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1. i am a U2 stalker. Just as i have had a few blog-stalkers who left comments of the “u are gay/Hitler/right-wing/wrong you fucking faggot/Nazi/Tory/asshole” variety, who seemed to violently loathe me yet couldn’t stay away, so i with U2: i dislike everything they’ve done since Pop yet listen to every new album, even though it’s like returning to a city you once loved to find it swarming with chavs and polishers, old buildings covered with H & M and Starbucks fronts, your favourite bar now a McDonald’s. Some of my old stalkers hated me from the first, others saw what they wanted, mainly because i diplomatically avoided certain topics or took their occasional swaggering finger-jabbing reprimands with a shrug, and so when i decided i’d had enough they perhaps felt i had changed and become a terrible person and a Nazi and Hitler and Satan.
Actually, the new U2 album isn’t as bad as their last three, which were overproduced pap. It’s still not great but isn’t as bland as i’d feared and i’ve even played it a dozen times with some enjoyment. The opening track, ‘The Miracle’ has a pleasingly discordant guitar and many other songs wander a little off the most-beaten-path. The weak point is Bono – his voice used to be somehow both sweet and rough, with an almost-breaking clear high and a deep murmur; it’s now just a thin warble, actually emphasized by his current balladic Michael Bolton efforts. In whisky terms, it’s a chill-filtered 40%, not concentrated enough to carry much complexity.
Another problem is just U2. They seem to equate sales with quality, which seems perverse given Bono’s standard left-wing on-the-side-of-the-marginalized politics. They have aimed to be a kind of universal rock band, who should appeal to everyone – hence, the ideal product to be virus-loaded with the itunes update, because everyone should like U2 – and if you don’t, there is something wrong with you. In Walter Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz, a euthanasia camp sets up a Jesus billboard, summoning the diseased to come and die in peace; the picture is a collage of facial features identified as unthreatening and compassionate by focus groups. This is U2 for me, a lowest-common denominator rock band who strive to appeal to every human being by getting rid of every trace of individuality, rawness, authentic life; music produced by focus groups. In this, they resemble Jameson’s whiskey – a nice, inoffensive mid-price drink, mass-produced, a worldwide brand. designed to be identical in every country, to appeal to everyone by eschewing real taste, real individuality, complexity, anything you have to work at with patience and attention. Jameson’s is fine, as are U2, but a standard Laphroaig or Bunnahabhain show it up for the drink-to-get-pissed brew it is, just as the relatively mainstream Nick Cave, Mark Lanegan, or Kate Bush make U2 look flatly uninspiring and tedious.
2. Loading a U2 album into an itunes update, without asking users if they even want it, seems preposterously arrogant, the kind of thing you would do if you surround yourself with sycophants who only tell you who awesome you are and how surely everyone on the planet will love you. Inevitably, many Apple users were unhappy. i usually pay no attention to an artist’s personality, outside of their art, but couldn’t help but smile that the ostentatiously left-wing, tax-evading, let’s-end-poverty Bono responded to the general revulsion by saying it’s “enough to put you off democracy”.
i find this typical of these mouthy do-gooders; i once (on my old blog) called these people “the kindly ones”, who come with help and smiles and platitudes about universal love and peace, and then turn on you with savage frenzy when you disagree with anything they say. They call themselves anti-fascists and hold up democracy as the ideal, because in their left-wing circles everyone agrees with them about everything, everyone talks heatedly about how America is the great Satan, how Islam is the religion of peace, how we the people need to shut down right-wing thinkers, how we the people need to end poverty and discrimination – having, usually, not much idea what poverty actually is. They are feted and titled and given plum jobs with e.g. the UN or universities or quangos, and think “poverty” is when you can’t afford a three meter flat-screen television. These folk believe whole-heartedly in democracy, until they meet someone who doesn’t agree with them – and then, the secret police and the gulag are, of course, a tragic necessity, to remove appalling reactionary dissent and ensure a placidly revolutionary uniformity in which everyone lives inside John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ and the only whiskey is Jameson’s. And of course this is all okay because they are on the side of the light and those who disagree are Hitler, as Bono put it: “They’re the haters; we’re the lovers.”
On which topic, i recommend the social justice cat calendar.
3. And now i’m going to have some Quarter Cask Laphroaig and listen to Neil Young’s A Letter Home.