THE ALBUM -- U2s "Boy," Island (ILPS 9646).; THE SHOW -- Tuesday at 8 at the Bayou.
Ambition, in its incubation stage, is often characterized by the afflicted party's willingness to make a fool of himself. Judging from their debut album,"Boy," the members of U2 have contracted an acute case.
U2 mixes early Pink Floyd/King Crimson guitar vagueries with lots of images concerning rain and shadows and oceans, after the fashion of Jim Morrison; they eschew the ragged punk beat that brought fame and disfavor to their fellow Irishmen, the Boomtown Rats, and adopt nicknames like "the Edge" and "Bono Vox" in the time-honored tradition of rockers from the Beatles to the Sex Pistols. The result, though billed as "unique," is predictably confused.
But the determination with which this band flaunts its symptoms of ambition is mildly infectious. With "Boy," for example, they have attempted to create a kind of concept album about the pitfalls of post-puberty. While this is not an original idea -- indeed, it can be argued that the whole of rock rests on just such a precarious promontory -- U2 (ages 18 to 20) boasts the special advantage of having had few other experiences to clutter up the theme.
To U2, the creation of literary hooks (in lieu of musical ones), consisting largely of the word "trees," seems a novel device, although to others it sounds like a dream Joyce Kilmer might have after overindulging in garlic. Similarly, the band offers unabashed metaphors about the ocean splashing "the soul of my shoes" ("The Ocean") and strings of brave non-sequiturs such as the following (from "Shadows and Tall Trees"): (Out there) Do you feel in me, anything redeeming, Anything worthwhile feeling Is life like a tightrope, hanging on my ceiling.
This kind of sloppy sentimentalism would make Janis Ian queasy; and U2 tends to spice it up with a lot of heartfelt moaning.
But the sheer exuberance that redeems these 11 songs is admirably fresh. Perhaps the restraint and experience that come with age may yet lend U2 an identity all its own. They already have the necessary chutzpah.