But ambition has always been U2's gift and curse, and the band clearly doesn't feel fully comfortable with its sights lowered. Consequently, if amid the rather studied... Read More
chaos here, you feel moved to draw comparisons with masterpieces of excess like the Beatles' White Album or the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street
, you can be sure that Bono, the Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. won't mind a bit.
This record doesn't quite ascend to those heights, but U2 does win half the prize. In its inclusiveness and rollicking energy, Rattle and Hum caps the story of U2's rise from Dublin obscurity to international superstardom on a raucous, celebratory note. At the same time, it closes off none of the options the band might want to pursue for its next big move and, possibly, the album even opens a few doors.
Despite Bono's insistence in the blistering "God Part II" that "I don't believe in the 60's in the golden age of pop/You glorify the past when the future dries up," Rattle and Hum is in large part a paean to the tradition of Sixties artists that U2 reveres. "God Part II" itself is Bono's personal extension of "God," the dramatic track on Plastic Ono Band in which John Lennon shed the Sixties, his identity as a Beatle and all the idols he had worshiped. Bono's update includes a pointed attack on Albert Goldman, whose book The Lives of John Lennon paints a bitter, unflattering portrait of the ex-Beatle: "I don't believe in Goldman his type like a curse/Instant karma's gonna get him if I don't get him first."
Rattle and Hum evokes the Beatles right off the bat when it opens with a corrosive live version of "Helter Skelter," a song that originally appeared on the White Album. "This song Charles Manson stole from the Beatles; we're stealin' it back," Bono announces portentously before U2 tears into the tune.
Bob Dylan sings on one track (the meandering ballad "Love Rescue Me," which Dylan also co-wrote) and plays organ on another ("Hawkmoon 269"). He is further acknowledged when U2 ignites a live rendition of "All Along the Watchtower." Jimi Hendrix, the third member of U2's Sixties trinity, is resurrected when the version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" he performed at Woodstock introduces U2's searing live take on "Bullet the Blue Sky."
U2 certainly holds its own while flirting with the greats, but Rattle and Hum is most enjoyable when the band relaxes and allows itself to stretch without self-consciously reaching for the stars. The New Voices of Freedom choir joins the band o