love and lament as they come. It's like that feeling the last night that you're intimate with a lover that you will be broken up with wrong, yet so right.

BTW, this video is amazing:


I always had a soft spot for this song's industrial-ish flair...It is an exemplar of a certain kind of '90's sensibility when it came to pop genre-blending; incorporating dance, electronic and hip-hop sounds into rock music. I was a big fan of industrial and experimental bands like Soul Coughing back then, so this was right up my alley.


I remember it taking me and my friends in high school a minute to get used to this song. It was a lot to take in at thirteen years of age, especially given that I hadn't had my full education in industrial music and musique concrète, and Stockhausen and such yet.

Even yet and still, I learned, and came to love another unusual entry in the U2 catalogue. This song was a leftover from "Achtung Baby," and the backing track was combined with The Edge's monotone delivery of his own lyrics to create the song, in addition to keyboards laid down by producer Brian Eno. The song was released as a video single, much in the way that Madonna's song "Justify My Love" was released as a video single in 1990 to great controversy. "Numb" was also the debut single of the album Zooropa, an unorthodox choice if there ever was one.

This video was directed by Kevin Godley of the British band Godley & Creme, and was later remixed by the '90's industrial/performance artist group, Emergency Broadcast Network.

Emergency Broadcast Network (EBN) version:


Me, I'm partial to dance and electronic music, so it was thrilling to me to see U2 give in to their inner mirror ball with much of their '90's output, culminating in the tune "Discothèque." This song has many haters, but that's just too damn bad. This is a fun, silly song with a tasty hook, video courtesy of Stéphane Sednaoui:


This is a good example of the kind of shimmery, hummable single that was pervasive throughout the '90's for many rock/pop bands, and would become kind of the linchpin style of the strongest singles to come for U2 on subsequent albums. Just mm-mm good.

Here's a lovely live version of the song from Slane Castle in Ireland:


The 2007 Julian Schnabel-directed film "Le Scaphandre et Le Papillon (The Diving Bell and The Butterfly)" reminded me and my husband again of the wondrous uplift of this song. Yet another underrated Achtung track, it's a soaring piece, and U2 doesn't quite take flight in the same way again until "Beautiful Day" off their 2000 album, All That You Can't Leave Behind, which is appropriate since Bono's description of what the latter song is about seems to fit both tunes: "a man who has lost everything, but finds joy in what he still has."


Another little-mentioned song off this seminal album. I love when Bono gets down in his more sensual, R&B slow jam mode, similar to what he achieves on "Tryin' To Throw Your Arms Around The World," so this song is catnip to me.


I was going to talk about "Acrobat," which made an appearance on the Paste U2 list and appears to be a favorite for U2 connoisseurs, but I tip in favor of "Love Is Blindness," a beautifully wintry ode to how-so-very-confusing love can be. I love its dark chocolate-y, late-night, rain-spattered-boulevard-under-a-single-streetlamp jazziness. I love when rock bands pull out their jazz hands; Pearl Jam pulls off a similar act with the song "Indifference" on their 1993 album, "Vs." I once intercepted a mix tape that was meant to be delivered to someone else to make my own copy because it had "Love Is Blindness" as one of its first tracks.

It feels like Nina Simone or somebody should have popularized this song, but it was written during U2's Rattle and Hum sessions. Not to be missed.


I am a big fan of the gauzy, dreamlike quality to the whole album Zooropa, and its title track just exemplifies the detached aesthetic. It feels like a particularly kind pharmaceutical high, but the danger of the big comedown always lurks. Producers Flood (one of my favorite music producers from the '90's; he was down with Nine Inch Nails, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, Depeche Mode, PJ Harvey, Jesus and Mary Chain, Smashing Pumpkins, etc.) and Brian Eno (along with The Edge) were responsible for manifesting the sound of a dystopian future Europe.

The phrase "dream out loud" from the song is a reference to the song "Acrobat" from Achtung Baby.


In compiling this list, I have to admit that I have been reintroduced to quite a few of the songs I ignored the first time, and this is one of them. What a sweet and sexy song. It reminds me of Madonna's "Borderline" period; just youthful innocence and exuberance. Sit back and think about that first love for me, please:


It is rather weird how Bono name-checks Michael Jackson in this song, so that it sounds like "Michael Jackson, history," as in Michael Jackson is history, rather than just shouting out the name of his 1995 album.

The lazy stroll of the song and see-sawing main guitar (or just as effectively, strings) chord progression is tailor-made for hazy summer days:


This song is "Love Is Blindness" Part Two, but you can never have enough sexy, smoky jazz-bo flavor in your life, believe me. The '90's had a lounge-y, cabaret-ish, jazzy undercurrent that I was really into. Songs like this one remind me of songs like Morphine's "Yes" and "Whisper" (from their 1995 album, Yes), and Depeche Mode's "Blue Dress" (from their 1990 album, Violator). Put these on the hi-fi if you need a left-field song to get your "Lay Lady Lay" action on. You will not fail.


This song obviously rocks. It too was built around a guitar riff that Edge created during the Rattle and Hum sessions.

The video features a 360° camera effect created by Simon Tayler of London production company Artem, which won a 1992 MTV Video Music Award for Best Special Effects. While that is all well and good, I agree with a YouTube commenter on this video: Bono does look oh-so-good in leather.

That makes twenty, guys! But I have an extra-special treat for you...This song was originally released by U2 in 1987 as the B-side to the "Where The Streets Have No Name" single off of their album, The Joshua Tree. It was released in a couple of different versions thereafter, including this 1998 version that showed up on their compilation album, The Best of 1980-1990. I think I probably love this song more than anything on here (except for "Stay (Faraway, So Close!), that's my jam). It is that excellent. Kevin Godley directed this really funny, sweet video, enjoy:

If you made it this whole way, congratulations! Here's a cookie! If there's a song that I missed that you love, please sure sure to comment...