Monday, February 5, 2007

Give U2 (and peace) a chance.

This country’s teenagers have a collective problem.

No. I’m not saying that we are slackers. I’m not saying that we are lazy. I’m not saying that we do not have ambition.

(Am I part of this “we” anymore? I just turned 20.)

The problem with college-aged people is that they hate Bono.

I know you hate Bono (even if I don’t really know you). I know you think that you hate U2 because you think that you hate Bono.

As bsto once so eloquently put it “I would like U2 if it weren’t for dude’s (Bono’s) voice.” This hurts my feelings, but this does not hurt my feelings because I especially like Bono outside the context of U2.

This hurts my feelings because I really like U2. I did not have a problem admitting that, because their catalog pre-“All That You Can’t Leave Behind” is phenomenal. Can you like a band if you name a period of theirs that you do not like? Sure. I love Radiohead but absolutely hate "Hail to the Thief".

Let me say this now: don't let your hatred for Bono prevent you from listening to U2.

I’m not going to run through a list of their greatest albums and songs, because the list would be extensive and you probably wouldn’t read it, but come on. “The Joshua Tree”, “War”, “Achtung Baby”, “Zooropa”…wow.

I’m not hyping some small band who needs you to buy their records. I know that. You know that. They’re not the next Arcade Fire or Arctic Monkeys, but they are U2. If you listen to any band out today that has a guitar player, you are definitely listening to the Beatles and you are definitely listening to U2 (and you are only PROBABLY listening to Pink Floyd, Kraftwerk and/or the Clash).

Listen to Sigur Ros? Thank “With or Without You” and the Edge’s e-bowed guitar. Listen to I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness? Do you like the Rapture? You would really enjoy “Two Hearts Beat as One.” “Where the Streets Have No Name” explains their EP, while “Bullet the Blue Sky” is the blueprint for their LP. Any music with a sense of urgency has to draw its roots to “Sunday Bloody Sunday” or “I Will Follow.” Even the mainstream folks cannot deny the influence that is U2—Chris Carabba went as far as getting Brian Eno (I know that he is a solo artist in his own right, but he is also a big reason that U2 sounds they way that they do) to work on his latest album (arguably only Carabba’s second-worst), and you can hear that he took a lot of cues from the song “Stay (Faraway, So Close!)”

Yet U2 are going under appreciated by the teenage, college-aged and young professional set. Why?

Because these same people are embarrassed to say that they listen to messianic monsieur Bono and his band. They’re missing the point, though. What he does outside of U2 is what he does as mullet-having, blue-sunglasses-wearing, world-saving Bono should not affect the way that you see U2. U2 is just as much the Edge’s band, just as much Larry Mullins Jr.s’ band, and just as much Adam Clayton’s band as it is Bono’s band (in fact, the three had been playing together for awhile and only got Bono after putting out an ad in a paper and asking for singers to audition—they picked Bono because he had a cool guitar). U2 have always sounded huge because they were, for so long, very political. There was a sense of activism and politic in their music because that is what it was all about. There were no illusions of grandeur, and I still do not believe that there are. They simply got big. They’re getting older now, and the music is slowing down and getting softer, but the thought that the world is in trouble is still very omnipresent in all of the band members’ minds.

And even if you think Bono does have a Jesus complex: come on. Do you honestly believe that this man thinks that he is the world’s savior? So what if he gets involved in campaigns to deal with important issues? HIV/AIDS, debt relief in Africa and a peaceful conclusion to the Northern Ireland saga are all very noble causes. We chastise celebrities for not using their money wisely, for not contributing, for being in their own worlds and for not giving back to the communities, yet there is so much backlash at Bono for being “over-involved?” What does that even mean?

I’m not calling for anyone to lay off of Bono. I’m just asking that you would give, at the very least, U2’s ‘80s catalog a chance. Pick up their greatest hits set from the ‘80s. Don’t think about how much you dislike Bono (for whatever reason that I know you do). Just listen to one of rock’s best drum and bass interplay, one of rock’s most visionary guitarists and one of rock’s best vocalists ever. Sometimes they are flag-waving protesters, and sometimes they are lovesick, homesick young men, but they will always be one of the ‘80s most endearing and boundary-transcending bands. At this rate, though, they will lose that distinction, because so many young people write them off because of a couple of bad recent releases and because of Bono’s activism (which some may see as superficial, even if it has been his—and the band’s—modus operandi since their inception).

U2 has a huge, unfair strike permanently against them: they're popular. Sure, they put out stadium rock now, but they got popular because of they offered so many people a message to believe in when not much was worth believing in. They told America, on the "Joshua Tree", just how great this country is.

Sometimes, we forget that. Yes, we forget that this is indeed a great nation, but we also forget that U2 are famous because they actually do stand for something.