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.