Island Records, 1981

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


The first words that come to mind when first hearing “I Will Follow,” the leadoff track on U2’s debut album are: “The sounds of martial music!” And follow in droves we all did, right up to the present day. It’s hard to imagine a world without U2, actually. All 12 albums have brought something new and electrically charged to the table. Their live performances are now the stuff of legend. Frontman Bono has literally become the man of the hour, leading by example in championing any number of humanitarian causes. Even the rhythm section of Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. have released a hit single, a revved up version of the theme to the film, Mission: Impossible. As for the man known as The Edge, let’s just say he’s one of the best guitarists in the biz.

Even when you point to this first effort, Boy, humble beginnings isn’t exactly a proper way to describe this arena-ready sound unleased onto the masses back in 1980. It’s bold, it’s new, it’s a monster. From Bono’s echoing yelps on “Twilight” to the dark and brooding “An Cat Dubh/Into The Heart,” it’s only pointing to one glaringly obvious statement: This is how a debut album is my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 supposed to sound. So, fledgling musicians, take note. Producer Steve Lillywhite is still helping the band craft and create their albums today, and clearly it takes a LOT of work to keep the U2 sound fresh each time up at bat. It’s now an event whenever a U2 album is released, merely because the wait in between them only seems to get longer and longer. The incredible thing is that 2009’s No Line On The Horizon is every bit as good as Boy. There is indeed something to be said for U2’s staying power. Their Irish nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic keeps everything in perspective. They may be on top and have been seemingly forever, but you won’t catch these cats taking a bit of it for granted.

While other bands disband or go through any number of personnel changes, the four members of U2 have stayed joined together like brothers in arms. Again, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? The electronic mayhem of their ‘90s output is nowhere to be found on Boy. Smart move, considering every other band at the time was going New Wave. That’s what made U2 stand out from the pack: the lyrics, the musicianship, the less flashy cover art all seemed to work in their favor at the time. Even the more upbeat tracks like “Out Of Control” and “Stories For Boys” had plenty of edge and appealed to anyone from your classic rock purist to your average teenager heading off to college. They were critics’ darlings from day one, too, which never hurts. If you have that Rolling Stone seal of approval, nothing can or will ever stand in your way.

U2 has always had a penchant for instrumental soundscapes (like “The Ocean”), so even the detour of The Passengers: Original Soundtracks 1 in 1995 was forgiven by their ardent fan base.

They do keep such eccentricities on Boy to a minimum, though the album may take repeated listens for the uninitiated listener to absorb it all. The material on this and the follow-up October is quite dense and not as immediate as their later work, but that’s what makes it so strikingly timeless. As the song title suggests, you will be transported to “Another Time, Another Place,” so why would you want to pass up the opportunity hear what all the fuss has been about?

Rating: A

User Rating: A



© 2014 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Island Records, and is used for informational purposes only.