Song: "Ultraviolet (Light My Way)"
Writers: U2 and Bono
Original Release: November 19, 1991
Album: Achtung Baby
I have mixed feelings about U2. On the one hand, they are one of the most dependable bands in the world, producing a vast catalogue of engaging music over several decades. On the other hand, they've been successful and enduring enough for reasonable comparisons with groups like the Beach Boys and Pink Floyd or even Led Zeppelin, the Who, Stones and Beatles. I have never felt the boys from Dublin quite measure up. The songs are good, even occasionally great, but not genius or innovative. Bono's a top front man but as instrumentalists, the others definitely fall short of the masters. No group of their ilk has benefited quite as much from sound production, either, suggesting that their success is owed as much to the likes of Brian Eno as to any of the band members themselves. (Yeah, I hear you throwing Pink Floyd back at me on that one but David Gilmour and Roger Waters were far more involved in the production of their own music than the U2 boys have been.) Maybe 50 years from now, history will judge U2 more kindly in comparison than I do now... but I doubt it.
That said, I do like U2. I've even seen them live, the Zoo TV tour, 1992. Even if they're not in the very top tier, they're significantly better than average. Do you want to know the secret of the band's success? It's not Bono, at least not entirely. It's the drums. Larry Mullen Jr.'s fast, driving rhythms behind the much slower melodic rhythm is every bit as emblematic of U2's sound as Bono's sexy crooning. The effect is most noticeable in "With or Without You" and it is an element of the band's music many others have sought to imitate.
My favorite U2 song, though, is "Ultraviolet." Unfortunately, it was the one song from Achtung Baby that they didn't play at the concert I saw. It has served as one of their encores - as a prelude to "With or Without You" - in the years since but alas, not that night in Ames. Mullen's drums are especially effective in this one.