Point/Counterpoint: U2

Once more I invite Todd and Sylvia to come and weigh in on a band they just cannot agree upon. This time out it’s U2, a band I don’t have much time for nowadays, but a band who in my opinion have released at least a couple of classic albums during their time on the scene. It’s all black and white to my guest bloggers, though. One for, one against, and as always it’s an entertaining read.–Uncle E

Todd: Well, I just gotta say that I knew we’d eventually be asked by Uncle E to debate the merits of this band. I’ve been following U2 since War was released way back in groovy old 1983, and although I’ve been disappointed by a few detours they’ve made all in all I think they deserve their canonization. They are the last great rock band and have pretty much retained their integrity even as countless lesser bands have co-opted their sound over the decades.

Sylvia: No. U2 were, and shall always remain, THE MOST OVERRATED BAND THAT EVER WAS. See how I put that in caps? I think that should be the title of their new album, what do you think?

T: You’re going to have to qualify that unholy and totally bogus statement of yours, Sylvia.

S. Easy. The 4 boys from Ireland, as early as Boy, had delusions of grandeur that, unfortunately, came to pass, and ever since we have had to endure not just Bono’s pontificating from Mount Cliché but his bands totally laughable classic rockisms. There has never been an original bone in their collective musical bodies and their popularity remains baffling for those of us with the good taste to see through the charade that is, and will always remain, U2.

T. Let me break it down for you. Why do you think this band became so popular? In the early ‘80’s all a discerning music fan had to latch on to were mopey sorts with their tear streaked eyeliner that sung about being beaten up in the rain, but never offered any solutions. It was all ‘poor me’ stuff and it was tiresome. Draining even. Then along comes Bono and Co., roaring out of the gates and yelling at the top of their lungs to take some bloody action. There was passion there.

S. Passion, eh? I can’t believe you’ve bought into the hype. These guys used this faux passion to get ahead. Just like Coldplay. I can maybe give you that up until War they may have had an ounce or two of sincerity, but everything after that has just been co-opted fake posturing. Ever since Live Aid, if you want me to get specific about it. That whole spectacle was just embarrassing; you’ve got to admit that.

T. No, I don’t. Because while Bono may not lack anything in the confidence department, that set and especially the rendition of BAD was one of the high points, if not the high point, of Live Aid.

S. Ok, moving on, we’re getting off track here; back to the whole “unoriginal” thing. I’ve always hated the Joshua Tree and consider that one of the worst examples of pandering in the history of rock and roll. Yes, British musicians have always had a fascination with America, but this was just too much. Too much faux gospel, too much pontificating, too much grandstanding, too much blah blah blah blah. The fact this sold, like, a zillion copies is astounding to me. They were outed for their crimes on the abhorrent follow up Rattle And Hum, of course, and on that day I celebrated with a couple of bottles of Guiness. What did they do after that, Todd? They…ooohhhh…reinvented themselves with Achtung Baby, but what was that album, really, if nothing more than a rehash of what Bowie and Eno and Pop did back in the ‘70’s mixed with a little house music? Even better than the real thing? I think not. Then you have the B-side compilation that was foisted on the public as an actual album called Zooropa. After that flopped they went all “ironic” on us and released the lamentable Pop album. This so-called technofied album was at least 5 years late to the party and was rightly slammed for the musical travesty it was. One listen to MOFO will reinforce that. At least up to that point following the downfall of U2 was interesting. After that it just became boring. All That You Can’t Leave Behind was the big COMEBACK album, wasn’t it, although Beautiful Day was the only half decent song in retrospect. Since then they’ve been regurgitating the same puke album after album after album. And now I hear they’re working with Danger Mouse for the new one. Once more they’re a little late to the party. Desperation is starting to seep in I would suspect, but since it takes them 5 years to release a new album they are doomed to behind the times. And you’ll notice I didn’t even touch upon Bono’s globe trotting political indiscretions. There’s not enough time in the day. Ok, I’m done.

T: Wow, I had no idea of the depth of your hatred for this band. Yes, they stumbled with Rattle And Hum but even that had more than it’s share of redeeming qualities. And thgeir reinvention with Achtung Baby was genius, pure and simple. The songs were first rate, the best they’d ever written up to that point. And about that whole Bowie/Eno/Pop thing? Those guys just stole their ideas from Kraftwerk and Neu!, so what’s your point? Rock and Roll has always been about co-opting and stealing ideas from past artists to create something new. And All That You Can’t Leave Behind was a BRILLIANT return to form for the band, while Pop was seriously underrated. Also, Zooropa? That was just a shade better than Achtung Baby in my estimation. It wasn’t played as much which gives it a fresher feeling and has extended its sell-by date by decades.

S: Sorry, you’re wrong. They have always sucked and continue to suck. Just when I think they couldn’t get any worse, sink any lower, they do. I would say they don’t matter anymore, that they are about as relevant as The Rolling Stones post 1981, but the fact remains that they never mattered; at least not to discerning music fans. To the unwashed, uneducated masses they mattered, and its mouth breathers like you who have kept Bono in his $1,400 sunglasses for all these years.

T: You know, I feel sorry for you, Syl. To me you miss the point of music in general. You’re so frightfully concerned about your rock snob credentials that you’re totally unable to enjoy music. You look and listen to music with a mathematician’s eye and ear, which is pitiable, if nothing else. Go ahead and dissect and critique popular music all you want. But I think you’re missing the whole ‘enjoyment’ aspect of it. U2 is a fantastic band whose legacy will remain intact far longer than the obscure, more ‘cool’ bands you champion.

S: Go suck on that souvenir lemon you got on the Popmart tour, Todd. You’re wrong, and you’re an idiot.

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