Thursday, September 03, 2009

The Problem of U2

Rock on the Tyne 1981

Ian wrote about U2 recently and I replied that the problem with obtaining the new U2 album was the opportunity cost of not listening to something else more exciting. Having written that I was curious about what U2 were up to. I downloaded a concert they did in Sheffield on their current tour which is all over the internet. And guess what, I liked it.

What then are the problems with U2?

  • They are rubbish. They're not you know. The Edge is a great guitarist. I remember my punky college roommate Bun used to go on and on about how he wished he'd though of the simple riff for I will Follow.
  • Bono is Sanctimonious and Annoying. There is of course some truth to this, but I was moved when Bono talked about Aung San Suu Kyi in the Sheffield concert. And the alternative is what? To just relax and be rich?
  • They only play stadiums. I saw U2 in 1981 at the Rock on the Tyne festival, back in the days when I was willing to stand in the sun for hours. So I can't see them in person any more, but I can download concerts.
  • Lots of people like them. This is the real problem for the music snob. Get over it. And yes, lots of people don't really listen and will have One played at their weddings. That's their problem.
  • Their new songs aren't as good as the old ones. This is true for all bands. But Vertigo is surely as good a song as any they have done.
  • Their lyrics are vague. It is true that they aren't very specific, but they aren't as bad as Coldplay.
  • Their fans think they can do no wrong. This is unfortunately true of all bands. We need a new punk invasion to come and wash everything away.
  • Those old vinyl records I have are not worth a fortune. I bought 11 O'Clock Tick Tock when it came out but I understand it is not worth much. The fact that it was produced by Martin Hannett probably influenced my purchase. It is weird to think of U2 as once being contemporaries of the Factory bands.
Did I miss anything out?


  1. I have heard from my record collector correspondent that U2 are one of the few big bands who still sell a lot of vinyl, mainly to people who have been fans from wayyyy back and buy the vinyl for consistency, even if they actually listen to the CD version and do not own a turntable.

  2. I saw U2 live in a stadium some years back; they were great fun, and the stadiumness of it really worked.

    The main thing I don't like about them is Bongo. This is only marginally a problem with their music, but it does make me annoyed every time I think of them. The Aung San Suu Kyi thing is typical of how rubbish he is - I am not knocking the great prisoner, but it is a fairly safe cause for Bongo, as it's not like anyone at the concert has anything to do with her imprisonment. It was noticeable how quiet he kept about Iraq, leading to "where's Bono now?" being a popular banner at Dublin anti-war marches.

  3. Undoubtedly for many people the list is (1) Bono (2) Bono (3) Bono, ...

    And yes, you and I both know about Aung San Suu Kyi but maybe your average stadium goer needs a reminder? Am I sneering at their audience again? Is the real answer (1) their audience (2)their audience... ?

    I looked on eBay and there is an 11 o'clock tick tock like mine going for 13.49 pounds, I suppose that is respectable.

  4. The thing with ASSK - it doesn't really make any difference whether Joe Kegger in the USA knows who she is or not. If Bongo was confronting American audiences with something more directly relevant to their lives, or more challenging to their belief systems, then I would have more respect for him.

  5. I own a lot of U2 albums and like a lot of their music and I find myself agreeing with all the points.

    And another one: All the cool kids hate U2.

  6. All the cool kids hate U2. Heh. That's why we don't want to like them. Good point.