Friday, September 17, 2010

FDF Volume 2: Issue 200 - U2 Zooropa

By: March

Album - Zooropa
Artist - U2
Key Players - Larry Mullen -drums, percussion and backing vocals. Adam Clayton - bass. The Edge - Guitar, piano, synthesizers and vocals. Bono - lead vocals and guitar.
Produced By - Flood, Brian Eno, The Edge

Release Date - July 5, 1993*

* I actually remember driving in to Boston that morning (worked there at the time) since Newbury Comics had an early morning on sale of the cd. I was in the record store at 615am and got a t-shirt and the cd..I still have both.

What caused me to blow off the dust? - Ahh its the 200th one of these that has been done and I haven't done U2 yet. This is also one of the records that I don't often think of, hence the pick.

Overview - Dublin Ireland based U2 released their 8th studio album "Zooropa" on the heels of the massively successful "Achtung Baby" album and subsequent tour. The album was written on a six month break of touring and was only intended to be an EP the band found a creative stride and the sessions actually needed to be completed on off days once the tour resumed. It would continue to push the band even further in to musical super stardom. The techno/dance feel of the record would be a direction the band would take on the 1997 follow up "Pop". Although it spawned three singles, none of them reached number one in the US. A few of the tracks are still concert staples.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) - "Zooropa" has a very long fade up with piano and advertising playing underneath. It slowly builds even more and seems like bass notes resonate before the delay of guitar rings over and the talking ends. Almost two minutes in it starts to feel like a song. The guitars wave and the band comes in. Asking "what do you want" before Bono begins to sing in a mix of English and German. The vocals are hushed, and heavily effect laden and this is the norm for two verses. The Edge rings out guitar once more and it takes almost a whole new direction. Brian Eno guests on the synthesizers and the track gets a more rock feel to it. The vocals are still distorted some but come the chorus the backing vocals come out. It is curious to hear the band in this start of their change in direction musically. No one member takes charge of the track and the band works in unison. After a curious synth phase the track ends. There is a "chime loop" at the start of "Babyface" a laid back quieter song. Void of anything but the loop until the bass comes in and even through the chorus Mullen only keeps time on the snare before the Edge does a quick run on the guitar. There are some bass harmonics before the verses begin once more. This is actually the shortest tune on the album clocking in at an even four minutes. It is a pretty simple formula the band keeps. In doing that it sets up the track "Numb" all the better. Buzzing guitar feeding off a canned back beat this is one of the few tracks that the Edge takes lead vocals on. Bono and Larry are the backing vocalists on this, simply put, chanted song, but the Edge. Edge doesn't really sing (see Seconds on the War album for example) he choose to speak the lines over a buzzy guitar before some drums and keyboards fill out the back. As the track comes towards the two minute mark Bono offers a more falsetto backing vocal approach and almost seems to take the lead over the words of the Edge. The video that was for the video worked very well (see the links). The track has made it's way in to some recent tours set lists. Its not a show stopper, but its curious to see live. In a direction fans had yet to hear the band go the wavering keyboard intro and Bono's falsetto on "Lemon" are something to behold. Having almost a disco feel to it the band falls in to a dance groove that fans had not really heard before. The verses are sung high and then Bono will fluctuate on the chorus. The music feels a little "canned' at times with the bass and drums mearly holding court. (a trend that non fans of the band have historically made fun of). This is another song that worked well live and Bono would perform this under his "MacPhisto" persona during the tour. The piano seems to be a focus later in the track and the band works on some nice vocal chorus but the back beat remains constant keeping the song moving forward. Another song that did well live, usually in a acoustic settings was "Stay (Faraway, So Close!). Edge plays a few notes before the Clayton and Mullen join in. Bono is somewhat laid back on vocals at the start singing a little hushed. As the verse continues you begin to hear in the background the guitars start to swell more. The formula is repeated and Bono really soars vocally, this is one of the tracks that showcases his work with the Edge. The two have always fed off one another and its easy to see why they stripped this down live for just the two of them to work on. One of the fun, and not often thought of U2 gems (at least to me) is "Daddy's Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car". Using a sample from the band "MC900 Foot Jesus" the drums are effect riddled. The drum beat has a high ring to it, but is very punchy. The bass and guitar feel like they struggle to get going. By the time Bono comes in after the one minute mark he is singing over a looped back beat and he sings in whispered tones. As the song continues to build and Bono starts to sing a little more urgently. It keeps the tempo and by the third verse the drums are really pushed up. Edge works a series of distorted short notes on the guitar, but it is nearly impossible to escape the heavy drum sound. It gets a little chaotic by this point with the loops and drums firing with a few short bass guitar bursts dropped in. As the song works towards the close there are a series of vocal fades with the days of the week sung and an "all right" sung over it from time to time, as the song fades. Brian Eno had a lot to do with loops being used on the record and it returns on "Some Days are Better than Others". Clayton gets his first showcase with a simple swooping bass. Mullen joins in on hi-hat and Bono starts to sing. The guitar is not present until after the second verse (and first chorus). It starts to feel more like a song, and a very good one at that. The bass is still heavy in the mix, with Edge just using the guitar to throw out short progressive notes. Mullen and Clayton keep the track on task and Edge uses the wah wah before a very distorted short guitar solo. A rare occurrence on the record (distorted or otherwise). As the vocals come back in the solo changes direction and keeps going, but it kept under the vocal track. The music loop runs towards the end with the distorted guitar leading the way towards the fade. The band does the "ballad" thing on "The First Time" a very pretty sounding track. Brian Eno plays piano and harmonium in the background along with a lone guitar and Bono on vocals. The song gets fuller, but never changes from the piano and guitar delivery. The song has been performed live but only about 38 times total since debuting in 1993. "Dirty Day" is a track the band dedicated to Charles Bukowski and is a quieter track that has a few moments of a buzzy guitar that seems to stay in check. The song is not overly interesting and I actually had to skip back to it to add comments, but don't really have any. The final track on the album is "The Wanderer" which is sung by the legendary Johnny Cash. (check out and old FDF on The San Quentin album You'd never know its a U2 song as it has a buzzy synthesizer and the unmistakable vocals of Cash. The Edge offers some harmonies on the song, but there is never any guitar, bass or drums giving you that U2 sound, maybe a little with a guitar that slowly makes its way in, but even that is a stretch. A curious, yet effective album closer.

