Like the rest of the iTunes world, I got the new U2 album Songs of Innocence for free.  Of course I downloaded it to my iPhone as quick as I could.

I should back up a bit.  There are fans, and then there is me.  As regular readers here know I have an eclectic taste in music, ranging from Yo-Yo Ma to Johnny Cash to Led Zeppelin to the Cranberries.  But, for me, nothing comes close to U2.  It has been that way since I was a teenager and I heard “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” on the radio, and then that weekend bought The Joshua Tree cassette.  That’s right, it was a real cassette.  I wore it out within the first two months and had to buy another.  I think I bought about four copies of it on cassette.

So, I’m somewhat of an expert.

The most interesting thing about Songs is the free release to the public.  Some have mistakenly said that the album was free, but that is wrong.  It was bought by iTunes, and they are giving it away as a joint publicity for the iPhone 6 and iPhone watch release.  Trust me, U2 is getting paid.  They always get paid.

Now, to the music.  I assume that is why the one or two of you that have read this far are still with me.  Songs is a good album.  It is not great.  The first tune, “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)” gave me hope that the group might be going back to their punkish roots (think Boy or The Unforgettable Fire) or better yet the rock-n-roll feel of War or Rattle and Hum.

Sadly, that was not what I heard.  Songs sounds more popish to me.  I think they are trying to hit the great mix they achieved on How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb between rhythm and blues, pop, and rock.  I don’t think they quite achieve that.  I do think it is a better album than No Line On The Horizon, which, for me, was not that great.  It’s not as good as Achtung Baby, which was a rock-n-roll album for the 90s.  It’s better than Zooropa.  But even Zooropa had one of my favorite U2 songs ever, “The First Time.”  If you don’t know that song, you need to.

The top three songs on the album are:  “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)”, “Raised by Wolves”, and “The Troubles”.  “Volcano” is also catchy.  Those are my stated favorites from the album, but the one I keep humming is the opening from “California (There is No End to . . .”

The bummer of this album is they worked on it for six years.  For that kind of investment, I’d expect something a little better, or more moving.  Even a bad U2 album, say, All That You Can’t Leave Behind, is still better than just about anything else going on.  I mean, All That You Can’t Leave Behind was a terrible album but it still had one of the best U2 singles ever in “Beautiful Day.”  I think “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)” might have a similar lifespan.

Apparently they are working on a follow up called Songs of Experience. I wonder if this album is really just a teaser, and the real juice will be on the next one.  That would be nice.

One thing about this record (I just dated myself with that word, didn’t I?) that I did like is that it did remind me of The Joshua Tree in that the latter songs are, as a whole, my favorites.  It is what we would have called the “B” side when I was a kid.  Has there ever been a “B” side as good as The Joshau Tree?

  • “Red Hill Mining Town”
  • “In God’s Country”
  • “Trip Through Your Wires”
  • “One Tree Hill”
  • “Exit”
  • “Mothers of the Disappeared”

No.  I’ll go ahead and answer that.  Songs reminds me of that because the last half of the album, from “Volcano” to “The Troubles” is darker, but more emotionally moving than the first half.

So that is my opinion.  Oh, I miss the 80s and 90s.


What would you name your rock band?  It is something I’ve given a lot of thought to, and it came up again this weekend.

Last week I had the joy of watching yet another teen flick.  Okay, I was taken kicking and screaming, but that is beside the point.  My youngest sprout had read the book If I Stay and wanted to see the movie.  So off we went . . . to the matinee, of course. There is no way I was paying full price for this.

Here is a quick review of the movie–Throw in a dash of Romeo and Juliet, a bit of Titanic, sprinkle some Walk to Remember and now one teaspoon of The Fault In Our Stars and viola–If I Stay is born.

The Sequel Should be Titled 'Portland, My Heart Will Go on'
The Sequel Should be Titled ‘Portland, My Heart Will Go on’

The acting was uneven.  Stacy Keach plays the grandfather, and he is, as always, terrific.  The mom and dad roles are done well, but the two main actors, the girl and the boy, are dreadfully wooden and uninspiring.  That’s okay, I wasn’t expecting much more.  As I said on my Twitter feed that night, the real star of the movie, as far as I’m concerned, is the city of Portland.  The producers did a great job of portraying the delightful oddity of that wonderful city.

