Gearing up for St. Patrick's Day, I thought about posting Sepultura's or Queensrÿche's cover of the heaviest song from The Joshua Tree. Clearly, I didn't realize how terrible both of those are.
Having both lost their best songwriters but maintained some top musicians, modern Sepultura and Queensrÿche should both work better as covers acts. This is not the case, as shown by "Bullet the Blue Sky." Andreas Kisser's fine reading of the Edge's solo can't save Sepultura from turning into nu metal clowns. Queensrÿche's cover meanders its way into 11 minutes of self-indulgence. Apparently P.O.D. has also recorded "Bullet the Blue Sky," but we won't even go there.
Surprisingly, the most metal version is U2's.
"Bullet the Blue Sky" is like a blueprint for Rage Against the Machine. The Edge's effects-heavy slide guitar leaves his usual tones behind, promising a transformation that the band fulfilled on Achtung Baby. Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen, Jr. are almost unrecognizable in the rhythm section, setting a chilly backdrop for one of the only vocalists who doesn't sound like a clod when he talks during a song. Bono, addressing the United States' role in the El Salvador Civil War, would never sound this aggressive and confrontational again.
25 years later, U2 have earned most of their respect as songwriters, performers and humanitarians. But as "Bullet the Blue Sky" and its influences prove, they are also top-notch interpreters.