The Grey Album is less great in retrospect
You can buy U2's new album for $4 at Amazon. Reminder #1: the files are 256 kbps MP3s -- yay for that! Reminder #2: Pitchfork gave the album a 4.2. Reminder #3: U2 is on Letterman all week.
As a huge U2 apologist, it pains me to say it, but reminder #4: save your $4. This album makes Pop seem downright wonderous.
posted by James at 4:10 PM on March 3, 2009
So, I used to talk about the two possible models of what happens to bands when they achieve massive success: they either (1) try to hold on to it by repeating what's worked for them in the past or (2) use their success as a launching pad for experimentation, almost daring their audience to come with them.
The original model of the latter aproach is the Beatles circa Sgt. Pepper (an I guess only slightly more updated example is Radiohead at and around Kid A). But around the time of Zooropa and Pop, I had a great Beatles/U2 analogy that I liked to spin: both bands acquired enormous international fame with a particular sound and vision, and both made a radical departure into relatively experimental, deconstructed pop (Achtung Baby sounded pretty radical when it came out, as absurd as that may seem now (and don't forget that Zooropa, while undeniably a worse album (analogy extended: Yellow Submarine), was certainly more experimental. (Also, it had at least three absolutely amazing songs, not the least of which was Daddy's gonna pay for your crashed car, re which nobody read my tribute to.)) (There's also an interesting B/W before/color after aspect to the analogy which might be more of a straight tribute.)
Also by the way, Zooropa, Achtung, and Pop are the only three U2 albums that I ever listen to anymore, and Pop is by far my favorite, which puts me I guess at odds with James' style of U2 apologists, but come on: Staring at the Sun, Last Night on Earth, Miami, Playboy Mansion, If God Will Send his Angels, Wake up Dead Man, and If you wear that velvet dress ... all belong on a list of U2's greatest songs; what other album has 7?!)
Anyway, U2 broke my analogy when they went "back to their roots" with the Atomic Bomb album. And while their music since then may be serviceable and even fun, I just have absolutely no interest in hearing it. I hear it's OK, but despite being a pretty normal person with a pretty normal exposure to "mainstream" people, I haven't really even run across it inadvertently. Maybe once I downloaded an album, checked out a few songs, and deleted it straight away.
Nice album cover, though.
posted by alesh at 9:13 PM on March 3, 2009
@ alesh: The thing is I like Pop. It's aged better than one would expect, same with Zooropa. But my thoughts on the album are tied intricately with my initial aversion to it a decade ago. After the experiment of Zooropa, I think a lot of people were hoping for something more "U2" - which Pop clearly wasn't. Myself included.
In retrospect, Pop sounds so much better because it has soul. It doesn't sound like a gutless cash grab that U2's last three albums clearly are.
Truth is, the only U2 albums I spin anymore on a semi-regular basis are Achtung, Zooropa and Boy. Go figure. But thanks to you, I'm dusting off Pop for another go round...
posted by James at 12:57 PM on March 4, 2009
The secret to listening to Pop is to skip the first 4 songs. After that it's smooth sailing.
posted by alesh at 4:18 PM on March 4, 2009
Donald Miller, bestselling author of Blue Like Jazz, offers some very thoughtful words on what people forget when they slam U2.
posted by Overstreet at 4:56 PM on March 4, 2009
Well cry me a fucking river. Yes, I'm sure we should be amazed and impressed at how Edge and the boys don't just curly up into a fetal position at all the competing concerns they have to juggle when they go in to make an album. Whether their album, despite avoiding a minefield-full of obstacles, has any relevance to my life is another matter, tho.
posted by alesh at 9:01 AM on March 5, 2009
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