Bono: "We Need to Talk"


U2's frontman sits down with Greg Kot to 'clear the air' about negative reviews, the band's direction and the role of rock 'n' roll

By Greg Kot, Chicago Tribune music critic

Bono is steamed.

It's not every day that I answer my cell phone and hear the lead singer of U2 expressing serious disagreement with something I've written, but that day has arrived.

"You've offended us," he says as I weave up Lake Shore Drive during evening rush hour, trying not to crash into a concrete barrier while I reach for my notebook. "There's a dark cloud over us and we need to talk."

I've covered the band for 15 years, interviewed Bono a half-dozen times and attended virtually every one of U2's Chicago concerts since the Irish quartet first played at Park West in 1981. Along with R.E.M., U2 is the most important mainstream rock band of my generation, a band that set a new standard for how an arena rock concert could feel and what it could communicate. In the '90s, Bono, guitarist The Edge, drummer Larry Mullen Jr. and bassist Adam Clayton gave their well-honed approach a twist on such adventurous albums as "Achtung Baby" (1991), "Zooropa" (1993), the "Passengers: Original Soundtracks I" side project (1995) and "Pop" (1997).

But "Pop" bombed commercially by U2 standards, and the band seemed to lose its nerve. It made two consecutive albums, "All That You Can't Leave Behind" (2000) and "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" (2004), that retreated from the innovations of the '90s and settled for a retro '80s sound. In February, the Tribune published an article in which I chastised the band for a series of dubious artistic and business decisions. It was prompted by a flood of irate e-mails from fans who had paid $40 to join U2's fan club in order to gain access to pre-sale tickets for the band's North American tour. The sale was a public-relations disaster. Some fan-club members reported they couldn't even get tickets, or paid nearly $200 for third-balcony seats, while scalpers were selling tickets on eBay for more than $600. It was the latest in a series of missteps that prompted me to question whether this once-vital band was turning into the Rolling Stones, more of a corporation focused on perpetuating itself than a creative force.

There was the ubiquitous television ad (for which they were not paid) in which "Vertigo," the first single from "Atomic Bomb," was turned into a commercial for Apple's portable music device, the iPod. There were the unusually conservative albums, evidence that the band had run out of ideas or the will to challenge itself and its audience. There was the live appearance at the Super Bowl halftime in February 2002, the type of marketing opportunity that presented even the most idealistic brand of rock as just another product.

It was these criticisms that prompted Bono's Lake Shore Drive call. A day after that conversation, I attended the first concert in U2's four-night sold-out run at the United Center. My review focused on the tired set list. U2 played some new songs early in the two-hour performance, but instead of building a case for the new album and possibly redeeming it, the quartet reserved all the big-bang moments for its greatest hits, songs that had been in the set list for a decade or more. They sounded more than ever like the bands they once arose to replace, the dinosaur acts of the '60s.

All of this is part of what should be the relationship among the artist, the critic and even the audience, which at the United Center was wildly cheering (as they always do) every note. Critics, on the other hand, are not cheerleaders. They are paid to honestly and passionately react to what the artist does -- for better or worse. When it's the latter, audiences are often more vocal in their defense than the artists. But Bono was different.

After the review appeared in the Tribune, Bono invited me to attend another show. Later, he would acknowledge that my review of the first concert wasn't off base. "We weren't at our best," he said. When I attended the final show of the four-night stand, the song deck had been shuffled, and the band grew more daring. A new song that wasn't in the first night's set, "Original of the Species," was a highlight. It's a soul ballad with a melody so suggestive that it compelled me to go back and hear what I had missed the first time on the "Atomic Bomb" album. If not a return to the old boldness, the performance certainly made me aware of something that I had missed about the album several months before: the classic beauty of some of the less-immediate songs.

The next morning, Bono and I met at a corner table in a swanky restaurant overlooking Michigan Avenue. "Stick 'em up," he rasped as he approached from behind, finger on an imaginary trigger pressing into my left kidney. It was 9 a.m., and the previous night's concert had left the unshaven singer a touch hoarse. But he was in a spry mood and claimed to do all his best work before noon. "I sometimes wish we could play our concerts right after I wake up," he said, peering out from behind his tinted wraparound glasses after ordering a breakfast of poached eggs and toast. The ire in his voice of the previous week had softened to a contentious but melodious brogue.

"Larry [Mullen, the band's drummer] is going to kill me for doing this," Bono said. "But I want this on the record. Some of what is going around as a result of your article is not just unhelpful to our group and our relationship to our audience, but just really problematic for what in the broad sense you might call rock music. The things you think are wrong with it, and the things that I think are wrong with rock music, are polar opposite. Your vision of rock and mine are 180 degrees apart. And that's why I need to talk to you."

A portion of that 90-minute conversation, edited for length, clarity and language, follows.

KOT: You're an important band for my generation. A band that led by example: This is how to do it, how to be a successful band without compromising your principles. But when the ticket sale went wrong this year, I got hundreds of e-mails from fans who felt you had let them down, that their loyalty was betrayed.

BONO: Everybody in this band knows about that debacle, and regrets it, and we've taken steps to prevent it from happening again. I think most fans understand what happened. Our eyes were not on that ball the way they normally would be. Our eyes were on trying to determine whether we would be going on tour at all. There are things that we can't discuss in the interview that were going on within the band that just took precedence. Most U2 fans knew what that was [serious health problems in the family of a band member]. I thought it was really disingenuous of them and you not to recognize that this is not normal behavior from this band. Complain, yeah. Something did go wrong. That was a mistake, and we tried to put it right.

KOT: The first I heard about the internal problems in the band was when Larry apologized about it at the Grammys. Before the article was published, I tried for three weeks to get information from the band, to interview you. Yes, this was not normal behavior from U2. Instead, you steer me to the record company president and the tour promoter. You let these business guys answer for you.

BONO: I'm really sorry about that. It's our fault that didn't happen. But it's done, and we've taken care of it.

