Thursday, September 6, 2007

No. 139: All That You Can’t Leave Behind

Band: U2
Album: All That You Can’t Leave Behind
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Um, no.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: The pompous fat band makes a concerted effort to "get back to their roots" is a theme overused by rock critics and bands alike. Basically, U2 had a colossal flop on their hands with "Pop," and decided "Hey, let's try and sell some damned records." I applaud the band's ability to write different themed songs, but the execution is the essence of middlebrow claptrap. Just enough emotion for idiots to understand it, not enough for it to have any actual, you know, meaning.
Best song: Zero. None.
Worst song: "Elevation" makes me want to die.
Is it awesome?: No.

I don't imagine U2 gets compared to the Black Eyed Peas a lot, but I'm going to do that here. When the Black Eyed Peas came out with "My Humps" and "Don't Phunk With My Heart," I was torn. On one hand, I applaud the group's move towards a more interesting sound. Those two songs are considerably different than a lot of what was popular at the time and it did push the limits -- albeit in a moronic way -- of what a pop song could be.

On the other hand, those songs suck eggs. They're terrible. Just plain terrible.

I'll say something similar about "All That You Can’t Leave Behind." On one hand, there are songs on the album that explore mortality and aging; Themes not often explored in rock and roll.

However, if you actually listen to the lyrics, you'll find a half-retarded stab at emotion that echoes the kind of middle-of-the-road nonsense that only idiots find meaningful.

In short, this album is the reason I despise U2.

I don't know how easy it is to keep your proverbial fastball into your 30s and 40s; I'm 26 and and not a particularly creative type. I know there are scores of bands that did drop off as they got older. That appears to be the way of the world in music.


Things that annoy me about Bono:

  • His awful voice.

  • His lyrics that sound like a 15-year-old wrote them.

  • How he only plays the guitar on, like, four songs.

  • His damned glasses.

  • His idiotic comments on pop culture and consumerism, despite the fact that his music is exactly that (see "Pop" and "Achtung Baby").

  • His constant need to attention to the work he does with the poor. He's quick to take credit for every philanthropic thing he does as if saying "Look at me! I'm a good person!"

  • That he actually said -- after winning Grammys, no less -- "[We're] reapplying for the job. What job? The best band in the world job." No, buddy, that title belongs to someone else. Anyone else.

Things that I like about Bono:

  • Even though he's a pompous ass and is quick to act like he's saving the world single-handedly, he is actually trying to help people. That's more than I can say for a lot of musicians.

  • He was the subject of the fabulous "Kill Bono" SST Records t-shirt during the '80s.


Why do people like U2? Is it because people are lazy and just want the familiar? U2 is nothing if not familiar, if only because they're been around the top of the charts for 30 years now. "All That You Can’t Leave Behind" is a decided effort to sound familiar, even enlisting Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois to produce the album.

All you need to know about the album is that the three singles -- those considered to be the best songs on the album -- are absolute garbage. I don't want to sound like I'm discounting Michael Hutchence's suicide; It was a tragic thing and Hutchence was a very talented individual. But that half-hearted attempt at exploring those emotions in "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of" is misguided at best. Not to mention that they have a video using John Madden and a football game... Ugh. What a mess.

The album opener, "Beautiful Day" is even more of a mess. The record's theme -- a man who finds beauty in everyday life after a he's having a bad day -- is idiotic and emphasizes the band's middle class quasi populist appeal. I can see the morons empathizing with the lyrics: "hey, Bono knows that traffic sucks, too! He knows that rent is expensive! Wow! It's like he's speaking for me!" This person is an idiot.

(Again, the video has all the pomposity we have come to know from U2. Echoing a the Backstreet Boys video, the band hangs out around their private jet -- hey, did you know that they're rich? -- and around the airport. Awesome. You guys travel.)

"Elevation" is a song that anyone who watched TV in 2002 knows because it was on one of the iPod ads that ran nonstop during that year. It was on the "Tomb Raider" movie soundtrack and got a lot of of play on the radio. Like the idiotic "Batman Forever" single ("Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me"), the song is based on a mediocre guitar lick and Bono screaming easy-to-rhyme lyrics.

Even U2 fans know this. here's part of the opening paragraph on the song's Wikipedia page:

Featuring a thunderous beat, a variety of sound effects on the central guitar riff, and an easy rhyming lyric for the audience to shout along with, it was highly effective in that concert-starting role and became a hit in the United States and the United Kingdom.

(Emphasis mine)

It's a crowd-pleaser, I'm sure. Only U2 could write a song specifically for chanting at a concert and people would be happy. Man, I hate this band.


This album is why I hate U2. Based on years of radio play, listeners believe that U2 has some sort of talent and/or credibility. in reality, though, they're just a crappy band trying to make the easiest hits they can by using easy-to-repeat slogans, low-grade emotion and retarded middle class optimism. That's not good music.


Black Sheeped said...

Re: your comment. Perhaps by "good" you meant "enthusiastic" and "unafraid to get hurt." Mostly what I remember from the flag football was not really ever completely understanding what was going on, and clinging desperately to the vague notion that I was supposed to go run into those girls on the other team and not let them move.

Those were good times.

Jim said...

Never been a big fan of these guys, but I didn't think that they totally sucked. I am quite stunned that this gutless rehashing of their 'Joshua Tree' sound is in the top 500. That's ridiculous. I also would like to add that I never, never want to hear a single song off of 'The Joshua Tree' ever again. :)

Samuel Tunisia said...

I argue with u RJ, I've been influenced all this time by propaganda & I have considered them as a great band, but I woke up by reading your post hehe & it's ridiculous to assign them as best rock band in history, that's repugnant really!!!!!! ;) Thx & sorry for my english...