Monday, May 17, 2010

U2 10: Passengers

Following on from the idea of creating music for imagined films, this U2 side project could just as well be filed under Brian Eno, depending on the personal opinions of the handful of people who still own it. Instead of the more thematic Music For Films 4, this highly experimental album was given the hopeful title of Original Soundtracks 1 and credited to a collective called Passengers. In reality it’s a full-on collaboration of Eno and U2, with the band appearing on all tracks and Bono singing on just under half.
“United Colors” bubbles in, an extended piece punctuated by turntable/tape effects and the occasional guitar. Bono’s voice emerges on “Slug”, and dominates on “Your Blue Room”—complete with the second-ever vocal by Adam Clayton!—which would have been perfectly at home on Zooropa. “Always Forever Now” isn’t much lyrically, but luckily builds enough to surpass its similarity to Steve Miller’s “Swingtown”. “A Different Kind Of Blue” is a mostly Eno interlude before the almost romantic “Beach Sequence”.
Bono even gets out of the way to let Luciano Pavarotti to put his inimitable stamp on “Miss Sarajevo”. The moment when the maestro takes over is just plain exhilarating. But from here, it’s a slow decline. “Ito Okashi” and “Two Minute Warning” sound more like Eno, complete with Japanese vocals. Edge takes over for the plodding “Corpse”, which otherwise nicely evokes spy TV shows of the sixties. Possibly the most annoying track in their catalog would be “Elvis Ate America”, something of a rapped duet with Howie B. The three instrumentals that close the album seem almost unfinished, though “Theme From The Swan” could have come from Eno in Berlin and listeners will spend most of “Theme From Let’s Go Native” waiting for the vocals to kick in.
To date there has not been a sequel to Original Soundtracks 1. While it was nice to have some new U2 material to ponder, fans looking for the next blockbuster were confused. They shouldn’t have been, unless they took the liner notes seriously.

Passengers Original Soundtracks 1 (1995)—

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