U2: 18 Singles (an alternate tracklist)

As I recently reviewed U2’s 18 Singles – a collection hoping to tap into the kind of success that The Beatles 1 had a few years ago – it occurred to me that I could put together a better 18-song playlist. Remember, I’m going for the band’s hits; so bigger in this case is probably better.

First, I must identify the “must-haves.” Here is my list: “Angel of Harlem,” “Beautiful Day,” “Desire,” “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” “Mysterious Ways,” “One,” “Pride (In The Name of Love),” “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” “Where the Streets Have No Name” and “With or Without You.” These are the band’s signature songs. (Only “Angel of Harlem” was excluded from 18 Singles.)

Now, I need to identify the best of the rest: “All I Want Is You,” “Bad,” “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me,” “I Will Follow,” “New Year’s Day,” “Sweetest Thing” and “Vertigo.” Are there better songs not yet mentioned? Probably, but you’d be hard-pressed to find something bigger or more popular.

That leaves room for one song. Regrettably, I’m only choosing amongst the singles, so personal favorites like “In a Little While,” “Hawkmoon 269,” “So Cruel” or “A Sort of Homecoming” do not qualify. Nor does “Flower Child,” an All That You Can’t Leave Behind castoff that I’m utterly convinced would be a huge hit for the band if they would only release it as a single.

Looking at the list of the band’s singles, “Discotheque,” “Staring at the Sun,” “Numb” and “Stay (Farwaway, So Close!)” jump out. Of the four, the last two didn’t chart as well as the first two, so the final spot goes to either “Discotheque” or “Staring at the Sun.” Listening to each as I keep my criteria in mind, I can envision the band opening a concert with “Discotheque.” “Staring at the Sun”? Not so much.

So here’s the final 18-song tracklist, in chronological order:

1. I Will Follow
2. New Year’s Day
3. Sunday Bloody Sunday
4. Pride (In the Name of Love)
5. Bad
6. Where the Streets Have No Name
7. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
8. With or Without You
9. Desire
10. Angel of Harlem
11. All I Want Is You
12. Mysterious Ways
13. One
14. Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me
15. Discotheque
16. Sweetest Thing
17. Beautiful Day
18. Vertigo

How’s it look?

  

Get to Know: Spoon

Spoon is the brainchild of frontman/guitarist Britt Daniel and drummer Jim Eno. Hailing from Austin – the home of the University of Texas – the band’s sound feels as if it were shaped in a college town, benefiting from all the creativity and calculation in the air. With help from co-producer Mike McCarthy, Daniel pays great attention to detail and each of the band’s tracks is pleasurable to the ear in one way or another. Over the past decade, the band has released five albums, and while their early punk stuff drew comparisons to the Pixies, the band has been able to refine its sound over its last four releases, developing a kind of rock that is both melodious and thoughtful. Spoon is working on a sixth album, tentatively titled Trouble Minx, for release sometime in 2007. But for now, listen to these 11 songs, and pay special attention to what’s going on in the lower frequencies. Daniel’s ability to create interesting, repeating bass lines and piano riffs is almost unparalleled. When possible, I included links to the songs at iTunes and Amazon and also included either a proper video or live performance for each song (from YouTube). Spoon is a terrific live band, so if you get the opportunity, be sure to see them perform.
Spoon MySpace Page | Official Site
BE Reviews: Girls Can Tell | Kill The Moonlight | Gimme Fiction

“The Way We Get By”Kill the Moonlight
This is the first song I play for people when I’m trying to get them into the band. Daniel called this track “one of the most immediate” of his tunes, going on to say, “Once I sang that chorus the first time and got it on tape, I kind of knew it was going to be a good one.” It’s catchy from the start – he sings over an infectious yet delightful piano riff. It was also a breakthrough of sorts; the song ended up on the first Music from the O.C. mix. You can watch a decent live version here or watch an “O.C.” video below, which has the song as its soundtrack.
iTunes | Amazon

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Mix Disc Monday: This Is Halloween

Welcome to the debut of our newest installment, Mix Disc Monday. It is exactly what you think it is. We won’t even bother to insult your intelligence by explaining the concept to you. In this age of iTunes playlists and podcasts, we know that you’re a step ahead of us. Fifteen songs about…well, whatever inspires us that day.

