Reviewed by John Cheek
Another of the remastered and expanded versions of the superstars' output. By autumn 1981 U2 were verging on splitting up. Well, not quite; that was still to come. For now, they struggled with a case of stolen lyrics and a crisis of faith, as they lived that 'difficult' second album. Listening again, it's interesting how the naivety and innocence of their debut, in terms of sound, had progressed from dinky drums and xylophone to the sparse production and bleak soundscape of post-punk, Joy Divison-esque 'October'. Intriguing were the reviews of the time, clearly already informed of the group's Christian beliefs. Largely gone, however, is the adolescent angst. Still to come, the political commentary. 'October' sat well alongside Dylan's 'Slow Train' and complimented the latter's preaching with a work of art remarkable for its genuine expression of doubt, confusion and apprehension as well as faith. But this album is memorable for the sheer joy of "Scarlet" (where the word "rejoice" is repeated over and over), the raw "Tomorrow" on which Bono sings "Open up to the Lamb of God/To the love of he who made the blind to see/He's coming back. . . Jesus is coming. . . I want to be there. . . I believe it") and the anthemic "Gloria" (which America's CCM magazine described as "a realist's lament to the Lord"). Dense, intense and atmospheric, the uillean pipes give a definite Irish flavour. The album's title and lyrical feel countenance a time for death and re-birth. Remastered, it remains a powerful listen.
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