The Boston Herald, January 8, 1997
HEADLINE: Music; New U2 single provokes some head scratching
BYLINE: By DEAN JOHNSON
BODY: The U2 hype machine is gearing up for the first big pop music story of 1997, beginning today with the radio-only release of "Discotheque," the first single from the Irish supergroup's upcoming album.
The band's ninth full-length album, and first since "Zooropa" in 1993, isn't due until early March. And "Discotheque," which won't be available to the public until Feb. 10, isn't much of an appetizer. Even local radio programmers aren't sure what to do with it.
The new tune is a bass and drum-heavy dance track with a cluttered arrangement, electronic effects and washes, and no real vocal hooks. Think of "Zoo Station" or "Even Better Than the Real Thing" with nothing to hum or sing but the title.
There are a few cunning four- and five-note riffs, but Bono's vocals are generally buried in the mix, and the Edge injects only a few savage wah-wah guitar licks. There are also crunching, infectious rhythms and solid dance grooves in the new U2 tune, just like you'd find in any good discotheque.
Though the midtempo tune is initially more accessible than most songs on the band's previous release, "Zooropa," it's not even within sight of the band's best efforts.
Catchy, but nothing memorable.
And it's a problem Boston pop radio is wrestling with, even though most programmers intend to play the song and let listeners decide what they should do with it.
"Stylistically, it's a bit of a tough fit for our audience," said WAAF-FM program director Dave Douglas. WBOS-FM program director Jim Herron added, "It doesn't pop out at you initially, but then a lot of stuff out there doesn't."
WFNX-FM program director Bill Glasser was more to the point. "It's supposedly an indication of what the rest of the (album) project is going to be, but I figure this has to be a throwaway before they release the whole thing," he said. "I can't see a whole album sounding like this. I don't know if it's going to catch up to me later, but as a first listen, I'm not as impressed as (by) previous U2 material."
Music director Carter Alan said WBCN will play the new tune "quite a lot, and we've already gotten a lot of phone calls for it." Alan, who's written a book about the band, added, "The new song does fit the term 'pop,' but I've been calling it a 'dark jewel.' It's clean and rhythmic but it's ugly, too."
WXKS-FM's John Ivey said he doesn't intend to play the song right away on his Top 40 station. "I don't think it's that urgent."
MTV is dancing to the beat of "Discotheque" in a big way. The cable music channel is planning a 12-hour U2 music block beginning tomorrow at 6 a.m.
Copyright Â© 1997 Globe Newspaper Company. All rights reserved.