Sunday, November 02, 2003

This is what's wrong with U2. 

A.) Bono.

Bono is such a significant cause for what is wrong with U2, that he has his own subpoints to iterate what is indeed wrong with him:

1.) The sunglasses. Way back when they did that Batman video, it was cool. Two words in the sentence bear repeating: "way back".

OK, that's maybe a cheap shot at the frontman's sense of style. Here's what the sunglasses represent: U2's preoccupation with image. U2 can never just go on tour. They have to have AN EVENT. And even though it must get as hot as Venus onstage, underneath that heavy, leather coat Bono wears . . . he'll never take it off. See, if he took it off, people might actually get a feel for what he really looked like. People would see that this is no longer the up-and-coming Bono. No. This is an aging Bono, complete with signs of wear and tear. And while normal people see this as the natual process of life . . . U2 knows that old rockers don't sell records. So it's all about image for U2.

2.) AIDS relief. OK. Great. He's got a cause. But isn't AIDS fairly under control at this point? Aren't we FAR BEYOND -- in terms of research and progress on containment of the disease -- than anyone thought we would be ten years ago? Did anyone really expect Magic Johnson to live this long? In short: aren't there other causes -- especially considering all the other Hollywood types like Liz Taylor who promote AIDS money -- Bono could support?

Counterpoint -- yes, I know Bono has petitioned for African debt relief, and I'm aware that AIDS is rampant in Africa. My position is that organizations like the Bill Gates Foundation do FAR more (they actually get medicine to people in Africa who need it) than politicking by a rock star. Furthermore, on the debt issue, while Bono may represent a position on the issue, I argue he's ill-informed.

"OH!" you say, "But Bono's studied up on all these issues! He knows what he's talking about."

Yes, and he's made an ass of himself learning on the job. It's like the know-it-all in any high school history class who thinks he can challenge the teacher on politics, but ends up learning about the issue rather than furthering his point. Yes, not one nation has forgiven any significant debt yet.

3.) Holding the expectation that the crowd that comes to see his band play holds his same ideological views. What a Goddamned fool. This is like Robert Donat in The 39 Steps, when he tells the professor that he's desperately looking to stop a man, a spy, from leaving England with secrets that will compromise national security. Will he (the professor) help him find this man? All he knows is that this man has a joint missing from his small finger. "Is it this finger?" the professor answers, holding up his mutilated hand.

Now, many artists are guilty of assumption. But Bono's smart. You'd think he'd know better.

B.) The computerized music. They've done it. They've given up the ship. Any time a musician steps away from the controls and lets the producer put some synthesized crap in the middle of a song, it's over: this band is old and over-the-musicianship-hill. I can hear the shrieking already: "But the last album, the last album was wonderful and it had computerized effects."

Counterpoint: The last album was AVERAGE. Sure the first couple songs kicked out the jams, and there were a few ditties in between . . . in between . . . DEAD WEIGHT. Also: I'm not so closed-minded as to say all computerized music is crap. Blur is playing behind me right now. What's the difference between a band like Blur (or Radiohead or Richard Ashcroft) and U2? Those bands can do it live. U2? They just play a record. On the song "New York", you think that's Larry playing drums for the whole first half of the song? Uh-uh. That's what we call a taped recording. Larry only comes in on the chorus. Let me emphasize: Britney Spears and her ilk do this at live shows.

C.) The Unchanging Setlists. Yes, all this time you thought I was just throwing softballs. Well here's the heat. Any time a band goes to a "set" setlist -- a setlist that does not change significantly and infuses ZERO spontaneity -- that band is dead. This is the difference between Neil Young and CSNY. This is why Pearl Jam is still viable. This is why people went to see the Dead, a band that could play an entire summer of shows, only repeating two or three songs one time over the summer. U2 has entire albums that they -- outside of the radio hits -- ignore. One has to wonder after a while -- "Why do they even go into the studio to create an album of material when only three of the songs will get major radio play?" They'll only play 70-80% of the album in concert anyway -- and it'll only be on the tour for THAT album (Discotech, anyone?).

D.) They really think . . . and my problem is not so much that they think they're great (oh, they do) . . . but that they think they're important. Oh, this is the killer. "I'm important." Self-importance, the kiss of death.

Smell ya later, U2! Smell ya later, forever!

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