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Adolescent Awkwardness: U2's Boy 30 Years On
Ben Graham , May 27th, 2010 08:08

Ben Graham confesses his love for early U2, and implores us to remember them before they became the biggest band in the world. Photos courtesy of www.u2.com

I'm no big fan of the band U2 became. When I was at school they represented everything I wanted to kick against: that smug black and white Joshua Tree poster pinned to the wall of the fifth form lounge exuding carefully contrived and paid for faux-authenticity, and supposed to represent some pinnacle of sophisticated musical taste among the bum-licking swots who lounged there (as opposed to the carefree oiks kicking balls about and practicing their bad breakdance moves in the cold Yorkshire drizzle outside).

And yet, I dimly - guiltily, secretly - remembered that there was once another U2. A young band that existed at the commercial end of post-punk, and that made records with a passion that seemed confused rather than calculated, awkwardly direct rather than fudged and pretentious, itchy and brash instead of ponderous and terminally tasteful. A band that fizzed and charged with youthful energy, but that also conveyed a clumsy melancholy, a Celtic twilight poetry; and I remembered how I’d thought that ‘New Year’s Day’ was the best song ever when I was 12, because it chimed with exactly the same mixture of inarticulate sadness and shivering, wide-eyed expectation that puberty frequently pitched me into, especially when wandering o’er hill and dale in the aforementioned Yorkshire rain. But by 15 I’d learned to keep this firmly to myself. You have to learn to rewrite your musical tastes and personal back story pretty frequently at that age.

‘New Year’s Day’ came from the band’s third album, War. But it was actually the last strangled cry of an incarnation of the band that had peaked rather earlier; on their debut, in fact, released in October 1980. And while War still has its moments, and I’d certainly make a case for their second LP, the much-maligned October- a symphony of shouted doubt, all tumbling piano, undigested art rock and deep religious crisis - it’s Boy that absolutely captures the brash, adolescent energy of a bunch of naïve hicks from the Dublin suburbs...

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