Sorry haters, U2 is cool and punk as shit!
I really don’t understand all the Bono bashing and U2 bashing. (Okay, there’s not a shite-tonne of it, but there’s a-goddamn-‘nough of it that I think it all needs to be addressed.) Sure, U2 is not my favorite band in the world (but close), they’re like The Beatles, Sex Pistols, or Nirvana: if you have any kind of taste at all you really cannot dislike them. And honestly, there was a time when the guys in U2 were actual punks, or mostly so anyways. Yes Bono can come off as self-righteous, but he is mostly being that way in the service of others and his fans. By others I mean the poor and starving and dying. He and Bill Gates have become modern day Robin Hoods. No they don’t steal from the rich, instead they politely ask the uber-rich for money and then give all that uber-cash to the uber-poor. That’s punk! They give their own money to the poor as well, which is a behavior that’s hard to label. And not labeling things is EXTREMELY punk.
Bono has cited Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu as role models for inspiration and guidance. Who do you look to? Sid Vicious?? Sid killed his girlfriend and himself, both accidentally. Bono’s philanthropic endeavors are cited as having directly saved the lives of millions of people. How many lives have you directly saved from starvation and/or disease or from anything else? One? Two? Nine? Probably zero. Or less than zero.
Yes, U2 have put out a few stinker albums, but most of their albums are world-class. Including the first five ones and the seventh. And the stinker or so-so albums would be awesome debut albums from any new band that had nothing to live up to. Bono has the rare combo of having an excellent singing voice, amazing stage presence, AND the ability to write great, meaningful lyrics. Yes, he gets political, but so did The Clash and The Dead Kennedys and nearly every seminal Hardcore band.
U2 often gets bashed for incorporating American musical genres like gospel, blues, and folk into their music. Yet Mumford and Sons and The Black Keys get a pass for the same thing. Why? Neither of those acts has nor will ever make an album as good as The Joshua Tree or Achtung Baby. Or even one as good as War. And this bluegrass-is-the-new-punk-rock thing is going to pass real soon and may be in its denouement.
The critics of U2, once they finished sounding off at the self-righteousness and political nature of U2, then bashed them when they dropped that stuff and released a few absurd, Dada-esque mostly electronica albums. Nuts huh? At the time guys like me (yes I’m that old, thank you) where totally stoked that all those electronica sounds and noises, including the drums, actually came from real analogue instruments played by actual humans achieved by old-school studio magic and not by iPad apps or other software. (Note: apparently iPad guitar processing apps and drum loop apps are the epitome of cool and hip these days, so my dig just now might fall on deaf ears. But those with trained ears will giggle at my little joke.)
People have bashed The Edge as being a lousy guitar player. Clearly none of those people play guitar. Or else they play but think only guys like Yngwie Malmsteen or Trey Anastasio can be considered great guitar players. Shredders and strict pentatonic scale (or pentatonic AND mixolydian, Trey) players are all well and good, but they are not the sole benchmarks of guitar excellence. Actually, excellence isn’t really the yardstick to measure any guitarist by: style, sound/tone, and passion are. Phrasing is often more important that note selection or speed when it comes to guitar. As Flea put it, “music isn’t the Olympics”. (Okay, yes, he’s a bass player, but the bass is a type of guitar and you get the point.) And even Flea was once know for his speed and amount of notes played. No one ever bashed Johnny Ramone for his shortcomings as a guitar player. Instead they give him EXTREME credit for turning his shortcomings into a signature style. Same can be said for The Edge, though he has far fewer shortcomings and is a world-class song writer. But if you insist on solely judging guitar players by their technical virtuosity, then get out your guitar and effects pedals and play me “Where The Streets Have No Name” and have it sound EXACTLY as is does on the album. It’s very hard to do and even The Edge sometimes struggles with it live. Most players don’t even try, they just hear that song and go “nope”.
U2 has found that rare balance between serious and irreverent IMHO. Sure they act like pompous rock stars. But when they do it’s just that, an act. All that “The Fly” and “Pop Mart” stuff is performance art railing against ego and abject consumerism. Which is about as punk as it gets btw.
So if you think Bono and U2 are lame and suck, I beg you to rethink that thought.
Have a nice day!