KOT: The ticket sale to me was just the tip of a larger issue, which is: Is the band losing sight of what it once was? The iPod ad, the Super Bowl halftime appearance, the Grammy Awards appearances -- I didn't think U2 was about that sort of promotion.

BONO: That's a really important point that I want to get across to you. There's this poverty of ambition, in terms of what rock people will do to promote their work. That's a critical issue to me. The excitement of punk rock, in the Irish and UK scene when we were coming up, was seeing our favorite band on "Top of the Pops," right next to the "enemy." That would be exciting. We did talk shows, TV shows, back then. The great moments of rock 'n' roll were never off in some corner of the music world, in a self-constructed ghetto. I don't like that kind of thinking. I know some of it exists, and some of our best friends are part of it. It's not for me. Progressive rock was the enemy in 1976. And it still is. And it has many, many faces. This beast is lurking everywhere. It can describe itself as indie rock. It's the same [blanking] thing. It's misery. I have seen so many great minds struck down by it. . . . When you suggest we're betraying ourselves by doing TV shows and promotional stuff, to me the Super Bowl was our Ed Sullivan moment. It just came 25 years later. I didn't expect it. But it is one of the moments I'm most proud of in my life.

KOT: Why is the idea of associating a song with a product a good idea?

BONO: I accept that that is alarming. I really do. Our being on TV, I don't have a problem with that -- we should be on TV. But OK, associating our music with a product. You've got to deal with the devil. Let's have a look. The devil here is a bunch of creative minds, more creative than a lot of people in rock bands. The lead singer is Steve Jobs. These men have helped design the most beautiful object art in music culture since the electric guitar. That's the iPod. The job of art is to chase ugliness away. Everywhere we look we see ugly cars, ugly buildings . . . [he pauses, and looks out the window at the Chicago skyline]. . . . You're lucky here in Chicago on that front. But you see ugly objects in the workplace. Everywhere. And these people are making beautiful objects. Selling out is doing something you don't really want to do for money. That's what selling out is. We asked to be in the ad. We could see where rock music is, fighting for relevance next to hip-hop. And I love hip-hop. It's the new black entrepreneur. It's about being out there, loud and proud about what you're doing. Selling it on the street corner if you have to. From pent-house to pavement. Advertising the new song in another song. Taking on the world. Meanwhile, a bunch of white, middle-class kids are practicing in Daddy's garage, saying [adopts fake Midwestern whine], "No, man, that is just so un-cool." As hard as it is, as ghetto as it is, hip-hop is pop music. It's the sound of music getting out of the ghetto, while rock is looking for a ghetto. We never wanted to be a garage band. We wanted to get as quick as we could out of the garage. The people who say they like the garage usually have two or three cars parked outside. Rock music is niche. We want people who aren't in our niche listening to our music. If you pour your life into songs, you want them to be heard. It's a desire to communicate. A deep desire to communicate inspires songwriting. Rock music was most exciting when it was in the 45 [rpm single], when it was disciplined into a single. Whether it was the Sex Pistols, Clash, Buzzcocks, Nirvana, the Beatles, the Stones. The 45 is the pure rock to me. That is why I wanted to be in a band.

KOT: I understand that, but I've seen some of my favorite songs corrupted because of that attitude. [Iggy Pop's] "Lust for Life" is now a Jamaican vacation commercial. I don't know if I want to listen to that song anymore.

BONO: If I love the song, I love the song. We looked at the iPod commercial as a rock video. We chose the director. We thought, how are we going to get our single off in the days when rock music is niche? When it's unlikely to get a three-minute punk-rock song on top of the radio? So we piggybacked this phenomenon to get ourselves to a new, younger audience, and we succeeded. And it's exciting. I'm proud of the commercial, I'm proud of the association. We have turned down enormous sums of money to put our songs in a commercial, where we felt, to your point, where it might change the way people appreciated the song. We were offered $23 million for just the music to "Where the Streets Have No Name." We thought we could do a lot of good with that money. Give it away. But if a show is a little off, and there's a hole, that's the one song we can guarantee that God will walk through the room as soon as we play it. So the idea that when we played it, people would go, "That's the 'such-and-such' commercial," we couldn't live with it. Had it been a cool thing, or didn't have a bad association, or it was a different song, we might've done it. But we have to start thinking about new ways of getting our songs across, of communicating in this new world, with so many channels, with rock music becoming a niche. I hear so many songwriters describe their songs as their children, that they have to look after them. [Nonsense!] They're your parents, they tell you what to do. They tell you how to dress, how to behave when you're playing them. They tell you what the video looks like. If you listen to them, they manage you. And if you get it right, they pay for your retirement [laughs]. Because songs demand to be heard. "Vertigo," which you didn't like, is deceptively simple. That riff, you can think, "Aw yeah, another rock song." It doesn't become great the first time you hear it. It becomes great the thousandth time you hear it. And that's true of a lot of rock riffs. So we have to get the density of exposure for that to be a hit.

KOT: You told me the other day that U2 had "Kid A'd" itself to death [a reference to Radiohead's 2000 progressive-rock album "Kid A"]. It was a funny line, but I'm disappointed to hear that.

BONO: I want to hear Radiohead, extraordinary band that they are, on MTV. I want them setting fire to the imaginations of 16-, 15-, 14-year-old kids. I was 14 when John Lennon set fire to my imagination. At that age, you're just [angry], and your moods swing, and it's an incredible time to be hit with something like that. Our last two albums are essentially about the combo. We used the limitations of the combo. We had 10 years of experimentation. We decided to rope it in, and tie ourselves to only one thing. And that's the only discipline. Is it a great song? Is it fresh? Experimenting in rock is at its best when you dream from the perimeters and bring it back to the center. All my favorite innovators disappear into the woods and bring something back, and you get to hear the songs distilled from those experiments. I used "Kid A" as an example, because I love the album. We did our "Zooropa," we did our "Passengers," even our "Pop" experiment. There were great ideas on that album, but we didn't have the discipline to screw the thing down and turn them into magic pop songs. We'd become progressive rock! Ahhh!

