U2’s new album has come out. I spent a couple of days listening to it streaming on U2’s MySpace page and I like a lot of it. Some of it is going to need some time — I didn’t like “Get On Your Boots” at first, but it’s definitely grown on me. I really like “Stand Up Comedy”, “White as Snow” and “Cedars of Lebanon”.
What strikes me the most is that my reaction to this work is almost diametrically opposed to “the average person” — especially younger “average persons”. There are a lot of U2 haters out there, and I expect not to see eye to eye with them. But I can’t get over the ones who don’t seem to realize U2 put out any albums before “Achtung Baby”. I’m aware the rock demigod pontificators at Rolling Stone anointed AB as U2’s best album, but it, Zooropa and Pop never really hit my radar (although I do like “One”). But then, what do I know? I liked “Rattle and Hum” so much I wore the writing off the tape I had at the time. I liked All That You Can’t Leave Behind (“Grace” might be one of my favorite U2 songs ever) and HTDAAB. I liked “War” and “Boy” and “October” and it goes without saying that I loved “Joshua Tree”. U2 may have thrown us oldtimers out with the bathwater, but I haven’t given up on them and the music I started out listening to. (Observant readers may realize that “Unforgettable Fire” isn’t on the list up there — other than “Pride” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, I give that one a miss, too. YMMV.)
I guess what bothers me the most is the cynicism behind a lot of the criticism. U2 aren’t “relevant”, or so they say. Being “relevant” apparently means being 30 or younger and not having a record deal. Also, it seems to help to be angry. If that’s what it takes to be “relevant” these days, (hear this, Larry Mullen, Jr.?*) then I plan to remain solidly irrelevant as long as I live.
*These are the people Larry Mullen, Jr. referred to in an interview:
There is no such thing as anything in the music business at its purest form. It’s all cursed by commerce, and you can’t get away from it. I don’t want to be in a band that’s treading water. I want to have my 17-year-old niece or nephew say, “I love that new single.” I really want that, because I don’t want to be relegated into, “That used to be relevant, it’s no longer relevant.” If that’s not possible, then we will stop.
While I understand not wanting to solely be a nostalgia act, why allow kids who don’t know all that much about music except what they DON’T like to determine your career course? Aren’t us 48-year-olds who followed you for a long time and made your success possible when the 17-year-olds didn’t even exist “relevant”?