It therefore seemed fitting that we kick off this weekly event with a timely list of songs whose titles evoke images of All Hallow’s Eve. Most of the songs aren’t dark or scary, but do they have to be? If that’s what you want, listen to the main theme to “Requiem for a Dream” over and over again, if you have the guts. Oh, and feel free to pepper the proceedings with “Bring out your dead” quotes from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”

Ministry: “Everyday Is Halloween” (Early Trax)
Mmm-mmm bop mmm bop bop. Mmm-mmm bop mmm bop bop. Al Jourgensen says he hates this song now. Fool.

The Jazz Butcher: “The Devil Is My Friend” (Bloody Nonsense)
This long lost B-side (I won’t lie, you’re gonna have a hell of a time finding this one) is still the only song I know by the Jazz Butcher. But any band that’s friends with Frank Sinatra, Love & Rockets and the devil is a friend of mine.

Bow Wow Wow: “I Want Candy” (We Are the ‘80s)
Not everything about Halloween involves scaring people, you know.

Squirrel Nut Zippers: “Hell” (Hot)
I found a version of this on Napster back in the day that was filled with quotes from “The Simpsons.” Innnnnn the afterlife (“D’oh!”), you could be headed for the serious strife (“D’oh!”). Now you make the scene all day (Buuuuuurp), but tomorrow there’ll be hell to pay. Best, mash-up, ever.

The Killers: “Bones” (Sam’s Town)
Tim Burton was the perfect person to direct this video. If only he could have done something about the rest of the album…

Oingo Boingo: “Dead Man’s Party” (Dead Man’s Party)
While we’re talking about Tim Burton, we may as well give a shout-out to his composer’s former day job.

L7: “Pretend We’re Dead” (Bricks Are Heavy)
Girls can do grunge too, you know. Come on, come on, come on.

Concrete Blonde: “Bloodletting (The Vampire Song)” (Bloodletting)
How a lazy cover of “Sympathy for the Devil” by Guns ‘n Roses played over the credits of “Interview with a Vampire” instead of this is not just a mystery but a crime.

Dead or Alive: “Something in My House” (Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know)
Here’s the thing that people forget about Dead or Alive: their guitarist could shred, dude. For extra creep factor, find the 12” mixes, which have quotes from “The Exorcist” in them.

Book of Love: “Witchcraft” (Lullaby)
There’s something about the sound of Samantha wiggling her nose that gets me every time. That, and Susan Ottaviano’s voice, which my wife once described as “beautifully bored.” Yep, that sounds about right.

B-52’s: “Devil in My Car” (Wild Planet)
Heeeeeeelp!

Jellyfish: “The Ghost at Number One” (Spilt Milk)
It was a tossup between this and “The Ghost in You” from the Psychedelic Furs, but in the interest of keeping the energy levels up, we chose this mash note to Queen about a dead rock star who still dominates the pop charts. Awfully prescient, since this predates the deaths of Tupac and Biggie. Jellyfish were prophets.

Roger Joseph Manning, Jr.: “Creepie People” (The Land of Pure Imagination)
I probably should have put David Bowie’s “Scary Monsters and Super Creeps” in this slot instead of back to back Jellyfish-related tunes (Manning played keys for the’Fish). But hot damn, I just love this new record of his. And you should, too.

Gnarls Barkley: “The Boogie Monster” (St. Elsewhere)
You either love or hate this one. I’m in the former group, if only because it reminds me of Mike Wazowski, Sully and Boo from “Monsters Inc.” Kitty!

