Friday, October 17, 2014

The Crystal Ballroom

How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb....'Mercy,' 'Levitate,' and either version of the 'Fast Cars/Xanax & Wine' track were all left on the cutting room floor

No Line On The Horizon....'Winter,' 'North Star' and the early version of 'Every Breaking Wave' were all omitted from an album that really could've used some beefing up.  Either that, or else these songs were held back for the 'Songs Of Ascent' record that never ended up being released.

So that's twice that U2 has left some of the best songs from their recording sessions off the actual albums, and now we can extend that streak to three in a row.  And this is coming from a guy that LOVES Songs of Innocence and considers it a top-five or maybe even a top-four U2 record.  Just when I thought the album couldn't get any better, however, I picked up the physical copy with the secondary B-sides and acoustic mixes disc, and was exposed to "The Crystal Ballroom."  Good lord.

I mean, good lord!  What a song.  For years, U2 openly talked of wanting that fresh-sounding pop hit that would instantly fit in on any modern rock station yet still be representative of the band's classic sound.  Then, they write one like TCB and don't actually put it on the record.  I'm baffled.  Now, you could argue that they did indeed "release" the song since it's right there on the second disc of the physical edition.  Also, the idea of a B-side in this day and age is pretty antiquated, especially since we're talking about an album that was already entirely released on iTunes over a month ago.  In fact, maybe TCB's inclusion on the B-disc was intentional since U2 wanted to give the fans a strong reason to buy the actual record.

And yet still....I'm an old-school album guy!  Album tracks are album tracks and B-sides are B-sides!  There's nothing stopping U2 from playing this song at every live show or even releasing it as a single, and I can't quite feel that they missed an opportunity to make an already strong album even stronger.

Part of SOI's strength is its excellent track arrangement and flow, so 'Crystal Ballroom' cant be stuck in just anywhere.  The subject matter is about the old Dublin dance hall where Bono's parents met, so naturally it'd have to go a bit earlier in the record, definitely before 'Iris,' the track about Bono's mother's death.  Maybe you slot it second and remove 'Every Breaking Wave' in some alternate reality where U2 figured that song out six years ago and included it (or this gorgeous piano-based version) on No Line On The Horizon:

Realistically, you can still slot 'Crystal Ballroom' second after 'The Miracle' and then just bump EBW and everything else back to make it a 12-track album.  OR, since I love 'Invisible' too, maybe have that as the opening track, then go 'Miracle,' 'Every Breaking Wave,' 'Crystal Ballroom' and then everything else proceeds as usual.  Thirteen tunes on the record!  U2 has only cracked the 12-song barrier once, and that was because Rattle & Hum has a bunch of random covers and live tracks.

I'm not suddenly dissatisfied with Songs Of Innocence or anything, I just wish U2 had decided to put an obviously incredible, would've-been-top-three-on-the-record song onto the album proper.  It would've made things easier for me since as it stands, I'll have to change the discs whenever I'm listening to the album in my car.  If I do this while the car is still in motion, I could get distracted and run headlong into a bus.  So essentially, by failing to put 'The Crystal Ballroom' on a record, U2 is dooming me to my death.  Well that's just great.

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