The Unforgettable Fire (1984)


 
1. A Sort of Homecoming 2. Pride (In the Name of Love) 3. Wire 4. The Unforgettable Fire 5. Promenade 6. 4th of July 7. Bad 8. Indian Summer Sky 9. Elvis Presley and America 10.MLK

 

U2 shook themselves up in a very big way on this release. Going in a much different direction, the boys work, for the first time, without producer Steve Lillywhite and recruit Brian Eno to work the knobs. Eno manages to radically change the direction and the sound of the album. Absent is the high energy intensity and quasi-punk sound that so many fans loved, and in its place is a much more atmospheric, experimental sound with plenty of moody keyboard background noises and guitar loops - backwards and forwards - in their place. Not all fans were warm to the change.

Ironically, this was by far the biggest seller that the band had to date. They even managed to crack the American top 10 for the first time with Pride (In the Name of Love), a tribute to the slain Martin Luther King Jr. The whole album, in a sense, is dedicated to the man - at least in spirit. Other than the beautiful closing semi-prayer MLK, there are no other direct references to the man, but the whole album seems to resonate with a spirit of lost love yet also hope.

Not all the songs are as easily accessible. The two songs Promenade and 4th of July seem to be nothing more than a couple of short snippets that each barely clock in at two and one half minutes long. They're not bad, they just seem to take up a bit of space without really going anywhere. Then there's Elvis Presley in America that I never enjoyed that much until several years later when I finally saw the lyrics. Bono kind of mumbles (a la Elvis?) throughout the tune making it mostly illegible. A lyric sheet probably should have been included with this album when it was originally released. It would have helped.

Other highlights include the trippy opener A Sort of Homecoming, and the timeless Bad that remains a fan favorite even all of these years later. The title track (which I believe is about the atom bomb) is another underrated classic.

Give the band credit for realizing that it was time for a change. They hadn't conquered the world yet, so its possible they never would have had they not changed the direction of the ship at this point. Most fans grew to love this one over time anyway.

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