KOT: You're killing me now. I thought those '90s albums were great. I didn't understand "Achtung Baby" right away. But after seeing the tour, I realized it was your best album. I still feel that way. And I loved "Zooropa" in that way, and "Pas-sengers." I even liked "Pop." To me, you guys were showing us how it should be done. You were [screwing] with our heads and making great music. You were doing those weird ballads from "Pop" as an encore at Soldier Field [in 1997]. I loved that you were so far out on a limb with saw in hand, and you were trying things, pushing things. And now you never play songs from those albums anymore. What happened?

BONO: We have ideas that we want to communicate [in a concert], not just a bunch of songs. If we get it right, it feels like one song. What band at our level would play 10 songs, seven from the new album and three from our first album? The reason we do that is because this album and our first album have very similar themes. The first is an ode to innocence, as it's being held onto. The latest is an ode to innocence, as it's been remembered, with the thought that you can get back to it. There's nothing in U2's catalog that sounds remotely like "Vertigo." It's completely fresh. "Ver-tigo" is actually quite a gem, contrary to what you say, and it's very new. For the second half of the show, we take on this notion of the journey of equality. This is our generation's challenge. So we thought about using flags as a backdrop during "Where the Streets Have No Name." I remember singing it the first night: It's not a very good lyric, but it has really great ideas suggested in the lyric, the idea that you could go on a journey to that other place. That lyric was written in a dusty field in northern Ethiopia, and I can finally make sense of it because of what we're talking about in this show. And then we go into "One," and we could do a new arrangement of "One" as you might want us to, but you see, I'm only one member of this band, and Edge is three. And if he thinks an arrangement is perfect, why mess with it? He says, "I'm not jamming here. That's a guitar melody. I've written it. I can't improve on it." Adam and I are the jazz men in the band. But the Teutonic Larry Mullen and the Presbyterian Edge always demand, "No fat. Back to the original arrangement. We're not going to change the bass line just because we feel like it."

KOT: It helped when you put "Original of the Species" in the set last night. It made me want to hear what I missed on the re-cord. That's what was lacking in the first show [at the United Center].

BONO: It's a classic, especially on the album. We have to figure out how are we going to get that song on MTV. Those songs do not come around easy. The melodies of most songs are A-B, A-B, and this is A-B-C-D. The construction of it is unique. And I want you to want us to have that song out on the radio. Because it's about other bands [who value songwriting] coming through. It's not just us. Rap-metal nearly put the white race in jeopardy [as a creative force]. It's a travesty. Those [rap-metal] people should just take suicide pills and go away. What we have to offer, if we're lucky, are lyrics, some interesting arrangements and beautiful melody. That's what rock music can do right now. To be relevant, to set the imagination off on a new generation coming up. Songs that up the ante.

KOT: It sounds like "Pop" didn't work for you because it didn't sell. To my mind, it worked because it was a good, daring album. There's no shame in not selling.

BONO: It didn't communicate the way it was intended to. It was supposed to change the mood of that summer [1997]. An album changes the mood of a summer when you walk out of a pub and you have those songs in your head. And you hear them coming from a car, an open window. It changes the mood of the season. Instead it became a niche record. And I know you're a man who appreciates the niche. And I'm glad you appreciate that one, but that's not what it was intended to be. It's not about sales; we don't need the cash. It's about your ambition for the song. With "Pop," I always think if we'd just had another month, we could have finished it. But we did a really bad thing. We let the manager book the tour, known in this camp as the worst decision U2 ever made, and we had to wrap up the album sooner than we wanted. You don't need an album to communicate for you to enjoy it, you don't need it to be trimmed of fat to enjoy it, because you're enjoying the ideas, the textures. But for me to enjoy it, I need it to do that [communicate on a wider level].

KOT: The last two albums look back. With "All That You Can't Leave Behind," I thought you made your retro record, you'd made your [version of the Stones' 1978 album] "Some Girls," an album that sums up all your best moves in a concise way. You're allowed to make that album, once. Now you've made "All That You Can't Leave Behind," and you're looking back and I think, whoops, you really are turning into the Stones. I expected more; I expected you to break out of that box.

BONO: Hey, there are some amazing songs on [the Stones' 1994 album] "Voodoo Lounge." But what you're missing is that each time [in history] has a mood. You think it's looking back-ward; I think it's looking forward. I think to be in a studio, tied to the four-piece band setup right now is a very modern thing to do. And to use that mystery and power to write songs, we did two records like that. This one goes even further than the last one in that direction. You get beauty like "Original of the Species" that you can play on a piano. Just put piano and voice on that song, and it's special. That's not retreat. That is progressive. That is progress.

KOT: The strength of your band has always been that you build a case for your new music on the road. And it's my job to say when you don't.

BONO: As a writer who cares deeply about music, you're right to give rock bands a kicking when they deserve it. And we have deserved it at times. But you also need to explain to us how rock can progress. And I would like it if writers would step back and look at what we've done . . . [apart from] the codified rules and regulations that are suffocating rock music right now. Great groups were broken up, like the Clash, because of ridiculous concepts like not selling out. It's the cultural revolution in China all over again: Let's rid rock music of thinkers; let's rid rock music of big ideas. I saw it destroy great groups like Echo and the Bunnymen, extraordinary talents who crashed and burned on these things. You tell me about the hundreds of e-mails you got, well I got them with every single turn this band has made. I got them when we made the "War" album. I got them when we made "Joshua Tree." I got them when we made "Achtung Baby." Of course we're going to lose fans along the way who don't like what we're doing. But you need to understand what we're actually trying to do, and that's why we had to have this talk.

KOT: I had to laugh, because at last night's show you said that "some really annoying people are standing up" for what they believe in, "and God bless them." That reminds me of you, including the annoying part.

