The music department of Mountains Beyond Mountains slipped a cassette on our desk last month. Which truly surprised us, not because it was a cassette, but because we didn’t realize up until then that MBM actually had a separate music department.
A sticky note attached to the cassette set, simply said, “Many Bothans died to bring you this information.” A joke, surely? I mean, Bothans aren’t real, are they? A quick spin through the ol’ MBM rolodex found the number for our music editor. I didn’t recognize the area code: 011-353. Could he/she be off shore? (and by he/she I am indicating that I did not know the gender of the music editor at that time, I’m not suggesting that the music editor was transgendered BUT MAYBE HE/SHE WAS.) It was all very mysterious and quite upsetting to me at the time. We’ve pretty much converted to digital media here in the ol’ lighthouse, so it proved quite a “hunt” and I had to “beat the bushes” all morning to turn up an honest to goodness cassette player. What could be on this cassette?
Well, I certainly don’t need to tell you how confused and delighted I was to hear something that sounded like U2 masquerading as Arcade Fire come out of the speakers. Confound it! What trickery was this?
The liner notes were no help. It just said, “Songs of Innocence: Acoustic Sessions. Hope you enjoy. God bless, A.C.” A complete listen to side A, and then a quick push of the stop button and a flip over to side B later, and the penny dropped.
“No!”, I ejaculated to myself, “Could A.C. stand for Adam Clayton? Was he the source of this leaked material? Could he even be the music editor of this very blog? The actual bassist of Island Recording Artists U2? A quick search of area codes supported my theory. 011-353 was Ireland. You could imagine my delight and excitement as I nimbly dialed the remaining numbers on my rotary phone. Oh why did it take so long for those nines to wind back around? My hopes were dashed, however, when I only received an answering machine for a hearing aid store in Dublin. Some ridiculous place called “Bona Vox” or something. Another dead end!
I guess we will never know how this mysterious tape came to be, and why we were chosen to hear it before the rest of the world, but such is the life of an internationally renown blogger. You must follow the story, wherever it may lead, and always look for the lie that tells the truth.
You can imagine my uneasiness these past few weeks, reader, of me “champing” at the bit,waiting to tell you what I thought of this “addendum” to last month’s musical Trojan Horse, “Songs of Innocence”, but knowing that I must keep my thoughts under my “hat” until the press embargo was lifted.
I think it’s safe to talk about it now, right? I mean they actually released it so people have to buy it now. I mean, not cool people like us, but Android users and the elderly. They even gave the album a new cover: this creepy thing with a shirtless (note that I said shirtless, not topless) Larry Mullen Jr. hugging another shirtless man. The band responded by saying “It’s not creepy! That other shirtless man is Larry’s son.” Which actually makes the whole thing creepier, don’t you think? I know my uncle was escorted off of a famous beach once because of some inappropriate shirtless hugging, and that wasn’t even with a family member! They were anonymous fellow beach goers.
Ah, but I digress once again. I must get to the album review before the sun completely sets. The MBM offices were converted to TOTAL SOLAR ENERGY last week.
I shant review the stuff that was already out. I already addressed that in the “Benevolent Malware” post a little while ago. I’m not even going to reread it, but I suspect I might be slightly less kind today. I think I was still suffering from the “Holy Shit I own a new free U2 album” syndrome, but I’m over it now.
So this deluxe version kicks off with two new songs, “Lucifer’s Hand” (which I wish they called “Lucifer’s Pants”) and “The Crystal Ballroom”, both of which are really good and I wish were on the regular album instead of “Raised by Wolves” and maybe either “This is where you can reach me now” or “California” but alas that pesky rodent Danger Mouse left them off.
The rest of the album is made up of alternate takes of songs off of “Innocence”. Some work really really well. The anguish in Bono’s voice in “Every Breaking Wave” when he sings “If you go, if you go your way and I go mine…” sent actual chills up my spine. Songs like “California” and “Raised by Wolves” benefitted from less production. Gone is the pretentious bell and the goofy “Santa Barbara” chanting at the beginning of “C” and even more importantly, gone is the asthmatic wolf coughing from “RbW”.
Some songs sound terrible stripped down, including “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)”. That song needs the full band sound for it to make any sense. The band had enough sense to leave “Volcano” alone. “Volcano” is PERFECT at what it is supposed to be. And don’t even get me started on the alternate version of “The Troubles”. They don’t even bother with Lykke Li. In fact, it sounds like they hastily recorded this version after they lured Lykke out into the hallway with a steaming plate of meatballs and lingonberries.
The deluxe version apparently has a version of “Sleep likes a baby” and that single “Invisible” but my cassette cuts off just as “The Troubles” trails off. You can just make out a muffled Lykke Li shouting “Släpp in mig!” through a locked door.
Until next time, keep it weird everyone!