HTDAAB on Repeat

So as you can imagine, I’ve been listening to U2 non-stop since picking up How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb yesterday morning. I’ve also enjoyed reading all kinds of reviews and articles, as well as hearing friends’ reactions, which is actually more important.

So let’s have a little U2 talk.

I’ve already given my initial reaction, and some of that will change. Though I can tell you I still dislike “A Man and a Woman.” So far I’m loving “City of Blinding Lights,” “All Because of You,” and “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own.” And “Vertigo,” but it’s easy to forget since I’ve been listening to it since September.

I’m also enjoying a few b-sides I picked up in various places, including “Fast Cars” and “Mercy” (surprisingly, “Mercy” is not available on The Complete U2.

For those who shelled out the extra cash for a version of the album with the extra DVD, I also love the temple bar mix of “Vertigo” with Bono singing and the Edge playing banjo. So cool.

Some of the reviews and articles have been fun to read, especially this one which gave the album one and a half stars. I especially love hearing rock critics talk about U2’s best work. It’s great. Some talk about HTDAAB being the best since Achtung Baby, but others compare it to Joshua Tree. You can tell a lot about a critic based on which album they mention.

What really throws me is all the folks who seem to write off All That You Can’t Leave Behind because it didn’t produce any hit singles. It seems like fickle radio charts are a poor measure of an album’s greatness. While I love that album, I’m quick to admit the second half drops off. But the first half–wow. The first four songs floor me every time. And frankly, I find a similar thing happening on Joshua Tree.

And every rock writer seems to find a sick joy in roundly deflating Pop. Granted the band admits the album was never finished, but come on. Some of my favorite songs are from that album, and at the very least you have to admire their bravery for exploring such different ground. Instead the critics ridicule them for trying to reinvent themselves with the current in sound. Of course then they’re bashed for returning to their old sound on the last two albums. And let’s not forget how often the band was bashed for wanting to change the world in the 1980s. How lame is it that we hold such a goal against a band? Sure it’s lofty, sure there’s some pretentiousness there–but it’s a lot better than being a rich, codgy bastard.

And then there’s the accusations of selling out. How do you sell out when money doesn’t exchange hands? Makes me scratch my head. I think some rock critics are just upset that a band of over the hill Irish boys can crank out a single with such fist-pumping power as “Vertigo.” No, it’s not deep, introspective music. It’s loud and it’s fun. Isn’t that the point?

I think rock critics just need something to complain about.

UPDATE: The National Review has a killer article that explores the band’s faith.

6 thoughts on “HTDAAB on Repeat”

  1. Critics always need to find something to whine about or poke fun at. Of course, you can never satisfy everyone, but critics are notoriously prone to cynicism and the need to poke fun. Look at 75% of the movie reviews on rottentomatoes: full of blowhards that come up with lame lines to shoot down a movie.

    And ATYCLB didn’t produce any hit singles? I guess that must be based on some weird sales charts, but they had a couple of songs that were being played non-stop on MTV and radio stations in the Cities.

    I’m also confused by some people’s reactions to Pop. I know some non-U2 fans that ONLY like Pop, and I really dig it. Achtung Baby through Pop made for some really interesting energy and to my mind, quality music.

    Oh, and if a music critic needs to base their argument off of sales data, they’re not very good. Because if we went off of that, the teenie boppers and lame rappers of today’s era would actually be making very good music.

  2. Amen, Kevin! :-) I get really tired of everyone critiquing U2 from a vantage point of “they really should’ve gone in ________ direction instead.” That makes absolutely no sense.

    I say let them go where they want to go, and enjoy the ride and the music as it comes in. Enjoy each piece independently of the others. Why try to tie it all together and compare, or accuse them of something evil when all they’re doing is experimenting with different styles? Who says they can’t change it up and do something totally different?

    I had a friend go so far as to email me a de-popped version of Vertigo, where the sections of Bono’s vocals that seemed to “pop-like” were actually removed from the song. It was hilarious, and also slightly sad. Still, it was technically impressive that he was able to do that. :-)

  3. I think the best way to judge a U2 album is the timelessness of the songs. U2’s earliest stuff is a bit uneven, but by the time you get to stuff like Sunday Bloody Sunday, you’ve got songs that are over 20 years old and have aged very well.

    I don’t think that will be the case for most of Pop and Zooropa. I think it’s great they went with experimentation, which is always better than stagnation, but I just don’t think most of the experimenting actually worked.

    It’s too early to judge HTDAAB by this standard, but I think there are some tracks on there with good potential for timelessness.

    I wish more of HTDAAB rocked a little harder, and I really think Fast Cars belonged on the US release, but other than that I’m pretty happy with the new album.

  4. The Answer is Love

    I feel like I need to post some thoughts about the new U2 album. I’ve been holding off for a few reasons. One, I have only listened to it three or four times. Two, I don’t trust my early reactions…

  5. let me offer a new theory on the count off…
    Funniest explanation for the counting at the beggining of Virtego I’ve heard:
    “unos” is latin for “about”, “dos” refers to the 2nd book of the bible – exodus, and 3,14 is the chapter and verse. bono begins by saying this album is “about exodus 3:14” – “god said to moses, “i am who i am.”

    the album also ends with yahweh. everything begins and ends with “i am”.

  6. I Do think that there are timeless songs on Zooropa and Pop, like “Lemon” and “Staring at the Sun”. And this new album is just to derivative from their early work to be good at all. Too much of a reciclyng for my ears.

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