BONO: [Laughs] Yes, you're right.

KOT: But you do have the courage of your convictions. You don't care what people think of you for having those convictions. You sparked a weeklong debate in this town about music, and what kind of social role it should play, and why people care about it, and why they should care about it.

BONO: We've always annoyed people. Around the time of "Zoo TV," we were in danger of being cool, but we fixed that [laughs]. Now there are loads of people who would love to murder me on a daily basis. Stirring it up, it's good. Our definition of art is putting your head above the parapet, and be ready for the custard pie. I happen to love the taste of it.

- - -

Greg Kot on U2

A look back at the U2 reviews written by Tribune music critic Greg Kot:


May 9, 2005: It appears U2 is falling into the same trap as the Rolling Stones: Charging big money for a stadium show obligates the band to turn into a hits jukebox. But especially in a city such as Chicago, where U2 has been embraced like few other bands, the quartet can afford to take more chances. The promise of U2 has always been big music tied in with conviction, imagination and innovation. Now the band sounds like it believes less in its ability to surprise and dazzle with its new music, and more in the necessity to recycle its past. If that trend continues, U2's avid concern for social justice won't be enough to keep it relevant.


Feb. 13, 2005: In recent years, their business practices have become more suspect, their attention-seeking more transparent, their principles more readily compromised, and their music less challenging.


Nov. 21, 2004: Fans who embrace this album will undoubtedly be comforted by how closely it hews to the band's trademark sound. But U2 carries weight and meaning because it has always challenged its fans as much as embraced them. "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" shrinks from that high standard by offering U2 by the numbers.


Oct. 17, 2001: After the events of Sept. 11, the stakes have been raised for touring rock bands. . . . U2's songs have always addressed the big subjects: war and peace, love and betrayal, sin and faith. And those themes -- once so easy to take for granted only a few months ago -- resonated more deeply than ever for an audience clearly starved for some sort of spiritual sustenance.


Oct. 31, 2000: Still, for all its lack of bold experimentation, "All That You Can't Leave Behind" cuts deeper then any mere rehash of old glories. In reclaiming the indelible, wall-to-wall tunefulness that first won the band a home on commercial radio, the new album recalls the Rolling Stones' last great release, "Some Girls."


June 30, 1997: They needed all the personality they could muster not to become a mere soundtrack for their special effects. . . . The most resonant moments were the most intimate, such as a haunting "If You Wear That Velvet Dress" performed as an atypically hushed encore. . . . Those who came looking to hear only the old U2 missed the beauty of the new as it soared quietly, in the shadow of its own monster.


March 2, 1997: U2 has done its share of falling down. Now they sit off to the side trying to sort out the mess. Their subject is the illusion of instant gratification, the discovery that what they "thought was freedom was just greed," and fittingly they make music that is often slippery and enigmatic.


July 4, 1993: The lack of preciousness about preserving what once was thought of as the group's signature sound is refreshing. In the most convincing manner possible, "Zooropa" has finished the job started by "Achtung Baby!"


March 2, 1992: Once architects of a black-and-white world, the band was now feeling and stumbling its way toward some new, undetermined destination with exhilarating force.


Nov. 17, 1991: Although no one will mistake it for the latest Nirvana release, "Achtung Baby!" -- from its fanciful title on down -- shows the band in a grittier light: disrupting, rather than fulfilling, expectations.

Copyright © 2005 Chicago Tribune. All rights reserved.


First I want to say that HTDAAB has brought back for this fan a wave of the primal joy I felt on discovering U2 in the mid eighties, circa Unforgettable Fire.

When our critic friend chastises U2 because HTDAAB harkens back to the eighties, I think he misses several points.

U2 has clearly returned to something simpler and purer but more grounded, matured, that is reflecting in an update of an older U2 sound - a sound that had a lot of greatness and had lots more to say.

What happened in the nineties could not sustain in that form, which Pop proves in spades. It is interesting, pretty nifty - all those beats, but self-involved - clearly reflecting a certain moment in their lives. Specifically, it lacks transcendence, which is, in fact, the heart of U2. Pop assesses the worldly situation and in a rather languid spirit.

HTDAAB is bookended by two songs of praise and prayer - Vertigo and Yahweh. The calling out, the reaching and the feeling of spirit has returned. (I'm not a Christian by any means and don't think this has anything to do with it. It is gnostic in character, it is spirituality, the spiritual calling out of the human heart under whatever flag.)

There is so much great and high energy throughout this album. To measure U2 according to whether the music is innovative according to God knows what parameters indicates a lack of insight regarding U2. I don't know how they could have made a better album and I for one am really happy to be back with both feet.

When I wrote my post I hadn't read the interview. It was gratifying to see that most of the notions I expressed are closely reflected in Bono's words.

"HTDAAB...u2 by the numbers..."
What a crock!
Thank you Bono for such a rich and detailed explanation of where U2 are right now. The tension leads to the best U2 interview of the year.

I agree with the reviewer more than bono.

bono is trying to achieve joy through his music. The problem is, joy is more powerful if it's juxtapose next to angst, melancholy and ambivalence. Which is what made joshua and achtung great.

When you start off with a cheap pop tune like vertigo and try to swing with a request for a miracle drug, it just doesn't work.

Sometimes is a classy song, and by itself it works.

Yah weh, city of blinding lights, all because of you are the joy tunes. Fine, but where's my angst and ambivalence? In those three songs I hear peaceful boring objection.

Crumbs from your table is no comparison to so cruel, acrobat, or Running to stand still.

When you start off in a band, pop simple tunes is about all you can do. As you age your music is supposed to get richer and complex. The reviewer is correct in stating that you can go back once in a while, such as with atyclb, but two in a row?

It is a pattern with U2 though, the themes they use are heard on two consecutive albums. Afterwards they finally try something different.

