I suppose the flip-side to the “hard to review” assertion is that it isn’t really necessary to go into too much detail about what the band sound like. Unless you’ve spent the last couple of decades stranded on a deserted island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean sans any form of communication, you’ll know exactly what U2 is all about. Even then, chances are …
And while U2 may no longer be the No.1 band on the planet, they were there or thereabouts for the best part of 20 years thanks to a series of albums that rarely faltered in terms of consistency and overall quality – 1984’s Unforgettable Fire laying the foundations for such status, before 1987’s The Joshua Tree cemented the claim. More recent efforts have been less than convincing, and it’s hard to imagine U2 ever returning to the giddy heights scaled between 1984 and 1991.
The Steve Lillywhite-produced Boy, however, is where it all started. Raw, uninhibited, energetic, ambitious, and positively bursting with fresh ideas, Boy – along with its immediate follow-up October (albeit an inferior album) – captures U2 as genuine up-and-comers, four angry young men from Dublin, fully motivated and hungry for it.
“It”, I guess, being acceptance and credibility within conceivable parameters at the time, rather than the phenomenal global success they’d eventually achieve, something I doubt was even on the outer limits of the band’s collective radar back then.
Boy isn’t U2’s most polished album but for my money it remains the band’s best, and it’s the one I’ll reach for if I feel like a taste (admittedly seldom these days). Your initial exposure to a band – a bit like a first love – never really leaves you and you’ll always connect with it in one form or another. Doubtlessly, in the minds of most, U2 have released much better albums over the course, but for me, the more prolific the band’s output, the more disconnected I’ve tended to become. I like Boy because it reminds me of why I liked U2 so much in the first place.
Highlights: ‘I Will Follow’ (so far as establishing a template goes, there are few album openers better than this), ‘Twilight’, ‘Stories For Boys’, ‘A Day Without Me’, and ‘Out Of Control’.
Lest we forget ...