Album Reviews of the 80s

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U2, "October" / 1981 Review by: Javier
During the making of this album U2 hit  a creativity lull. Having used up their best material for the debut album a year earlier, they were hard pressed to come up with new songs that not only would build on the promise of their first album, but that also reflected their increasingly intense religious convictions.

Much more explicitly Christian than Boy  thematically, October has a pastoral  musicality evident in "October" and "Tomorrow", Bono's ode to his dead mother.  Marked by  haunting flute and fiddle throughout the song, the singer prays for Christ's return so his reunion with his mother would be more immediate. "Gloria", the opener, is a hymn puntuated with The Edge's signature two chord guitar riff introduced in Boy's "I will Follow". The use of Latin in the song is interesting, given the group's charismatic bent at the time. The religious themes are further explored in  "With A Shout", "Fire"  and "Rejoice", a hard rocking tune that somehow reminds me of Bad Brains' exploration of affirmative, religious ideas within a punk/hardcore structure.

Other notable songs are "I Threw A Brick Through A Window" and "Stranger in a Strange Land", the latter a song that  shows Bono's instantaneous lyrical  inventions. It doesn't always work, but it shows his honesty working at full throttle.

This album feels a bit forced at times, as if reflecting the pressures that the band faced at the time. Steve Lillywhite's production is awfully flat compared to his work with Peter Gabriel a year or so earlier. Many of the musical limitations evident in the first album which are turned into proclivities by the time War comes out feel like incomplete virtues, but which show growing confidence and a willingness to try different venues of expression. While this is a flawed album and nowhere near their best, it's  still my favorite U2 album.

*** of 5

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