What u2 needs to do:
1) borrow like the beatles did.
2) stop recording in comfy hanover quay. Something is added when they record in berlin, in the us, or in castles. Try somewhere crazy like Japan or South Africa.
3) Instead of writing songs from the perspective of old white doods, write songs as if they were the victims of their causes.
4) Stop suckling the teet of Pres. Bush. and challenge his message. He did it against Paul martin. Stop pussying around with the US.
5) Listen to the later work of bach mozart chopin. Music get's more layered and complex. Not dumbed down as they progress.
6) Get rid of Hamish. His video's change camera's far too much. It's like watching a strobe light. Take a cue from scorcesse and the last waltz. What made it great was the camera doesn't annoy the audience. We forget there's a camera in the last waltz. When hamish directs it's impossible to ignore the camera.

It took a while for me to write this because I didn't want to write a novel. So here it is:

I've been a U2 fan since the prime age of 10 years old when my older cousin introduced me to the Joshua Tree. Now I'm 28 years old and U2 is still my favorite band. Bottom line, whether the songs touch the fans or pisses them off, all it comes down to is how Bono, The Edge, Adam and Larry feel about their music inside themselves. When the passion is there, the TRUE fans will be there. The critics can KMA. Great Interview Bono!

I agree with Bono that "Vertigo" was one of those songs that grows on you. I didn't know what to think the first time I heard it, now I crank the stereo up every time it comes on. But whether you love the album or hate it, it doesn't matter because the legends still live on. They just stirred things up the way they wanted to. Makes me laugh at those who are criticizing them because that's exactly what they wanted... controversy.

I applaud and respect U2 for not being greedy by not accepting money for the iPod ad. I don't know anyone who would turn that kind of money down.

God Bless You Boys! You've made a HUGE impression on the world...KEEP STIRRING IT UP!!

Wow! I didn't realize that "bloc" was a great manager or rock star. Tell you what... when you are as successfull as U2, then you can tell them how to run their band... until then get a life.

Who are you to tell someone how to acheive joy through their own music? Or try to compare songs off this album (such as Crumbs)with earlier songs which obviously came from a different mindset. There is no comparison between Acrobat (a dedication to Delmore Schwartz), So Cruel (a song about losing a love by betrayal), Running to Stand Still (about watching the decline and tragedy of a couple hooked on heroin) and Crumbs From Your Table (about being deceived into love and wanting more, wanting to believe in that person, but realising the lie). If anything, Bad and Running are the most similar.

You say that Bono should challenge Bush? Why don't you actually listen to the Lyric in Crumbs From Your Table. ... It's U2 reaching out to the US for assistance to fight AIDS and Poverty in 3rd world countries and the US's pledge of billions of dollars, then renigging on that pledge and Billions of people are still "waiting on the crumbs from GW's table".

I, for one, am able to connect with this album on a level that I wasn't able to with ATYCLB. There are several songs on this album that have relevance to what is going on in my life and the lives of those around me. And I have to thank Bono for giving these songs a voice. A songwriter once said "the songs already exist, you just have to listen". I thank U2 for listening!

Greg Kot - 1
Bono - 0

I love Bono's quote about the Edge being 3 parts of the band! Its really true, the music is what does it for me. I agree with vejeestu above when he mentions " is more powerful if it's juxtapose next to angst, melancholy and ambivalence. Which is what made joshua and achtung great."

I agree completely with that statement. There is something authentic about the lyrics and the emotion when you put it along side the ugly side of things. But Bono now writes songs about stupid things and has lost his relevance.

Good stuff.

Still, I like that joy, I like when that guitar rings and the voice soars. Personally, I don't need it to be more then that. There is a lot of heart in it. But your musical points are well taken just the same.

Pulling political punches in a divided post-911 America may be circumspect, given a number of considerations, including Bono's political/humanitarian activity. Wading in there could invite an unwanted backlash. The songs speak for themselves. Those who have ears, let them hear.

Canada is an entirely different environment in this regard, yet even that invited some crowd reaction and over-stated press reports about all the booing, (which was really not much at all, a few loud ones).

Enjoyed your perspective and could appreciate many points.

Reminder: format of this BB has the author's comments after the post:)

Ariolan, I'm glad you appreciate this album and how it affects your life. I can equally state that this last album, although good, doesn't have the same impact on my life.

We all agree that U2 is one of the greatest bands ever. It doesn't mean they are infaliable from now till the end of time. I will rate each album by the time I keep it on my mp3 rotation. Achtung was listened to for a good 4 years followed by a couple of listens a year, every year from 97 till now.

This last album was in my rotation for 3-5 months, taken off. Live stuff was bootlegged, so I put it back on. And now after the concert it's off again.

Now we can't compare one another devotion to U2 as it's subjective. Do I want to love this album, YES! But I just can't keep it in my rotation and by that measure, it's not as good as would like it to be. I've chatted with many u2/non-u2 fans and they've done the same thing with this album.

What deserves more attention than U2 htdaab? The Killer's - Hot Fuss. The first five songs are stellar and trumps all of U2's htdaab songs except for 2 or so. Anyways I'll let history decide...

well said vejeestu, ariolan, & anne.
only thing i'll add is that while the contrast of joy & angst etc. do further highlight those themes, pure musical & emotion, connection & release can be powerful in themselves and in this case, i don't feel the latest tour & album as irrelevant fluff.

If there is anything that has bugged me about this album and this tour its the fans understanding of what U2 is right now. Lets get something out of the way U2 will never write another Joshua Tree or Actung Baby again. So stop comparing and saying well its no Actung Baby of Joshua Tree. Those are great albums but U2 does not want to travel back in time. So stop this comparrison. First off I think How to Dismantle an Atomic bomb is U2's first real rock album since Actung but its unique in its own way. It has joy panic and riffomania. No band in their mid 40's are writing albums like this. They are writing albums with ochestras and ten back up singers. So whats the problem? This is a rock record not a pop record. I am sure U2 is used to this by now cause I am guessing these fans had the same problem with pop and Zooropa. But this is U2's sound and I like it. I am 21 years old and have loved U2 since I was 13. Bomb is a great album since it describes the mood of the times. Vertigo is one of the most exciting U2 songs in years. And I have no problem listening to it on my U2 IPOD at the gym. Famouse line from Bono F%ck the past kiss the future. If u have problem with this record u will have a problem with everyone after

Being a faithful U2 fan regardless of what U2 release is rather sheepish. Expecting that same dedication from other people is ignorant.

