Saturday, May 9, 2015

Saturday video - U2 in 1980


I laugh today at the "cool kid" in school who got me into J&MC and the Smiths, because the day "Joshua Tree" came out he actually skipped school and stood in line from 6AM at the mall to buy it. Boy was he let down.

Because as it turns out, U2 started to suck after Unforgettable Fire. (Actually, they began to suck after War, but that wasn't an option in IKN's poll.)

Seriously: Remember "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"? Please just go listen to it to remind yourself. What a horrid slurry of pap. It's right up there with "In the Air Tonight" in the contest for World's Most Annoying Song. Really, you still haven't found what you're looking for, Bono? What is it you're looking for - credibility? Cos your wallet is right over there, collapsing into a singularity under the weight of all the cash you've made, you twat. Harden the fuck up.

And "With or Without You"? Really? What utterly annoying lyrics:
See the stone set in your eyes
See the thorn twist in your side
I'll wait for you

Sleight of hand and twist of fate
On a bed of nails she makes me wait
And I wait without you
What the hell does that crap even mean? It's nothing but slapped-together utterly meaningless "cool-sounding" phrases that rhyme. Again, it's just as empty and random as any particular song from Madonna's "Ray of Light" - except the title song of course whose lyrics she nicked from a late-60s hippie band. But the Republican soccer moms liked "With or Without You" for its easy melody and the sing-along chorus, and so it became yet another excuse to turn off top-40 radio every time it came on.

And ooh! "Exit"! A suicide song! Wow, how edgy! Because it's so fucking sad and lonely going on huge world tours and having everyone there eat up every last word of your bloody whining about the mass-murdering IRA oh and yes Apartheid too we can't forget that.

And don't get me started on production. Dan Lanois is the single most uncreative, obtuse and over-rated person to have ever come out of Hamilton, and believe you me he's got competition. Eno is always great, but nobody in mainstream media has ever praised him for the work he did with Slowdive just a year later so I don't see why they should be fawning over U2 just because they had hired him.

As the Negativland Mondo 2000 interview showed us, by this time U2 were already living in a corporate cocoon, completely cut off from all the goings-on in the outside world, surrounded by yes-men, smelling their own farts and proclaiming them superior to the oven-fresh scent of cinnamon buns, while their fascist legal team was out there crucifying anyone who offered an insult to The Brand.

U2 had previously been a half-decent band with some original musical ideas. They ran out of ideas after War, and that's also about the time they ran out of legitimate thoughts, and coincidentally the moment they became corporate. They then mooched off Brian Eno's ideas for another ten years, collecting awards along the way because corporate America loved them so damn much.

And all the way through the 90s they were bloody self-important. "Ooh look at us recording in East Berlin in 1990, we're so edgy! Let's rip off Primal Scream!" And that goddamn Zoo TV Tour? Seriously? "Ooh look at us we discovered 'multimedia', look at our utterly fucking boring stage set up!"

And goddamn Popmart?

Now here's my original post:

Here's U2 in 1980, playing "I Will Follow":

And yes, there's the bouffant hairdos and poofy shirts and the 80s white-ass honky style of dancing that I like to call "clenching the hamster", but you have to admit for 1980 these guys were good. Considering we were still in the early days of postpunk, and U2 had already moved on to new territory.

But, of course, as we can say about most bands that have been around too long, the world would have ultimately turned out better had they all been stranded forevermore on an Antarctic mountaintop after a plane crash around the time of the Negativland Incident.

Not killed in the crash of course, that's bad. Just, y'know, stranded, in the Antarctic, forced to make hard choices to survive, cast adrift on the cruel whim of fate, hunger variously driving each past the gossamer line dividing man and beast, until one day six months later a rescue expedition finds a strangely well-fed Larry Mullen as the last survivor and all he ever says afterwards is "I just don't want to talk about it."

Actually, that would be an awesome novel, wouldn't it?


  1. We've had this conversation previously, but Achtung Baby was still good, original and relevant U2. Sure they were massive by then but there's still good stuff there. After that one they sucked and stayed sucking.

    1. It sucked. "Mysterious Ways" was them trying to cash in on Madchester two years after Primal Scream but with pseudo mystical vacuous lyrics, and "One" was sissy pop. It's basically the same kind of square career-resuscitation garbage as Madonna's "Ray of Light".

    2. Love Is Blindness is a great song. You don't have to listen to Boner singing it to know that, either. Cassandra Wilson's version is top music.

    3. Jesus fuck give your head a shake. That song sounds like fucking whiny Radiohead.

  2. Daniel Lanois did a nice job with Emmylou Harris on the Wrecking Ball album. Other than that I don't know much of his work.

    As for U2 I already commented on them on this site somewhere sometime way back. Just google Henry Rollins on U2 for an earful of why they are a bunch of useless pussies. I would agree a few of their early songs had some punch.

    1. Years ago Randy Newman was interviewed in Q magazine and the conversation turned to U2. He said something like, "I was against world peace until U2 came out for it. Then the scales just fell from my eyes."

    2. Mark E Smith "If he'd known about the way they burned witches and that, Jesus would have been mad. But if he Jesus had seen U2, he'd be very mad indeed. Jesus would throw bottles at U2"

  3. meanwhile....

    Guesting on Howard Stern’s radio show on Thursday, Rollins admitted he admired Bono’s humanitarion efforts. From Stern’s website:

    ‘Henry noted he’s never liked U2’s music, but he admires the humanitarian efforts of Bono. Henry did comment, though, he had a problem with photos of Bono he saw that were recently taken in the Oval Office. Henry explained Bono was unshaven and his clothes were disheveled in the photograph, which he took as a sign of disrespect for the history of the Office itself. When Robin responded most of the reason politicians have given Bono so much clout was because of his rock star image, Henry conceded she was right.’

    It’s not the first time Rollins’ has said U2 ain’t all bad. In a recent Washington Post chat he was asked if there was any song of the band that made him say ‘that’s not bad':

    ‘Yeah, absolutely. A song called “Lemon” is a great song because Brian Eno overhauled that guitar sound so much it sounds like an interesting Eno song.’

  4. So... there you go. Far as I'm concerned Rollins has always been grossly overrated. Kudos to him though for getting cast in Johnny Mnemonic.