A series of random events has lead me to listen to some U2 recently. As the title suggests, I have a somewhat mixed feelings about U2. I tweeted a little bit about it when it first happened but I’ve since gone back and listened some more and the love/hate thing is tearing me up, so as therapy I’m putting it out here.
A couple of months ago I was chatting to a colleague about music, we got on to U2 and we both agreed we weren’t really into them. When I said part of the reason for me was that when I was younger, most people I knew who were into them were REALLY into them, and I didn’t happen to like these people much, so by association I decided not to like the band. I was glad when she said she had exactly the same experience, cos it made my random prejudice seem a bit more justified. However it got me thinking and I decided I should go back and give them another shot some time.
I had managed to keep up my loathing of U2 for many years quite happily, until I started to go out with someone who liked them. I reluctantly gave them a shot. A little while later they released All That You Can’t Leave Behind. I had to admit it was quite good. I wasn’t a connoisseur but I thought it was a bit different from their previous stuff, so it was acceptable to like. I pretty much pretended it was a different band. The next year they had to make changes to their touring schedule due to Bono’s father being ill, so a last-minute concert was announced in Glasgow. Knowing how much my then-boyfriend liked them and how I could almost stomach them (I secretly really like that album. Most of it) I persuaded my work to let me go early and I legged it down to the SECC to try to get tickets. I joined a massive queue and waited there for 4 HOURS! For U-bloody2! I have never queued like that for a gig before or since. Anyway, it was quite a nice atmosphere in the queue, and I had to admit some U2 fans were kind of alright.
After 4 HOURS!! I did secure 2 tickets, so we went to see them in a surprisingly small hall at the SECC. And wouldn’t you know it, they were good. Dammit U2. Actually they were very good. I had a thoroughly good time and was surprised at how many of the oldies I knew. I was forced to admit several things. 1. They are a great live band. 2. They have a pretty awesome back catalogue to draw on. 3. They know how to put on a show and work an audience. Although I did draw the line at joining the people who were clamouring to be spattered in Bono’s sweat when he came along the walkway thing into the crowd. It was a sweaty event. I don’t care who Bono is, that was gross.
But that was it, I listened to that album some more, I think we bought the next one which wasn’t as good, so I wrote that off as a 1-time thing and moved on.
The next event that lead to me to consider them again was that I’ve recently finished watching Parks and Recreation. Bear with me here. Late to the party as usual, I absolutely love it and because most of the stars were unknown to me (sorry, cool points lost) apart from I knew Aziz Ansari from Flight of the Conchords days (cool points regained?) I have been trying to find out about other stuff the cast have done. I’ve read Amy Poehler’s book and Aziz Anasari’s book (both highly recommended) and watched a couple of films some of them have been in. Adam Scott doesn’t have a book (insert choice of Parks reference here) but he does have a podcast. I don’t think I’ve ever listened to a podcast. Found out the podcast was all about U2. Bollocks. I want to have a listen, because Adam Scott is awesome and I’d heard about his podcast partner Scott Auckerman’s work too. But it’s all about U2! I hate U2! No wait, do I? Gut reaction, sorry.
So I had a wee listen. (“U Talkin’ U2 To Me?“) It is highly entertaining, and mercifully has very little actual U2 in it. It’s basically a couple of blokes, and occasionally some guests, who are really into music talking about the the music they love, with a smattering of U2. It made me miss having similar discussions with my friends, although I don’t think we were ever that funny. They even make a discussion about their (intensely serious) suggestions for alternative track listings for Rattle and Hum amusing. But it did make me want to properly go back and listen to the band.
I started at the beginning. Bearing in mind I was mostly listening at work so only had half an ear on it, if that. Sorry, but I don’t have the luxury of a spare hour to listen to a complete album with my full attention. The podcasts were listened to whilst also doing housework and cooking.
The verdicts so far:
Boy – I was surprised how much I enjoyed this. It has energy, passion and a story to tell. I was reminded of a quote from Frasier, when Roz’s cool young cousin criticises her choice of radio station, “For your information Classic Rock is both classic and it rocks!”.
October – I couldn’t get on board with this at all. It was virtually unlistenable. Really, I had to skip forward several times. I went back and listened to Boy again today, but couldn’t bring myself to listen to October again. Sorry, I’m done with that one. Next!
War – I was most distracted during this, but found it more like Boy, more varied, quite interesting, I’ll give it another go when I’m more able to focus on it.
The Unforgettable Fire – Apart from Pride, which is a great song, it was pretty forgettable actually.
The Joshua Tree – Now we’re talking! I know some of these songs well enough to sing along to. Dammit, I’m singing along to U2! Yes, you can’t argue with those opening 4 songs, in the words of Adam Scott, “that is some high quality rock and roll music”. I listened to them on repeat they were so good. I hate myself now.
Rattle and Hum – I couldn’t bring myself to listen to this after Scott and Adam pretty much slated it on the podcast, I might try their alternative track lists some time.
So that’s as far as I’ve got. Actually I went back and listened to Joshua Tree again. Those songs are so damn good. I’ll do the rest when I have time, might do an update here.
When I was writing my Editors post last week I was swithering about making the U2 comparison because, my own prejudices aside, for many it is a toxic association. But the first track of Boy is so very Editors. Or vice versa I suppose. I realised Where The Streets Have No Name reminds me of The Airborne Toxic Event’s Sometime Around Midnight, which may be my favourite song ever. I’m not sure how TATE would feel about at U2 comparison, I certainly would have balked at it until about a month ago…
Part of the reason is Bono himself. He has this reputation as being a self-important arrogant ****. I can’t say I hold any particular animosity towards him, anyone in his position would find it hard to remain grounded I suppose. However the band are currently on tour, and this morning Shappi Khorsandi tweeted this:
I have no reason to doubt the lovely Shappi, but seriously?!? This is exactly the kind of thing that makes people (me) hate U2 (again). I’m glad we saw them in a relatively scaled back show without any of this nonsense. There are still tickets available for the Glasgow leg of this tour, but at ridiculous prices so I’m definitely not tempted. Once was enough, that once was a great experience that I would rather remained unsullied. I’ll continue to explore their back catalogue, but I still don’t know if I’d call myself a fan, or if I love them or hate them. Still both I think.