Those that don't like this last album still think u2 are a great group of guys and music legends. We'll go to their concert and continue to give them a chance with every release. Plus it's not like we haven't tried to like the band. Putting htdaab in your rotation and listening to every song 50+ times is enough effort by anyone.

What it comes down to is personal opinion. It doesn't make us any less u2 fans by diapproving the album.

When we reference Joshua/Achtung we aren't saying future music should be similar. We are instead suggesting we want future albums to be be liked as much between u2 fans as those two. I don't feel that concensus with htdaab. Again back to personal opinion, it's a solid album, but it doesn't have the legs of other albums. Album sales, reviews, and chatter are inline with this statement.

Glad you like this last album. Hope we can agree on the next U2 album.

Actually Atomic Bomb got great reviews by Q magazine rolling stone ,Blender and Spin. I think this album has the legs. I hope this album and the songs on it are played for years to come. But this album has sold an estimated 9 million according to Billboard magazine. So Bomb is a healthy selling album like it or not. But as u said not everyone will agree on it being great. Ppl think All That u can't leave behind was an album that was like the Joshua Tree and was up there or the Unforgetable Fire being the first true U2 album. But I think only certain ppl have ripped this tour and album apart. In one concert review a person said Why didn't Bono have a white blag why does not Adam have an Afro? It seems some old U2 fans have woken up when this band has been putting out the best work. How to Dimantle an Atomic Bomb is new music that I think some U2 fans can't handle but thats cool they couldn't handle it on Zooropa even. There are tracks on there that surprise me how a band in their 40's could write. Love And Peace or Else what an amazing sound. I am not expecting the same dedication from other ppl but this bands record has amazing dedication and its not an effort to listen to it, it feels right to listen to it. It reflects my moods and everything. This album has angst it has panic it has joy but have ppl forgot this is about a mans father dying!? How joyful is that. That is not joy that is sadness that is sorrow. Joshua Tree is a great record Actung Baby one of my favorites. But this album was unpredictable. I mean Bono singing spanish who thought it.

i love "how to dismantle an atomic bomb and i cant believe that people hate it that much. they say " if you were a real fan you wouldnt like it either if you were a real fan then you would think that they should go back to their old stuff" well i think that everything theyre doing now is great (except for them playing mostly hits at there concerts) i mean if vertigo wasnt on vh1 or the ipon commercial, i never would have gotten into u2 and there music. that song made me remember the first time i had ever heard a u2 song. it was sunday bloody sunday. that was the first time a song actually made me cry. i love that song and i will always hold a special place for it oin my heart. like i said earlier if vertigo werent on the ipod commercial or vh1 i never would have heard it or i never would have bought the cd and go online and listen to there other songs and be the #1 fan i am today. i even want to be a roady for them when i get a job. all becuase of that 30 second ipod commercial

the reviewer hit the nail on the head. I'm glad to read that someone told Bono like it is. I'm ashamed of the last two albums and greatest hits 90 - 2000. it was a terrible hits cd, electrical storm. as a musician who thought of u2's musical invention like the beatles. U2 should have disbanded after pop. u2 have been the soundtrack to the Bush years and i don't mean that as a compliment. Vertigo is piece of garbage compared to the native son take. every time a u2 song reaches the middle section, now edge and the boys are all to happy to throw in the slow winey part, elevation, vertigo, beautiful day, gone ...
it's so predictable. Zooropa wasn't predictable.
Let U2 know. They've listened to critics since pop. They listened to the overpraise of all you can't ... and we got how to dismantle... because they believed their own hype. I've seen them live 9 times or $1000 out of my pockets, which is how this disillusioned fans sees it now. I won't stand by and applaude crap. Bono said they would break up when they became crap. so do it already and no more ipod commercialism.

you can't compare so cruel and running to stand still to the new songs, because the new songs SUCK. What does vertigo have to do with anything. It's stupid. I used to get off on mofo, numb, god part 2, zoo staion, they don't have the bite they once did. I'm sorry, i really am. Now about this ipod money deal, don't think they didn't make money off those $400 gimmicks.
Bono is becoming more and more like a politician all the time. some of us can smell horseshit ok.
bono should change his name to Dumo after he gets the $15 billion his good buddy promised Bush promised to Africa. maybe he can start calling the white house again. Now he knows whose ass to kiss. FAKE

i don't u2 to go backwards. i love achtung and zooropa still. i don't want them to repeat the past, i want sounds of the future. HTDAAB doesn't sound fresh, they can do better. Whats next greatest hits 2000- 2005 with crappy disco "rarities" everyones got already, sound familiar. how about 2 live dvds from the same tour. oops they did that too. how about the 7 album from target or million dollar hotel. top notch stuff. how many stinkers in a row is that?
i am passionate about this, i'm not a bandwagon fan like alot of 911(walk on)crowd. They gave up creatively after pop and soldiered on foe money and grammies. the grammies were underserved for that album of old man songs in 2000. i used to get excited when a new u2 song came on, now they think tearjerkers are the way to of the future huh. fans should stand up and tell their heroes to call Eno or flood boys. now watch them become aerosmith.

a hurt fan

remember led zeps in thru the out door, or beatles let it be ,or even kiss' the elder?
all terrible albums by their standards. I know kiss sucks anyway but they did have a string of big rock albums til then. the musical journey is over Larry. the band has no balls now. Why a coward album of Bush odes. thats who they're playing too. what does vertigo mean besides double vision, it's certainly not a place Dumo.
please save some dignity and retire before you become the eagles or aerosmith.

