U2 - October (Vinyl)

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October is the second studio album by Irish rock band U2. It was released on 12 October 1981 by Island Records, and was produced by Steve Lillywhite. The album was lyrically inspired by the memberships of Bono, the Edge, and Larry Mullen Jr. in a Christian group called the "Shalom Fellowship", and consequently it contains spiritual and religious themes. Their involvement with Shalom Fellowship led them to question the relationship between the Christian faith and the "rock and roll" lifestyle, and threatened to break up the band.

After completing the third leg of the Boy Tour in February 1981, U2 began to write new material for October, entering the recording studio in July 1981. Just as they did for their 1980 debut Boy the band recorded at Windmill Lane Studios with Lillywhite producing. The recording sessions were complicated by Bono's loss of a briefcase containing in-progress lyrics for the new songs, forcing a hurried, improvisational approach to completing the album on time.

Not bad for a band that almost threw in the towel. U2’s stellar debut was always going to be difficult to follow up. Throw in chaotic writing and recording sessions and an existential crisis, it’s almost a miracle that October is as good as it is.

There are some seriously fine moments. None more so than Gloria, which not only demonstrates the spiritual preoccupations of 3/4 of the band, but is an exultant lead single with a ravishing final chorus - and a bass solo, of all things. Elsewhere, The Edge and Larry Mullen Jnr are given some fabulous time in the sun with the entrancing I Threw A Brick Through a Window. There’s also an increasing sense of atmosphere creeping into the soundscapes - take the Irish-tinged Tomorrow (complete with uillian pipes and one of U2’s many heartfelt songs about Bono’s late mum), The Edge tinkering on piano in both the pretty October and buoyant I Fall Down, and the wobbly but potent ambience of Fire.

Apparently the recording sessions for October were tumultuous and the album does lack a little bit of polish as evident in songs like With a Shout (Jerusalem). It’s endearing in many ways, especially on the thrown together Is That All?, with it’s recycled guitar riff and lyrics that although simple, have always piqued my curiosity. Bono sounds as unsettled as he ever has been, and when he pleads “is that all you want from me?”, you wonder who he is asking. God? The Shalom mob they were hanging out with? The music industry? His Mum? Himself? Or us?

There was a lot more that we wanted from them. U2’s predicaments would be resolved and October seemingly got the band’s existential crisis out of their system in a surprisingly effective manner. There is a lot of feeling in this one and a fascinating mood beneath the surface. Rejoice in the fact that they didn’t call quits.


A1 Gloria
A2 I Fall Down
A3 I Threw A Brick Through A Window
A4 Rejoice
A5 Fire
B1 Tomorrow
B2 October
B3 With A Shout
B4 Stranger In A Strange Land
B5 Scarlet
B6 Is That All?

Record Label: Island

Black vinyl. Printed inner sleeve. 16 page booklet with lyrics.