Picks and Pans Review: Rattle and Hum

updated 11/14/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/14/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

U2

The success of U2 restores one's faith in the record-buying public. The Irish rock quartet's fervor and honesty started earning rabid fans before the group even got its first recording contract, and its potential was more widely demonstrated by such robust but ragged early '80s albums as War and Boy. With each year since then, U2's vision and ability have grown until today Bono, the Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. stand majestically as the foremost rock band of the decade. And to think they did it all without mousse or lame. Even a crazy-quilt double album of live and studio tracks like Rattle and Hum, the by-product of U2's rockumentary film of the same name, is formidable. This is a group that knows no fear. The proceedings begin with—of all things—a Beatles song, a live-wire, in-concert cover of Helter Skelter that, like a grenade lobbed into a foxhole, swiftly gets the album jumping: Bono introduces it by saying, "This is a song Charles Manson stole from the Beatles. We're stealing it back." There's also a cranked-up version of Bob Dylan's All Along the Watchtower, marred only by Clayton's officious, repetitious bass riff. It's not just the borrowing of other people's stuff that makes this an unusual record for U2, however. On Rattle and Hum, the unique band pays homage for the first time to fellow artists all over the rock music continuum. Desire sounds a good deal like early Van Morrison, flavored with a choppy Bo Diddley beat. God Part II is dedicated to John Lennon and takes a topical swipe at his controversial biographer ("I don't believe in Goldman/ His type like a curse/ Instant karma's gonna get him/ If I don't get him first"). When Love Comes to Town is a hearty little blues number that makes fabulous use of guest star B.B. King's voice and guitar, and U2 even employs Jimi Hendrix's Star Spangled Banner, recorded at Woodstock, as a prologue to its own Bullet the Blue Sky. The best of the original U2 songs is/ Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, with a stirring gospel chorus accompaniment by the New Voices of Freedom. It's on this song that Bono's development as a singer is most evident. There are certainly some dull passages on Rattle and Hum, which is neither as evocative nor as cohesive as The Joshua Tree. But U2 has grown so strong and self-possessed that even a rather casual project like this takes on the appurtenances of a big deal. (Island)

From Our Partners