Perhaps a little known bit is that there is a "hidden" track after "The Wanderer" concludes. It is the sound of a ringing alarm, and based off what I've read it is an alarm DJ's hear when there is 10 seconds of "dead air". As a former DJ I either never had dead or or this is a myth.....anyway its not really a track but a curious "noise" you may choose to check out.

Where are they now? - U2 are still active as a studio and touring band, and have retained all original members. The rumors as of late is the band is working on upwards of three records at this time. They released their last studio album "No Line On The Horizon" in 2009. They also released a live DVD called " U2 360 at the Rose Bowl" in early 2010.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) - Its a sickness, sorry. By some standards its too much, by others it is not so much, but I've seen U2 live 17 times. The first was May 3, 1987 at the Centrum in Worcester. A co-worker of my mothers son had an extra ticket and I had my drivers license for about 2 weeks or so. One of the girls that went with us ended up on Irish TV and we were about 10-12 rows back on the was just stunning (but I'd one up that later). Two more times that year, September 18th at the Boston Garden then September 22nd at Foxboro Stadium. March 13, 1992 saw them again at the Centrum in Worcester. My older brother was trying for tickets for ages and finally got through. We had 300 level tickets,but we didn't care..this was the tour where it was going to be "indoors" for one show only etc. As the show approached the band released a ticket exchange meaning folks in the 300's could show up a week or so before and exchange for updated seats. Well, my brothers girlfriend at the time went out and landed us front row tickets. I mean FRONT ROW on the rail. The Pixies opened that show (check out the FDF on Doolittle) and it was Adam Claytons birthday. The show was great and I got the attention of Bono and he gave me the set list. That was my closest encounter ever. The band then did 3 shows in Foxboro in 1992 and I did the first two on August 20 and 22nd. These were just massive shows, the outdoor broadcast was just the biggest thing my eyes had seen. I was lower level, but more than halfway back both shows. It would be a long time since U2 toured and the next was again in Foxboro July 1st and 2nd 1997. A lot had changed for the band and for me personally. I was married, owned a home and was back in school. Night one I scored excellent pre-sale seats inside 20 rows back straight back. I had a summer course final that night as well, so I took it and then raced to the stadium. I made it in time! June 6, 2001 the band was back on the road and "indoors". The Fleet Center was venue for this and I'd go again on the 9th. I'd see them one more time in 2001 at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence on October 30th. I had just a single ticket for this show and had floor/GA seats. May 24th and 26th I saw them again at the Fleet Center. Both nights I had General Admission tickets via the fan club. Night one my wife went with me and we landed the "inside the heart" tickets. We were on the side of the Edge and the band would walk past us often. They looked and sounded great both nights. The second night I was back on the floor so I could take "more of it" in. The band loved Boston this year and I was back for two more shows October 3rd and 4th. The final two times I saw the band live was in support of the current album. September 20 and 21st 2009 at Gillette Stadium. Again, had field general admission tickets and was close to the "VIP" area. I saw Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise on night one. The shows were good, and the stage was even bigger than I'd imagined.

FDF Overall Take - Love them or hate them U2 have been making music for over 30 years now. Some have been mis-fires, but the band has always pushed themselves and the audiences with mixed results. After this record the band released one of their least successful albums ever "Pop" and then returned to the formula for the follow-up. The band is pretty hard to escape on radio and Zooropa might be a welcome diversion from the worn out "hits".

The band's official page as well as myspace.

A very long and detailed talk on Wiki regarding the record can be found here.

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

Official video for Numb
a funny "Lego" version of the same video here as well as a solo live Edge version here.
Live from Boston and acoustic version of Stay.
Daddy's Gonna pay for your crashed car live from Zoo TV here.


At 4:35 PM, Blogger Mark Sonnier said...

Great article! I still think this album, and the single "Lemon" are vastly underrated in the U2 catalog. Thanks for bringing some great memories out for some air!


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