Why does U2 suck and what can be done about it?

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sab
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Why does U2 suck and what can be done about it?

Post by sab »

Fact: I could listen to The Joshua Tree every day for the rest of my life -- it's a nearly perfect album. I really like U2 up through Rattle and Hum, after which I ceased to care about them. So I've been listening to a lot of "new" U2, i.e. everything they have released since Zooropa, which I hated then and still do now. And the thing is, it's not good stuff. I can't stand Bono's whiny voice, and the hooks are just not working on me. Is there any hope? Could Rick Rubin straighten them out?
Sugarcubes Forever
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Re: Why does U2 suck and what can be done about it?

Post by Sugarcubes Forever »

sab wrote:Fact: I could listen to The Joshua Tree every day for the rest of my life -- it's a nearly perfect album. I really like U2 up through Rattle and Hum, after which I ceased to care about them. So I've been listening to a lot of "new" U2, i.e. everything they have released since Zooropa, which I hated then and still do now. And the thing is, it's not good stuff. I can't stand Bono's whiny voice, and the hooks are just not working on me. Is there any hope? Could Rick Rubin straighten them out?
Is it even fair to expect an iconic band, one that help define the direction of pop and rock for a generation, to continue to produce music with the same quality and impact as they did in their heyday?

Maybe not. My wife, for instance absolutely loves all the new U2 stuff. She's younger than me and doesn't have a memory of how really big that band was to music in the 80s. U2 for her is Zooropa and The Fly and crap like that. You could argue that they are bigger commercially than they ever were, but I would agree with you that that spark seems mostly gone. Maybe they jumped the shark when they started doing "ride alongs" with the LAPD.

Listening to some other recent releases, though, I honestly think that it IS possible for a decades old band to produce amazing music today. The New Dinosaur Jr. is damn good. My first listen was through the head phones and it sent me on a mental trip that I haven't had with an established band's music in a long long time. I also think the new Sonic Youth is fantastic. Both those bands have been around since the 80s (not unlike U2). Both have been highly influential (if commercially successful like U2). But this year both put out records that they should honestly be proud of.
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Post by Jake »

Sab, you're not even accepting Achtung Baby as a return to form? I don't own that album and haven't listened to it in probably a decade, but I remember it being good.

But the number of artists who can continue to be good/interesting for more than ten years is small enough. When you push it to thirty, there's barely anybody.

Neil Young had 1966 to roughly 1995 (when David Briggs died) of being interesting (if completely inconsistent and unreliable). That's almost 30 years and that's an exception to the rule.

Tom Waits has been pretty interesting for over 30 years now.

U2 was at least worth paying attention to from 1980 through 1993. That's a pretty good 13 year run. But it's probably crazy to expect any band to be good for much longer.

I know it was a different era, but your beloved Who was only great from 1964 to 1973...maybe 78 max. That's 9-14 years.
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Post by D. Phillips »

All That You can't Leave Behind is a good album. Bono's voice sounds better than ever on that album. Give that another listen, Sabu.
sab
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Post by sab »

Sugarcubes: Fair? No. But I do want U2 to stop sucking, hence the "what can be done about it?" in the title.

Jake: Achtung came out after Rattle and Hum, but before Zooropa. That's the album that delineates good U2 from bad in my mind. It is neither and/or both.

Phil: Not impressed with that album any more than the rest of their more recent work. Like much of the crap they peddle these days, it's full of whiny songs with too much synth, overproduction, and it just doesn't rock.

I still wonder whether a Rick Rubin-esque unplugged session might help. Or make them do an album without ProTools. It's got to be something like that.
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Post by Jake »

Maybe they just lost the "fire." Perhaps the fire was forgettable after all.
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Post by worpswede »

sab wrote:I still wonder whether a Rick Rubin-esque unplugged session might help. Or make them do an album without ProTools. It's got to be something like that.
To be honest, I used to think that Rubin was the bees knees. Now, I wonder if he's a bit overrated-although I can't deny that he is able to shake off the cobwebs off of artists that need a good housecleaning. What is it about this dude that resonates with artists? As far as I can tell, he doesn't do much of anything in the studio anymore-he justs tells them to listen to Led Zeppelin III and make an album like that or tells them to listen to one of their previously released albums (like telling Metallica to make Master Of Puppets again for Death Magnetic. And then he tells the engineer to mix the entire thing dry while whittling out the shitty songs from the good ones. I've got to believe that anyone with any passion in music and anyone with a long standing affection to the artist could do the same thing. So why does it take a guy like Rubin for them to actually listen? Is it his beard?
The moment I began to question what exactly Rubin does is when I had a conversation with Dave Sardy. Sardy produced/engineered a bunch of Slayer's stuff and is very good & sought-after producer in his own rights. Anyway, the topic came up for a record that he was involved with and Rubin was listed as "Executive Producer." So I asked, what did he do? Was he in the studio twiddling the knobs, advising where the mic should be placed, telling the artists to play a certain way. The answer was that he came in after the album was recorded, listened to it, and basically told him [Sardy] when he thought a song was going on too long and where the fade out should be.
U2 needs a dude like that to turn the ship around?
Fuck man, pay me a grand and I'll gladly tell the band which songs suck and when to begin fading down the mixers. Hire me after Thanksgiving, and I'll have the beard already started.
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Post by D. Phillips »

Re: All That You Can't Leave Behind

We'll just have to agree that you are wrong.
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Post by thousandfold »

I'm a diehard so I'm not going to say they suck. But I wouldn't love them blindly. I will admit that I really only like about half of this new album, but I do like that half. However, I will concede that this album and the last are not their best. I would even go so far as to say they are uninspired in parts.

I don't know what can be done. They're old and rich now. Complacency is the enemy when you're a rocknroller, but the goal when you're a regular adult (and father like 3 of the 4 U2'ers). So what would you choose? Make a great album, or have a happy life? I'm betting they all chose happy life, and will keep choosing it. So, maybe nothing can be done. I mean, come on, what would you choose?
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Post by DJMurphy »

To directly answer the titular topical question, I have two words: filthy lucre.

I don't think that it's impossible for U2 to pull an amazing late-career comeback out of their collective ass; I just don't think it's that likely with as much $$$$ floating around their camp as has been for awhile. That dough makes you think funny shit, like "How can I most creatively go through the motions and still earn even the tiniest shred of critical respect, let alone sell out a gigantitour?"

I dug All That You Can't Leave Behind. It was an entertaining listen, and I'm glad I own it. Was it a great artistic statement? Fuck no; it was entertaining. That used to not be enough for U2.
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