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U2 “No Line on the Horizon”

Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: .

There are certain things I don’t like about U2 that tend to blur my perspective on whether or not the band is actually any good. But when they recently played the Grammy Awards, it felt like the ol’ band was stretching itself a little thin. “Get Your Boots On” fell flat—and I certainly wasn’t the only person who thought it was one of the least memorable performances of the night.

For the longest time I was turned off by the group because I thought that Bono was a bit of a douche bag for rocking designer clothing & sunglasses while participating in meetings where he was a prime advocate for impoverished countries. But when it comes down to it, he does some good work and I guess the singer of the biggest band in the world should be able to revel in a little Armani swagger if he so chooses. So now, I just happen to dislike him because I feel like he’s kind of a douche… though that could probably be chalked up to jealousy.

The fact of the matter is if I put all of that aside, I still can’t get behind U2 and the band’s music. The last time I really enjoyed anything new from the group was from a period that many consider the band’s worst (I still think “Staring At The Sun” is a pretty decent radio rock single, as far as mediocre bullshit goes). So what’s changed since then? Certainly the face of pop music has shifted (though you wouldn’t know it by recent news), but what’s more important is the band has become a victim of its own success. Possibly a result of trying to change too much, for too many years, the band is no longer willing to change, refusing to once again become the U2 that people love most.

Somewhere between having that godawful shriek from “Elevation” drilled into my head and now, it feels like U2 has lost touch with what exactly it is that U2 does. How much did The Joshua Tree kick ass? Achtung Baby? A lot. Even Zooropa and Pop have to be given some credit for a willingness to experiment within a shifting environment (though the latter somewhat overdid things). And while it drives me nuts, that damn “Elevation” fit in perfectly with what was going on in modern rock radio at the time—had it only been played a few million times less than it was, it might have even been tolerable. But with the few brief tastes of what is to come from No Line on the Horizon, it sounds like the band is lost somewhere between not knowing whether to reach out and try for something new, or go back to something safe. The title track is picture proof of this—The Edge sounds like he wants to do something new, but falls flat and ends up sounding like he’s riffing on a track that shouldn’t have made the final cut on a U2 album (even considering 1997 standards). As for Bono, it’s a sad state of affairs when he records vocals so tired and feeble that we can only hope for another “Elevation” to come along and save this album from becoming a complete joke. If not, a few more people might end up joining me in looking back on something like “Last Night On Earth” with some sort of odd fondness, and a feeling of longing for better times. Not great times, but certainly better than this.