There was one cool part in the movie.  The father had been in a band (I presume back in the 90s) that was named Nasty Bruises.

To me, that was the most creative part of the film, the name of his band.  I have absolutely no musical talent whatsoever, so I will never be in any kind of band.  I was once kicked out of a church choir and the only thing I can play is the iPod.  But if I ever had a band, naming it would be the most enjoyable part.  I’ve been working on a list for a few years.  Here are some of my hypothetical band names, in no particular order.

1.  Crusty Theologians

2.  The Downspouts

3.  Tolkien’s Revenge

4.  Banana Sandwich

5.  Nietzche Was Wrong

6.  Leather Bound Edition (LBE for short)

7.  Assimov

8.  Then There Was Light

9.  Broken Wheelbarrows

10. Gag Reflex


Every now and again a new one comes to me.  What would you name your hypothetical rock band?


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This morning I’m in the study working, and listening to Bob Dylan.  Specifically his song “The Levee’s Gonna Break” and the oldest sprout comes in to work on the other computer.

Bob Dyan still has a pulse.
Bob Dyan still has a pulse.

Sprout:  “What are you listening to?”

Me:  “Bob Dylan.”

Sprout:  “When did he die?”

Me:  “He is not dead.”

Sprout:  “Oh.  Are you sure?”

Me:  “He is alive.  He is not dead, yet.”

Sprout:  “He must be really old then.”

Now I feel old.  Poor Bob Dylan has reached Abe Vigoda status.  Of course, you have to be old enough to know who Abe Vigoda is.



image from


Like many families, mine is enjoying spring break.  That means two things.  One, I will probably not post another blog again this week.  Two, I’m listening to some fun music.  Here are my top “fun” songs.  By fun songs, I don’t mean they are the best songs or even my favorite songs.  I simply mean that they are songs that, when I hear them, they tend to instantly put me in a good mood.  I’d be interested to know what some of your “fun” songs are.


1.  Green Onions–Booker T. and the M.G.’s:  Without much doubt this is the coolest song every recorded.

2.  Life During Wartime–Talking Heads:  I would have titled this the “Spy Song” because it is so spy-like.  Would have made a great theme song for a James Bond film.  I don’t think they meant it as a fun song, but it surely is.

3.  99 Luft Balloons–Nena:  Whether it is in German or English I don’t really know what this song is all about except that it has Captain Kirk in it and they say it is an anti-nuclear protest song.  It might be nostalgia but this song reminds me of the 80’s.  Good times.

4.  Money For Nothing–Dire Straits:  You know you love it.  One of the best guitar licks ever.

5.  Shiny Happy People–R.E.M.:  Not my favorite R.E.M. song by a long shot, but how can you not hear this song and not be incredibly happy almost instantly.

6.  Margaritaville–Jimmy Buffet:  Quite possibly the greatest beach song ever recorded.  It was made for spring break.

7.  Superstition–Stevie Wonder:  Funky and awesome with Bible quotes all wrapped in.  How can you not love this song.

8.  Linus and Lucy (AKA The Charlie Brown Song)–Vince Guaraldi Trio:  Jazzy fun music that should most definitely be in your playlist for spring break.  Just thinking about listening to it improves my mood.

9.  Taking Care of Business–Bachman Tuner Overdrive:  “If you ever get annoyed, look at me I’m self-employed, I love to work at nothing all day.”  Yeah, that’s pretty much what we want our spring breaks to be like, right?

10. Fly Me To The Moon–Frank Sinatra:  If we lived another 1000 generations, there will never be another musician as cool as Frank Sinatra.  It would make your entire spring break infinitely better to spend an afternoon digging all of his music, but I only list this one here because, it is probably the coolest of the cool.

Here are some honorable mentions: Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen) , Hound Dog (Elvis) , London Calling (The Clash), Eminence Front (The Who), Peaches (Presidents of the USA)

So those are my fun songs.  What are yours?

I am very interested to know what are your coolest songs, those songs that you just think are fun.  Maybe not your favorite, but songs that make you happy, songs that make you smile.  What are they?