Friday, January 30, 2009
U2's new CD No Line On the Horizon is due to be released March 3, so in anticipation, I've begun to listen to some of the older ones. Released in 1997, Pop has probably been the worst received CD in U2's catalogue. I've defended this disc from the beginning, but there was always something I didn't like about it, something nagging. But I couldn't quite put my finger on what bothered me.
The individual songs are good: "Staring at the Sun" is a slick guitar pop song that got tons of airplay, "Last Night On Earth" is a typical U2 anthem, "Gone" is a soaring Edge showcase. "If God Will Send His Angels" is a slower song that would fit well on many other U2 CDs. Then there are the more experimental tunes, like the electronic "Mofo" and "Discotheque," along with "Do You Feel Loved," "Please," and "Wake Up Dead Man." Good songs all.
So what's the problem? Seems like there are a lot of good individual songs there, that you can really sink your teeth into. Well, it's taken me nearly 12 years, but I think I've finally figured it out. The CD feels more like a compilation than a cohesive collection. Pop doesn't have that central theme, like the longing of The Joshua Tree with its religious imagery, or the crunchy sound of Achtung Baby's breakup songs, or the American folk/blues of Rattle and Hum. Plus the over-the-top PopMart tour put some people off. Even if they got the tongue in cheek joke of it all, it seemed too much for the U2 image to handle. The overriding question was, Why?
I think even U2 felt they misfired a bit, and on their Best Of 1990-2000 collection they remixed the songs from Pop, but they miscalculated again. The songs didn't need remixing, and in fact sound worse. The songs weren't the problem, it was all the songs together that didn't flow right.
After Pop U2 took three years off, regrouped, and returned with the classic U2 sound with 2000's hugely successful All That You Can't Leave Behind, followed by the 2004 release How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. Now the follow-up to that is imminent and I can't wait to hear the new sounds they have cooked up.