do you think George Bush listened to crumbs...?
criticize him in the press, stage rallies(Lennon anyone). don't try to defend u2 cashing in one last time. do you think the last 2 albums rocked?

the new record is pointless drivel and makes me want to kill myself. it should be like all those satanic records in the eighties that drove kids to suicide only this would put them over the edge because it is so boring and lame,not to mention taking up way to much space on the shelves at record stores. Please stop making records guys to redeem yourselves to the true fans whom you care nothing about. And please stop believing these magazine articles saying the new record is good. please just give it up.Thank God for ryan adams new record to get us through this stagnant era. WE all had hope for you"DONO" but alas you have failed. PLease retire or worship satan or overdose, anything to wash that awful taste out of our mouths called HOw to dismantle a once great band

The thing that makes me connect with what u2 are so much is the absolute unashamed comunication of the convictions they have - something so uncool as a real faith in a Higher power makes it all the cooler to me . it doesnt make them infalible in fact thats the whole point of the God thing that i think U2 seem to have a handle on. Its like they're stripping down the bad PR job that religion did to God and trying to let people know what they're finding - to me thats what U2 albums are about from boy to atomic bomb . its just one journey . Thanks for havin the balls U2 .

did we see God on the pop-mart tour or was it the acid? perhaps we felt love on the elavation tour or was it the crystal meth? were we still young enough to believe our favorite band had some validity? maybe we should ask some of the people praising htdaab how they really FEEL about the album and not how they are SUPPOSED to feel. could it possible for these same people to list five other albums they are currently listening to,so we can get some idea as to what they deem cool or is that going to expose them? i'm glad i am not alone in my opinions and appreciate this site for allowing them. thank you Greg Kot for getting under BONO's skin enough to rattle him and call you,instead of the obseqious media he has gotten so comfortable with. after all isn't this the band that always went against the media darling image? i'm surprised BONO didn't send LARRY to do his bidding. makes you wonder.

I just want to say that Kot needs to look at what he's saying in a bigger picture. If you read carfully in his past articles, they contradict themselves left and right. First of all, in his pop review, it clearly states that he looks at pop as a failure, when in his interview with bono, he looks at it as a musical success. Secondly, although he says that he treasures U2 as a band, he talks as if the only album he actually likes is Actchung Baby. Overall, Kot is really just trying to pick apart U2 and Bono in any way he can. There will always be critics that are unhappy, but Kot is really just looking to create problems for U2. As it seems, he really isn't a fan. Finally, I don't find any of his arguments convincing, considering the fact that he clearly stated that he "missed some tracks on HTDAAB." How can he criticize an album he hasn't even listened to.

Something else i want to say after reading all of these reviews- To all of you HTDAAB haters: You all want another Actung, or Joshua Tree, well it's not going to happen, and if it did, all of you would say it sucked because it sounded like the old albums. I realize that you are entitled to your own opinion and don't have to like the album, but thnik about this: Do you even think that something like those albums is possible? Not in this day and age. Those two albums would have been complete flops today, regardless of what you think. I know that this album is one of the best. If and when the next comes out, I can guaruntee it won't sound like anthing that U2's made before. It never has.

Just want to get this in here, POP was actually one of u2's most intresting albums, with some really great tracks on. Mofo, staring at the sun plus many more. Problem is, some people just didnt like the change, and I thought it was a great move at Britpops peak. The new album gets played in my house all the time, and Vertigo is as fine as rock gets. All that you cant leave behind, however I thought was one of the weaker albums, with only the first four or five tracks being stand outs. Dont complain to much, youll miss em when they are gone!

i dunno how you can say a song sucks. every song has its own unique qualities, albeit some more than others. whoever it was that said 'what does vertigo have to do with anything': have u listened to the song?!?! 'lights go down', 'the jungle is your head', 'night is full of holes'... the confusion of a modern world, fast pace living. all he can focus on is the 'girl with crimson nails, Jesus round her neck'. Jesus seems to be the only true, pure thing left. Miracle drug is about the future, especially of medicine, and hope for the future, as Bono said at the Glasgow concert.
even I, an obsessed U2 fan will agree that i don't like pop as much as the joshua tree, which has to be the most perfect, complete album of all time. but just because someone still likes a band after some less successfull releases doesn't make them sheepish or naive. they just like the band and their music.
personally, i love htdaab, partly because it is the only U2 album to be released since i became a fan a couple of years back, but also because it does deal with so many issues. i've already briefly gone into vartigo and miracle drug, sometimes is obviously about the death of his father and the regrets he has, crumbs from your table is about starvation and poverty in africa, yahweh for those who know nothing of religion is the traditional sacred Jewish name for God... and i could go on but i won't because seriously who is actually going to read all of this? i just needed 2 get out my anger at some of these posts.
but the thing that got to me most was when someone said bono should stop messing about with the US and George Bush n was basically stop doing so much for 3rd world countries. as [some random dude whose name i can't remember] said, 'bono fronts causes that frankly need to be fronted'. i agree wholeheartedly with this, there are very few people, famous or not, who can say that they are making that muhc of a difference to the life of millions who are dying of starvation, poverty, malnutrition, malaria, war....
basically, if bono and the rest of U2 aren't facing these issues, they're just another band. even if it is a very good one.

As stated before, U2 will continue to fuck-up mainstream! I LOVE 'EM FOR IT! Those who oppose them simply envy them, and the fans who hate them now, simply could't keep up with U2 and their new innovations. Don't hate what you don't understand! I'd rather jam out to U2 than any of those metrosexual/emo shit-bands running on MTV&FuseTV.

move over u2, pink floyd is back to reclaim biggest band in the world, even if just for one day.

If I could ever explain the intellectual chemistry behind this band the conversation would continue on forever. U2 is a life changing explosion that can inspire a lost soul and give stength to the believer.
God Bless U2 for bringing God into so many homes and making the light real.

