Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Being Nice to U2

There is some sort of expression that goes "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." With respect to other people, this is probably good practice.  When it comes to bands, well, what is the fun in that?

I have been told on occasion that my disproportionate and seemingly unbalanced contempt for U2 is unfair to fans who just want to quietly enjoy the band's music and concerts. Maybe. It is always interesting just the same, how adoration of our entertainment vehicles can turn to some sacred space free from criticism.

Perhaps it is my inherent self deprecating nature, but for all my music obsessions, there are few things anyone can say about my favourite artists that would upset me. Radiohead are the best band in the world, but they are terribly pretentious and periodically contrived seemingly beyond reproach.  Morrissey is a brilliant lyricist, but a sad old curmudgeonly cow. Broken Social Scene could use one big dirty hippie group cleansing shower. The National sometimes sound like a sluggish train waiting for a caffeine injection, and on it goes. No big deal. I know these bands are brilliant, take your best shots.

This is previously documented in any number of places and ways online, but I think my issue with U2 started when the media started arbitrarily calling them "the greatest band in the world". Smarten up. They are influential, impactful, iconic, and many other things that are undeniable, but projecting some herculean collective persona as a live act and transforming into a well oiled money making machine does not strictly equate to calibre of art or validation of so many verbose fluff pieces that clutter the digital junkyard.

I digress. With the set-up out of the way, and with U2's first trip to Atlantic Canada imminently approaching, it seems right to give concessions and offer a more balanced view of these four arseholes than I have previously been able to do.  Let's give this a try.

Ten Things I Don't Hate About U2, General Niceties and Concessions

10.  Bono's mullet circa like 84-86ish

9. "With or Without You", albeit overplayed like so many other U2 standards, is unquestionably one of the best written and hauntingly well developed songs of all time.

8. Larry Mullen Jr. (unlike Larry Mullen Sr. presumably) seems impervious to the effects of age, and by all accounts is probably immortal, like Highlander and shit.

7. I used to rant about how U2 should dump Eno and Lanois as a production team and go back to Lillywhite, in an attempt to re-capture some of the passion and rawness of their first albums.  They did that on the silly album about building a bomb and rendered my theory and proposal incorrect. Shows how much I know.

6. Bono repeats "baby, baby, baby" and "it's alright, it's alright, it's alright" a lot on various Achtung Baby tracks. I should hate this, but I don't.

5. The hat that Bono was wearing in and around Rattle and Hum reminds me of Isaac from Children of The Corn.  That's pretty bad ass.

4.  There may be no album quite as influential to slick modern mainstream Brit acts like Cold Play, Snow Patrol etc., than "The Unforgettable Fire", which also still serves to this day, in my opinion, as the most brilliant work these lads have produced.

3. The Paul thinks The Edge has done a great job at masking average guitar play with excessive peddle and effect use and wool caps that seem suspect for warm weather attire.

2. "Achtung Baby" really is a pretty great album.  This might be the first time I have publicly acknowledged such a thing, but this is the new fair and impartial Fox News-esque Rattled By The Rush.  I still think the overplayed singles are an issue, but this was a ballsy effort for where U2 were in their career at the time, and it sounds pretty fresh when played in current day. "Acrobat" is one of the five best songs they have ever written.

1. In their prime, U2 have some songs that legitimately sit respectfully alongside bands of greater stature from the era like New Order, The Smiths, and The Cure.  They sounded thoughtful, youthful, naive, hungry and passionate.  In fairness, there are really no bands that have been able to sustain the rawness of their early material once they have been around for 20 plus years. It is with songs like this however, where I must concede U2's rightful place somewhere in the top bands of my generation, whether I like it or not.