At the risk of pissing some people off, I needed to write this piece. Needed to!
Over the years, I had developed an increasing shadow of U2 disregard. It might even have bordered on dislike. And I need to be careful how I write this so it doesn’t become misconstrued as a “hater” piece. It’s far from that.
When the new album by U2 came into controversy over its distribution, I willingly listened to it because, over the years, I always hoped that we could get the U2 that we grew to love back in the late ’70s, and ’80s, back to a semblance of that quality.
Now, before I go further, let me explain this clearly: I am not an opponent of creativity or maturity, Nor am I an opponent of art as it is presented. I like when bands get better. Listen to the holy trilogy of Boy, October, and War, and you find a marked difference between those and the following The Unforgettable Fire. And then, The Joshua Tree changed it up more. As did Achtung Baby. And on.
I have listened to Songs Of Innocence over 50 times. OVER 50 times. That’s more than I gave their last two a listen combined. On the last ten listens, I compared it in every way to their earlier works basing each song on a chill factor. The lyrics, the music, the way the song is presented, the overall quality. Unfortunately, I failed to find one song from Songs Of Innocence with ability to create a chill within me. That made me sad because I want them to succeed. Perhaps my personal opinion of several things within the U2 camp colored my opinion of them over time, but it’s the same principle I usually apply to my other favorites over time as well (right, Adam? Bill B?).
Song for song, there’s not one track on Songs Of Innocence with the same power as “Bad”, “Pride (In the Name Of Love)”, “The Unforgettable Fire”, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, “With Or Without You”, or even those brilliant outtakes from The Unforgettable Fire (“The Three Sunrises”, “Love Comes Tumbling”). My thing is this, eventually you lose your philosophy, your sense of what is important, when you reach that stage where you are suddenly above everyone, even if not by choice.
But I did rediscover something in this small journey. I was still in love with U2. In listening to their earlier songs, my heart swelled with the beauty of their music, the depth of their words, and the greatness of their music. It’s what made them who they are.
I just needed to remind myself, and perhaps others, that U2 is still high on my list of great bands. It’s just that now, they feel irrelevant, in “a dry and waterless place”.
“And if the mountains should crumble
Or disappear into the sea
Not a tear, no not I.”