Author Topic: POP 2018 REMASTER  (Read 326 times)

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Offline zooguitar

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« on: November 14, 2019, 06:35:58 PM »
(this is a re-post of my review of the Pop remaster from last year that was in a previous thread)

This is a review of the digital WAV files that come via a download card that is included with the vinyl reissue. I have not listened to the vinyl version yet.

I am pretty disappointed with the remaster, but I shouldn't say I'm very surprised.

Let me explain: I love Pop. I think it is flawed, and, with some simple track order changes and swapping out of 1 song with an outtake, would have been a perfect coda to the 90s era of U2. I have listened to this album hundreds of times since it first came out. I have my own custom playlist of the album I think they should/could have delivered that is much more satisfying than the original, despite the minimal differences.

I am also an audiophile: I listen to music through a pair of Status Audio CB-1 headphones, via a USB DAC called the Dragonfly. Neither are super expensive equipment, but they are definitely for audio nerds like me. Listening to music, especially U2, through this equipment is super enjoyable. I also do not listen to compressed digital formats like MP3, ACC, FLAC, or streaming formats. I rip full AIFF files from CDs and add them to my iTunes library.

My personal opinion is that any major label rock albums released on CD after 1996 don't need a re-master. The recording industry had been releasing CDs for 10 years by that point, and mastering made huge leaps in the early 90s, and then in 1994/1995. Music with heavy bottom end or loud/soft dynamics (hip hop and grunge rock) especially benefited from these advancements in CD mastering.

I noticed the remaster was not done by the original mastering engineer, Howie Weinberg. Weinberg only mastered one album for U2, but if you look at his website (You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login) you'll see from his credits why they went with him at the time. He has mastered some of the greatest rock, electronic, hip-hop (and mix of all 3) albums of all time.

I always thought Zooropa had a much more polished sound than Pop; not polished in the commercialized, FM-radio sense. Polished in that it's electronica and rock hybrid was very smooth and ambient (ie Eno). Pop, by comparison, sounds like a weekend bender in the summer of London 1995: George Harrison-via-Oasis guitars, trip hop beats, electro clash distortion.

Pop is also, if we're talking honestly, a blatantly drug album. Bono has referenced it as a "party album", and Howie B's fondness for the spliff was well documented... too well, it turned out.  :P The album also provides the most painfully appropriate hangover music at the very end of the album, fittingly enough.

From beginning to end, the sound of the original recording had a balanced warmth between some very bright keyboard and distorted guitar sounds, against some of their heaviest rhythm work recorded to date. "Mofo"'s 747 effect soars with depth to its cascading effect, meanwhile you are kicked in the @$$ with the greatest recorded drum performance by Larry. "Miami"'s murky electro distortion gives way to a drum and bass groove that brings to mind the best parts of Led Zeppelin's "When The Levee Breaks". The subtle piano notes and chords in "Gone", the breathless intro to "...Velvet Dress", and especially the jazz coda to "Please" have a heated richness to them that was a soothing counter to the sometimes chilling lyrics.

But you don't get to appreciate this as much with the remaster of Pop. A lot of the whoomph to Adam's bass is gone, and with it is also a lot of the overall natural warmth to the songs. It's like doing that to Adam's bass also affected the unique sound of the musicians playing live in the room together. The remastered version is not any louder, as a visual comparison of the remastered WAV files against the originals demonstrated. The remaster was done by the engineer who mastered the recent SOE. But a better remaster could probably have been made had the original engineer supervised it.

Now, I'm hoping that these are digital files that were meant to be output onto vinyl, and that the official CD remaster will sound better. But this remaster is inferior to the original, IMO. I don't regret buying the vinyl, as it was under $20 and a nice collector's item for a lifelong U2 fan like myself. :)