Friday, January 30, 2009

U2's Pop

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.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Boomerang Kids

There is an article in the Boston Globe today about "Boomerang Kids." Boomerang kids are adult children who return home to live with their parents. This is a major subplot in my comic novel Into the Sunset (I also call them boomerang kids). My character Wayne is an editor who is writing an article on the subject. Basically, it is the same article as the one in the Boston Globe! Here is the link:

Boomerang Kids

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Dodger and Me

Dodger and Me, written by Jordan Sonnenblick.

I loved this book. Basic plot: loser kid (Willie) sucks at baseball, has an overprotective mother, tries to avoid an annoying girl (Lizzie), and is lonely after his best friend moves away. Enter a possibly imaginary blue chimp named Dodger wearing surfer shorts and an eye patch, who may or may not be a genie, and who may or may not help him overcome his problems. Along the way, and under Dodger's watch, things get way worse for Willie before they can get better.

Will Willie improve his baseball skills and help his team win the championship? Will his mother stop fussing over him so much? Will Lizzie ever leave him alone? Will he survive Dodger's plans to improve his life? And more importantly—what will his three wishes be?

The thing that really makes this YA novel pop is the writing. Just before reading Dodger and Me, I read another YA book from the same publisher. Good plot, likable lead characters, but the writing was just awful. But I finished it, and moved on to Dodger. What a breath of fresh air! The writing is engaging, funny, and just plain readable. As a writer myself, I think the best compliment I can give this book is that it is one of those books you come across that you wish you had written first. You don't have to be a young adult to enjoy Dodger and Me. Go get it!

Dodger and Me