Thursday, 2 April 2009

The Forgettable Fire...

'You know most guys would
kill to be in you two', Bono
smiles as he contemplates his
own genius.

I hold a certain amount of antipathy for U2. Actually that is unfair, it’s the singer I hate really. When not indulging in self-righteous platitudes from his multi million pound soapbox, Bono (real name Paul Hewson, one regretful plus on his wikipedia page there) is unbelievably still ‘making music’. Everyone knows that the small amount of talent he once possessed (or possessed him?) deserted him in the early nineties, presumably jumping ship and diving desperately into the Irish channel to escape him. More unbelievable is that U2 are still so popular in a supposed age of reason. Would any self-respecting music fan, in 2009, actually stand up and claim to be a fan? Surely not. Anyone outside Ireland that is. Over there, disparaging the great name of U2 is akin to pissing on a priest or setting fire to a nun. I have even heard that in certain parts of County Cork all of the crucifixes wear sunglasses.

It’s not just for his progressively diminishing musicianship that Bono is known. He is of course a celebrated exponent of charity work, promoting awareness of the plight of the third world throughout the first world. Everyone has heard the old adage ‘Give a man a fish and he can feed his family for a day. Teach him how to fish and his family can each afford a copy of the new U2 album’. That was one of his. This sort of charitable behaviour is all very well and good once you are retired and have been put out to graze on the time-rich expanses of the retired rock star farm (See Geldof), but to juggle it with an alter ego of globe trotting contemporary rock star is frankly ridiculous and hypocritical.

I’m sure his PR agency will tell me that he is offsetting the carbon footprint for his tour and air-dropping crates of rice from his jet as he flies over Africa, but that’s not the point. He and the rest of his band still prance around they own the place with their rock and roll facade, and dress it like it too. It’s hard to take seriously a man in a tatty leather jacket and shades when lobbying for aid in the third world. Especially when juxtaposed with Gordon Brown. Perhaps they should swap outfits?

Quite right then, that Bono and co should prove me wrong with a cracking new record. I have heard it, and it is total drivel. When I saw the video for their come back single ‘Get on your boots’, I really did think they were having a laugh; sort of, ‘It’s like comic relief, but just give us your money instead please’. Its main failing is the absence of melody, which is unfortunate. Their newest single, ‘Magnificent’ is also, sadly, not. The U2 publicity engine however, does not seem as rusty as its creators. There have been various stunts in the media to rev up a little interest in the stalling foursome, the most notable of which has been to address the problem behind their 1987 hit Where the Streets Have No Name, by (temporarily) naming an avenue in New York after the band. Last I heard it was closed for roadworks.

I will mention at this point that U2 used to be rather good, until they started running out of ideas and began to look increasingly self-conscious about appearing current and cool. The Joshua Tree remains a brilliant album; the dark brooding guitars and anthemic melodies still sound great today. That they were once capable of such work makes their current efforts all the more embarrassing. They are also responsible for some of the worst album titles of all time. If you are aware of their work, you will be nodding and rolling your eyes with me here. If not, I'll wait while you google them.

The time must surely approaching for U2 to put their guitars down (carefully, mind the back lads) and walk away content at having been amongst the top selling acts in history. Also, the cynic in me is interested to see how fervently Bono pursues the charity stuff when there are no more records to plug. Except a greatest hits of course, and a DVD collection, and maybe a Bono Live 8 doll which talks, revealing how many children in Africa have died of aids since you last punched it in the face. This wish seems hopeful at best, as the last time I saw them on TV (five times this week and counting) they looked like they weren’t going anywhere, except down in everyone’s estimation.

In the meantime then, we can all cross our fingers and hope that our bespectacled friend doesn’t seriously injure himself falling over The Edge, and into a pit of hungry orphans.