Vera from Barcelona after the concert:

I have been an U2 fan since I was 14. Maybe HTDATB is just a 'good' album if you campare it to others, but I have to say that lyrics about poverty, AIDS, politicians and their message of peace are just brilliant!!

What surprise me is that some fans hate U2. Why? Just don't hear their music. I am sure that if after a new album I don't recognise U2 in their songs won't listen this album anymore. By now I do, so I enjoy them.
Anyway you can listen the old albums and have joy with them!

The issue is that we want them to play what we have dreamt. It is ridiculous, they are the band, we are the public. Just by the album or leave it!

while u2 may be "selling out" by going to the superbowl or having a commercial, they're also making themselves known again to younger people and getting new fans. i first started loving them when i heard them on saturday night live. if they want newer fans, they have to appear. plus for new fans going to their concerts, its great to hear their originals or 1st songs. its like a drem.

First I'd like to say that I've been a U2 fan since "Pop", I've attended one show from Pop-Mart, Elevation tours and two from the Vertigo tour, and have all their albums. Secondly I'd like to ask those reading this to be patient in getting to the end of my comments. Being in graduate school has this strage effect of almost causing one to writing more in order to say less, so your patientance is appreciated (LOL!!)
Coming back to the topic at hand, having come on the U2 "bandwagon" with "Pop" I feel very attached to that album, but personal feelings aside I feel it is their most underrated album ever(even if it is "unfinished"), and that the majority of the US audience missed the boat on "Pop" and Pop-Mart-in terms of artistic appreciation-mainly due to thier unwillingness to see that album and tour as part of the band's artistic evolution, and how that evolution tied into their overall artistic vision. As Bill Flanagan said in the Pop-Mart Tour Programme, "They were doing what they always did, facing their personal contradictions head on and holding up a mirror to the rest of us, to how we've changed and how we've stayed the same-and maybe pointing to some new ideas worth exploring."

This "pointing towards new ideas" is what I've always admired about them-artistically speaking. In their ability to stay true to their artistic vision; regardless if the fans or the critics agree, or disagree, with the direction that vision has taken with each subsequent album and tour. It is this vision that has fueled (and will continue to ignite) their aristic imaginations as well our own as fans/critics.

Coming back to the topic at hand,initally I wasn't blown away by "Vertigo" or HTDAAB. As I listened to it more and saw their live show my appreciation for it grew. Now critics often pride themselves on their analysis being divorced from their emotion and fans are often the opposite (as I was after reading Knot's berattment of the show) but I found this interview to be a welcome insight into how art-specifically popular music-is interpreted by the maker and the critiquer.

I disagree slightly with Knot's interpretation of Bono's explanation of U2's 90's albums when he states, "You're killing me now. I thought those '90s albums were great." and that in Knot's opinion, "The last two albums look back. . . I expected more; I expected you to break out of that box."

I see ATYCLB and HTDMAAB as part of a new stage in their artistic evolution. "Pop," for me, had taken U2 as far as they could go with in that particular artistic vein (as had "Rattle and Hum") and the band has-to my knowledge-admitted this much in the music press. People are of course free to state their own opinions, but I feel its important to view U2's albums/tours as part of a larger artistic framework. More importantly I feel that the anticipation for any album or tour has a tremendous influence and impact upon how we react to it, i.e. the hype is always bigger than the reality. I'll post my second half of my comments at a later date.

see ya!!

As for the discussion of music and commerce (or selling out), I do not feel the band sold out with the I-Pod commercial. Where they did sell out was back in 1980 when they signed a record contract, but this whole notion of "selling out" really doesn't hold any water in my opinion.

Why might you ask? Well for one, when they (or any other artist) engages in commecialism by signing a legal contract they become tied to commerce and cease to be completely art in any pure sense of the word, as I'm sure the band would be inclined to agree. Besides, even the Rennisance masters were contracted to paint/sculpt their art, its how one makes a living as an artist, their is no pure seperation between art and commerce. The record industry is no different, it is a business after all and making capital is the bottom line, regardless if you're the record label or the artist, and U2 is no different in that regard.

Where they are different is how they approach the commerce/art relationship, in that they use the commerece to advance their art; or commerce for art's sake and not just commerce for commerce's sake. Judging from music industry reports, it's safe to say they are no slouches at the business side of the music industry, having complete artistic control, ownership of their master tapes and one of the highest royalty rates in the industry; this of course due in large part to their manager, Paul McGuinness.

You could make a good case for them "selling out" if they had taken money for their I-Pod and and their Super Bowl appearance, but to my knowledge they did not take any money for either. Moreover, they were not doing an I-Pod commercial as much as they were doing a U2 I-Pod commercial and there is a stark difference between these two ideas. With the I-Pod commercial they were promoting THEIR music on THEIR I-Pod. They were not simply doing an I-Pod commercial for the sake of doing an I-Pod commercial. Therein, in my opinion, lies the very important distinction between "selling out" and not.

thanks for taking the time to listen to my thoughts.

keep dreaming out loud!

My aunt is a one person missionary doing all she can to help the people of Africa. She has somehow raised travel fare twice to do what little she could to bring awareness to the African plight. She has now engulfed me in her determination to make a difference. We talk on the phone for hours, trying to think of something that would make a difference quick. I believe we have the basis for a great idea, but we need a public figure to make it work. We need you. We need to go to the citizens of the U/S -world for the help we need. We need to ask each and every citizen for !.00. We can set up collection boxes at radio stations, at banks, and at major stores to collect donations and get the money directly to the people of Africa. You can make this work. Please do this. I've collected books and school supplies, but have not yet raised the funds to ship them. My aunt has collected clothes, solicited family and friens for donations and support. My children and co-workers have proven to me that this can work. Let's start a grass root campaign to get the help and attention that this tragedy cries for. We're ready to help.

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on May 23, 2005 2:06 AM.

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