The beginning of the end, the failed experiment, the false step inspired by the self or a great undigested album? Pop has been defined in many ways since its release twenty years ago, on the 3rd of March 1997.
We are examining U2’s most controversial work and writing about it is always much more complicated than writing about any of their other productions: either because of the twenty-year debate on its (alleged) validity, or because of the opposing factions that get upset every time the album is mentioned. It’s still able to divide fans in the same way it did the day after its release.
But in 2017, at twenty years of age, how can POP be judged?
Before answering this question – as with any of U2’s recordings – one must go back in time and analyze the context in which Bono & Co. conceived its development.
“At the time there were good things around, extraordinary dance music, The Chemical Brothers, Leftfield, Underworld, we were at the beginning of Britpop, the phenomenon Oasis was beginning to grow. I was able to go near to those records as a simple fan, and I loved them.”
In the mid-90s, U2 were at the peak of their careers, on the vertex of that parabola that, for many, symbolises the musical journey of the Irish musicians. The dual work Achtung Baby/Zooropa positioned U2 as the link between stadium and alternative rock, a term that began to be used to describe all those niche Anglo-American groups outside the mainstream, for example Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, Goo Goo Dolls and Placebo. It was the beginning of the so-called Alternative Nation.
But even then the boundary between alternative and rock was poorly defined, leading to confusion about what should be included in each category. U2 were awarded “Best Alternative Album” at the Grammy Awards in 1994 for the album Zooropa.
Rap fused with metal and electronic music and combined even more with rock, punk changed into grunge and the flow of music between continents meant new, even more inventive sounds. The rave parties of the late ’80s spread among youth culture and use of synthetic drugs was endemic in discos and nightclubs.
In all this, new electronic music had an unprecedented importance because for the first time, electronic and dance music started to separate. All through the 80s, electronics has been synonymous with “synthpop by numbers” characterised by typical synthesizer riffs and more or less established artists; to offset there was new wave – the alternative of the time – which, with its amalgamation of genres could combine rock, ambient and pop. However, dance music remained largely separate, which stopped electronic music getting much beyond the dancefloor.
What was already clear at the end of the 80s was the (decadent) situation besetting the genre, dominated by “plastic keyboards”, confined to the world of “disposable” music; everything overturned in the 90s when the electronics became “adult”: the carefree riff gave way to industrial dissonance, the themes became often dark and oppressive, the lyrics were tight to a few repeated sentences. Entirely new genres began to invade record stores:
- Trance – usually attributed to Italy thanks to the track The Age of Love considered the progenitor song of the genre;
- Trip Hop – also called Bristol Sound from its hometown – of Massive Attack, Underworld and Faithless;
- the Big Beat of Fatboy Slim and Prodigy.
It was in the late 90s when electronic music finally matured, with the release of classics such as Homework by Daft Punk, Dig Your Own Hole by The Chemical Brothers, Come to Daddy by Aphex Twin and The Fat of The Land by the Prodigy.
The e-garde was also followed by established artists such as David Bowie – first with the dark and industrial sounds of the 1.Outside album and then with Earthling where the obsessive rhythms of the drum machines are dominant – and by the reborn Depeche Mode with the Ultra album, which incorporated the syncopated and distorted electronics of the new wave.
“A thin line divides interesting music and self-indulgence. We have passed it with Passengers album.”
[Larry Mullen Jr.]
It‘s interesting (and necessary) to consider what U2 produced just before POP because it influenced the 1997 album a lot. Original Soundtracks vol.1 can be considered the first realisation of the project that was later to be repeated with POP. It would have been too intangible and experimental a work to take on tour – but in its creativity and willingness to push the musicians into unfamiliar territory, it did a commendable job.
At the same time, however, Original Soundtracks vol.1 can be seen as the “premonition” of what would have happened a few months later, when we begin to examine its implementation process. Brian Eno was tired of only producing the band and wanted to work alongside them as songwriter on an experimental album. Edge immediately supported this idea, convinced that the group would benefit from a warm-up before diving into writing their official album. He wanted to recreate the same conditions that existed shortly before the start of work on The Joshua Tree, when he dedicated himself to the soundtrack of the film Captive, and before Achtung Baby, when he and Bono worked together on the soundtrack of the play, Clockwork Orange.
