Dear readers I am wracked with guilt, stricken with remorse and, umm, flayed with <insert synonym from Thesaurus at later point>. You see, I’m breaking one of my rules here by reviewing U2 Even Better Than The Real Thing – Remixes. Nope, not the one about not reviewing 12″s by bands fronted by (newly) ironic Irishmen, or the one about not reviewing records with sleeves that really don’t lend themselves much to Lego jollification – not even the review embargo on discs containing more than three versions of the same song. No, I shouldn’t be reviewing this record because I stole it.
Yes readers, I stand before you unmasked and untrousered as nothing better than a common thief. I know that some of you out there have based your entire adult lives on my teachings and I am even given to understand that there are now primitive shamanistic tribes in the Inuvik region of Canada that worship me as a God; I understand this human urge to worship perfection, but it doesn’t sit easily on my shoulders*. And yet, I, 1537 am a vinyl thief.
Mrs 1537’s story is not mine to tell** but here’s a potted version: Once upon a time she had shitloads of LPs, then she sold almost all of them, then I happened in her life and then everything was lovely and perfect for ever and ever. Despite having been married for 19 years now and had two children together, our LPs have not been combined – I’m just not ready for that degree of intimacy and commitment yet. Maybe one day, but you can’t rush into these things.
But the one platter that has jumped the fence is U2 Even Better Than The Real Thing – Remixes. Partly because it’s a souvenir of the first U2 album, or more accurately tape, that I ever properly liked and because I remember going to buy it with, the then future, Mrs 1537 to buy it. In fact she wanted to buy the normal single but I steered her towards this very expensive remix 12″. Two mixes by Paul Oakenfold and Steve Osborne and three by Apollo 440; I was in new territory here and trying to sound like I knew what I was talking about. I didn’t of course, but I usually front up well.
If you can bring yourself to listen to five remixes of the same song in quick succession^ then this polyurethane wet back is a damned good way of doing it. The original ‘Even Better Than The Real Thing’ was a fairly stately, rather groovy little number that sounded like U2 had finally assimilated all those great Manchester sounds and wanted to get playful – I really liked it; I could never really deal with earnest U2, but ironic playful U2 I can handle. The remixes, wonder of wonders, are also rather great.
Leading the way was the ‘Perfecto Mix’ by Oakenfold and Osborne, adding whole dance sections, lots of prominent female vocals and a souped-up beat is one thing, adding whole dance sections, lots of prominent female vocals and a souped-up beat AND retaining enough of the original to remind us casual punters exactly why we liked it in the first place must be a real skill. This is a great lsten and I do have sweaty memories of lurching around various dance floors to it too. Sadly the same duo’s ‘Sexy Dub Mix’, which incidentally is neither particularly dubby and definitely not very sexy, totally forgets the second part of this equation and just comes over as generic dance pap.
Apollo 440 were really good in their own right, anyone remember their Van Halen tribute ‘Ain’t Talkin’ About Dub?’ and I’ve always liked their remixes. their ‘Stealth Sonic Mix’ basically just hot rods the song’s backing track and leaves the band riding the rocket to great effect. Their ‘V16 Exit Wound Remix’ is another sonically interesting beast, which incorporates some almost Jon Lord-esque organ noises at one point as well as foregrounding the guitar and slewing the vocals a bit, again I like it because it is another version of the song and not a total rewrite. Apollo 440, smart guys that they are even stick to this principle on their ‘A440 vs U2 Instrumental Remix’ that ends the 12″, sure we have big bad beats and driving loops but crucially U2 are all over this mix too, just not Bono. In fact this may be my fave on the record.
Remixers pay heed: We buy songs because we like them and/or the artist who puts them out, turfing out all traces of said artist apart from a token vocal loop and the song and interposing your own ‘genius’ over the top is not what we record buying public want to hear.
U2 Even Better Than The Real Thing – Remixes, five mixes, four I really like – you can see why I persuaded the Mrs to lay out the cash for it now can’t you? that’s no bad return at all. Could almost drive a good man to theft …
PS: Spotted this on Saturday, ‘Beware the White Walkers’?!
*however broad and manly they may be.
**I’ve been trying to bully her into reviewing her Dan Reed Network LPs here for years now.
^you freakin’ psychopath!