Divine Comedy: “The Happy Goth” (Absent Friends)
And on what day would Goths be happier than Halloween? The chorus to this is just money: “Well, her clothes are blacker than the blackest cloth / And her face is whiter than the snows of Hoth / She wears Doctor Martens and heavy cross / But on the inside, she’s a happy Goth.” The snows of Hoth? God, I love Neil Hannon.

P.S. To see the most unintentionally funny Goth clip ever on YouTube, click here.

  

Get To Know: The Black Keys

Be sure to check out my review of the recent Black Keys show at the Avalon in Hollywood, CA.

Hailing from Akron, Ohio, the Black Keys [MySpace page] are a two-man outfit made up of Dan Auerbach (vocals, guitar) and Patrick Carney (drums). Their music is often described as blues-rock, but the Keys stay away from many of the traditional chord progressions that are far too familiar in the genre. They embrace the low-fi, so their stuff generally sounds rough around the edges, but it’s quite clear that the duo likes it that way. Auerbach mixes in his distinct, lived-in vocals with his thicker than thick guitar, while Carney passionately pounds the skins. They are a productive band, having released four albums in the last five years, including Magic Potion [Bullz-Eye review], released earlier this year. In 2006, they also released an EP, Chulahoma [Bullz-Eye review], where they covered six songs by blues hero Junior Kimbrough. They dabble in funk, rock and psychedelia, never straying too far from the blues-rock sound made famous in the mid- to late-‘60s. In short, any beer-soaked roadhouse would benefit from having these 14 songs in its jukebox, but they can all be found at iTunes. To listen to song clips at Amazon, click the link for each album.

Let’s get to know the Black Keys…

“Have Love, Will Travel” – Thickfreakness
It’s a sign of a good band when they are able to take a song they didn’t write and make it their own. The Keys do exactly that with this track, which was originally written by R&B artist Richard Berry and later made famous when The Sonics covered it on their eponymous debut in 1965. This version features a much thicker guitar and a smooth breakdown as it approaches each verse. Every Keys virgin should give it up to this song.

“Till I Get My Way” – Rubber Factory
There’s that thick guitar again. That little riff will carry the song, with Auerbach’s vocals leading us to a brief chorus before jumping right back into another cascading verse. The guitar solo in the middle is short but effective.

“Set You Free” – Thickfreakness
If this song sounds familiar, it probably is. It was featured on the soundtrack to Jack Black’s “School of Rock” and was used in a Nissan Xterra commercial. It’s faster than most of the group’s songs, and Carney really works over those drums, but it all works. There’s a writhing guitar that leads the track into each chorus and the last one is especially sultry.

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If I were Paul McGuinness…

I recently watched U2’s concert film, “Rattle & Hum,” and it was better than I remember. Over the years, I’ve read several reviews that used words like “disastrous,” but I thought it was an interesting, if mostly staged, look at the group as they were evolving into the “Biggest Band in the World.”

I think the soundtrack suffers a bit because it’s all over the place. I would rather have seen two separate discs – one consisting of new material and one live album. Considering all of their output during those years, the disc of new material would have looked something like this:

1. Desire
2. God, Pt. 2
3. Angel of Harlem
4. Hawkmoon 269
5. Love Rescue Me
6. Heartland
7. Sweetest Thing
8. When Love Comes To Town
9. Hallelujah (Here She Comes)
10. Van Diemen’s Land
11. Silver and Gold
12. All I Want Is You

That’s a nice playlist. I realize that a few of those songs (“Sweetest Thing,” “Hallelujah (Here She Comes)” and “Silver and Gold”) were released as B-sides to singles from The Joshua Tree, but had they been “Americanized,” recorded in the same spirit as “Desire” and “Angel of Harlem” were, they would have fit right in with the rest of the material and the band would have had three great albums in a row instead of two and a half.

The second disc could have compiled the band’s live greatest hits up to that point; it would have been perfect for a fan like myself, who got into U2 during The Joshua Tree years but didn’t have the fortitude (or the finances) to dig into all the previous albums to find their better songs.

Oh well, I guess they did all right without my help.