That was long ago, in the days when vinyl ruled the earth. Not long after, of course, U2 went all stadium rock and mega-rock-star, and I went along for the ride. Hell, I had an ecstatic rock experience at the University of Illinois, during the Joshua Tree tour, when I felt physically lifted into … I don't really know what to call it. A transcendant state? Rock and roll zen nirvana? It was awesome. It was one of the few times I enjoyed a crowd that size. Usually crowds make me nervous. But this one was good. Also notable as the one and only time I held up a lighter without irony.
I actually saw them live three times. Indie Byron lost faith in them around Achtung Baby or Zooropa, the two Euro albums I sort of liked, even if it wasn't what I really wanted. But I lost the urge to pick up their material ever again after attending the Spinal-Tap-esque Pop tour in Seattle in 1997 or 1998 (imagine Bono and crew stepping onstage out of a giant lemon). Imagine a disco ball the size of a hot air balloon. :shudder: these were not the stripped down DIY rockers I used to love, nor even the stadium-rockers I could respect. A greatest hits album followed, which pretty much sealed the deal: U2 was kaput, over, done.
The new album is being streamed (in its entirety) as a preview on VH1's Hear Music First this week, though only at 64 kb/sec fidelity. Check it out.
Some of How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb works, but it still suffers from at least half filler and a continuation of recent excesses ("Miracle Drug" and "Yahweh"? Feh. "Love and Peace or Else"? Double feh. Nice shaffel beat, though.) Once in a while they can still hit it, such as "City of Blinding Lights," "Original of the Species", or even the A&R man's wet dream, the radio-friendly, iPod-peddling "Vertigo". They're total sellouts, right?
Well, maybe. They've changed, and so have I, but sometimes I still hear the rage and purity of the Irish lads of "I Will Follow" from 1980. It's only an echo now, lost in glossy production and massive marketing hype, but it's there. Listen.