U2 October (Island)
Reviewed by Christopher Hess, Fri., March 30, 2001
October (Island)Wedged as it is between the lauded debut and breakthrough album, October is often dismissed as a commercial speed bump in U2's career, an untimely pause for artistic introspection that could have derailed or divided a rock band composed of mere mortals. It's a relatively quiet LP, with slow, piano-driven meditations and religious celebrations playing off the bigger songs. Yes, October does have its weak spots: "Fire" is a somewhat uninspired linking of the band's religious leanings and lame-ass early Eighties New Wave, and "With a Shout" is an attempt at yet another anthem that comes up pretty empty. But these moments are forgotten in the relentless crashing of Larry Mullen's drums and in Adam Clayton's propulsive basslines. Opening with "Gloria" and "I Fall Down," October evinces the fiery passion and conviction that became U2's stock-in-trade. Here also, early on, finds the Edge refining the guitar echo that has come to define his and the band's sound, just as Bono is obviously finding his footing as a lyricist, working out a comfortable balance between the intensely personal, the overtly religious, and the pop-appropriate. The whole album hinges on center tracks "Tomorrow" and "October," the former an urgent pop tune the likes of which no longer exist, and the title track a gorgeous and elegiac if dramatic piano song that showed the world that this Bono guy could really sing. October is one of those few albums that can restore faith in the value of artistic sentimentality, faith in pop music and, especially, faith in U2.