[Review] U2: Boy (1980)

A remarkably confident and consistent debut, led by the brilliant “I Will Follow.”

Kronomyth 1.0:  Hear Boy.

Some bands were simply born for big things and Boy was U2 one of them. Their debut album kicks off with an anthem, I Will Follow, that could only be called prescient. While nothing else that follows matches it in energy and intensity, this is not the case of a lucky wonder killing time until they learn the ropes. The band fell into a fabulous producer, Steve Lillywhite, who staged their ideas as grand sonic statements. The sheer force of songs like The Electric Co. and Another Time, Another Place suggest mid-period U2 and not the scratchings of lost boys.

All four members had already established strong identities: Bono’s impassioned and earnest vocals, The Edge’s deceptively fragile sculptures of sound, Adam Clayton’s persistent bass and Larry Mullen’s pounding drums. Compared to contemporaries Echo & The Bunnymen and The Cure, U2 had a clarity of vision and purpose that belied their tender years. Bono was no brooding art major, after all, but a young general who led by example. Granted, the hip-shaking dance moves and John Cougar haircut had to go. Yet they’re the small sins of youth, like Bono’s occasionally overreaching vocals, and easily overlooked in lieu of the big strides they take toward something important and grand.

Along with Siouxsie and the Banshees (another Lillywhite alum), U2 turned the ho-hum guitar/bass/drums/vox lineup into an electrifying experience. The Cure, Echo, the Furs, all of them were bogged down in the beginning with murky visions of their own future. To hear Boy is to meet the men of War. However, I don’t echo the enthusiasm of Trouser Press, who called this an “unquestionable masterpiece.” The album only has the one great song, and I’m pretty sure a masterpiece should have more than one. Come iPod pickin’ time, I followed my heart and left the rest to youth. Boy is ultimately only a very good record, more remarkable for its confidence and consistency than as a collection of hits, with a few surprises that include Out of Control, An Cat Dubh (Gaelic for “The Black Cat,” thanks to www.u2faqs.com) and Shadows And Tall Trees.

Original elpee version

A1. I Will Follow (3:36)
A2. Twilight (4:22)
A3. An Cat Dubh (6:21)
A4. Into the Heart (1:53)
A5. Out of Control (4:13)
B1. Stories for Boys (3:02)
B2. The Ocean (1:34)
B3. A Day Without Me (3:14)
B4. Another Time, Another Place (4:34)
B5. The Electric Co. (4:48)
B6. Shadows and Tall Trees (4:36)

All songs written by Bono Hewson/Larry Mullen/Adam Clayton/”The Edge” Evans.

2CD Reissue (As above + bonus disc below)
1. I Will Follow (previously unreleased mix)
2. 11 O’Clock Tick Tock
3. Touch
4. Speed of Life
5. Saturday Night
6. Things To Make And Do
7. Out of Control (Single Version)
8. Boy/Girl
9. Stories For Boys (Single Version)
10. Another Day
11. Twilight (Single Version)
12. Boy/Girl (live)
13. 11 O’Clock Tick Tock (live)
14. Cartoon World (live)

The Players

Bono (singer), Adam Clayton (bass player), The Edge (guitar player) and Larry (drummer). Produced by Steve Lillywhite, engineered by Paul Thomas. And as for the name games, Bono is Paul Hewson, The Edge is Dave Evans and Larry is Larry Mullen Jr.

The Pictures

Original album design by Bruno-Christian Tilley; photography by Ian Finlay and Hugo McGuinness.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and cassette on October 20, 1980 in the UK and the US (Island, ILPS/ICT-9646), Australia and New Zealand (Festival, L-37517), Canada (Island, ISL-9646), Germany (Island, 202.913-320), Japan (Island/Polystar, 20S-77) and Portugal (Island, 10.202913.40) with lyrics innersleeve. Reached #52 on the UK charts and #63 on the US charts (RIAA certified platinum record).

  1. Re-issued on elpee and cassette in 1983 in the US (Island, 90040-1/4) and Japan (Island, 25S-77).
  2. Re-issued on elpee in 1986 in Brazil (Island, 610.7089) and on compact disc in 1986 in the US (Island, 90040-2) and the UK (Island, CID-110).
  3. Re-issued on elpee in 1987 in Argentina (Island, TLP/TMS-70023) and Venezuela (Island, 7523).Re-issued on elpee in Mexico (LPR-25027).
  4. Re-issued on compact disc in Japan (Island, P24D-10048 and P33D-20020).
  5. Re-released on remastered elpee and compact disc in 1990 in the US, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico (Island, 842 296-1/2).
  6. Re-issued on remastered compact disc in 1993 in Japan (Island, PHCR-4701).
  7. Re-issued on remastered compact disc in 2002 in Japan (Universal, UICY-2355).
  8. Re-issued on remastered compact disc in 2004 in Japan (Universal, UICY-9707).
  9. Re-issued on remastered compact disc in 2007 in the Netherlands (Universal, 5303038).
  10. Re-packaged on 3CD set with Under A Blood Red Sky and The Unforgettable Fire in 2007 in France (Universal, 548874-2).
  11. Re-issued on remastered compact disc in 2008 in the UK (Mercury, 1761671/1764646), the US (Island, B0010843-01) and Japan (Universal, UICY-1413).
  12. Re-released on 2CD with bonus disc in 2008 in the UK (Mercury, 1761670).
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