INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
The Wire DECEMBER 1995 - by Paul Stump
PASSENGERS: ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACKS 1
This 'Volume 1' business always revives the dread spectre of ELP's Works. you mean to say there's more of this on the way? It's interesting that nobody's yet dared compare the expanding conceits of Planet U2 with the worst excesses of Prog. But fair's fair, Passengers, the group's sister project to the summer's Children of Bosnia collaboration with Eno and others, is a welcome retreat from their normal waterfront bellicosity and the simpleton attempts at 'high art'. That's possibly because most of this collection of soundtrack excerpts is actually written and arranged by Eno himself, but anyway...
There's a kind of quaintness abroad when Eno revisits the pop song; Another Green World and Roxy Music magically reappear together. Some of the tracks here yearn, for example, for the seductive massage of a Ferry, Bowie or a Sylvian, but have to put up with being roughly mauled by the idiot Bono. Still, interesting things are done in a kind of offbeat Kraftwerk-for-the-'90s way, the opening United Colours being a particularly listenable example.
Eno's multidimensional tampering with space and timbre within and without the music provides The Edge with a backdrop for soloing of a type unknown in U2. The plasticity of recorded sound is Eno's meat and drink, and his trickery here (each beat of Slug, for instance, balloons off into its own little sound world) is a neat counterpoint to the goofy machismo of U2's rank textures. By the way, the trumpeted Pavarotti collaboration, puffed prominently on the cover, amounts to no more than an unremarkable (and possibly sampled) tenor warble on the now oft-heard Miss Sarajevo. Howie B's quirky contribution to Elvis Ate America is perhaps preferable.
Like all art-rockers, U2 can't help but pretend to be something they manifestly aren't. But I suppose that playing the game is what counts rather than winning., and if experiments like these broaden the mind of those knocked out by Rattle And Hum (which surely couldn't be difficult), then Passengers deserves some credit and will have paid its way not just financially but morally, too.