The recordings saw the band tasked by Brian Eno to record the soundtrack of the film, The Pillow Book, a project that later sank. This didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the band, who continued to work on the tracks under a new guideline: that the film would be imaginary, with a title and a fantasy plot devised by Eno himself to determine the mood of the various compositions.
The songs are mostly sung or have some vocal line, with a minority of instrumentals. In the latter, the pounding rhythms of the drum machine are dominant. Larry wasn’t happy about doing this work, thinking that the album was going to a dead end. However, the rest of the band, along with Eno, continued their experimentation, taking every opportunity to develop their music with subtle influences. So it was that Holi (a Japanese singer unknown in the West) became involved in the project. With his dreamlike voice, he gave the song Ito Okashi a mystic touch. Pavarotti also came to work on Miss Sarajevo for the soundtrack of the eponymous documentary financed by Bono.
But it was another collaboration that marked a crucial turning point for U2: that with DJ Howie B. He had worked on Bono’s version of Halleluja and was brought in to work on Elvis Ate America, an electronic gospel about the career and the contradictions of the American rocker. He also contributed vocals on the song: his is the voice that continually repeats “Elvis”.
As previously stated, Larry was very much against the recording of this album, considering it too “self-indulgent.” His aversion towards experimentation was not new at the time – just recall his furious fights with Bono during the early stages of Achtung Baby – but the fact that he was being sidelined in favour of drum machines made him feel even more strongly that the band were straying too far into a different genre.
The compromise was to release the album under a different name, as crediting such an atypical album to “U2” would’ve baffled the fans. Paul McGuinness endorsed this cautious approach and Eno suggested the pseudonym ‘Passengers’. This was certainly not new to U2 of the 90s but this caution was a symptom that this experiment was not well received by U2 fans. Larry was particularly scared by that kind of experimentation, fearing that its extensive use of electronics was thinning the concept of the band, just as POP would turn out to do a few months later.
“We wanted to make a “party” record but obviously we arrived when it was already over.”
The work began in November 1995 – just when Original Soundtracks Vol. 1 was published – with producer Nellee Hooper. The first sessions alternated among the south of France, England and Ireland. When the band moved to Dublin to Hanover Quay, they were joined by Howie B, Steve Osborne and Marius de Vries. The idea was to have people in the studio with very diverse personalities and a broad musical background with diversified experiences.
“If [U2] have only one producer they are open to turn to a particular style, and it’s not what they want. So, as concerns ‘POP’, they demanded the presence of Howie B because he comes from a dance background, and I was there because I come from a totally different background. Essentially, the idea was to throw all of us in the studio and see how we would influence each other.”¹
The intent was to create something new, starting from fragments, loops, rhythms and melodic lines inspired by all the musical genres which were whooping it up in clubs at the time. This is the essence of art: to create the new by reassembling the current. Steve Osbourne was brought in towards the end of the work, when the potential singles Do You Feel Loved, Staring at the Sun and Gone were virtually complete. As an outsider, he brought a critical and objective perspective but above all his job was to invigorate mixes with new ideas. Essentially he was doing what had previously been Steve Lillywhite’s job.
In Christmas 1995, however, Larry was forced to abandon the sessions because of back surgery, which he had been putting off for some time. He had a lesion that developed during The Joshua Tree Tour, which was never properly taken care of. In addition, the two year long Zoo TV Tour had only worsened his health and he now found himself with aching back and hands. He was examined by specialist, Gary Schaffe, who noticed some probems in Larry’s technique and recommended surgery as soon as possible.
This meant that Larry was sidelined from songwriting even more, the rest of the band preferring to start immediately with Howie B programming drum machine and loops extrapolated from the discs he had recorded in the studio. The concept of the band was renewed, and in some ways distorted.
Flood himself admitted that it was necessary to find a new way to create the right chemistry:
“Normally U2 work in the studio to come up with their ideas, while playing all four together. But when Larry could not play, we had to find other ways to work”².
This forced the band to rely totally on Howie B for inspiration. He would play vinyl from his own collection while Bono, Edge and Adam tried to improvise something. In this way the songs were created on other people’s rhythm tracks, often dominated by electronics. Preparation of these loops lasted from September to December 1995 at the Hanover Quay Studios in Dublin. Bono spent the New Year in Sarajevo and everything stopped until February 1996, when the team went back to work.
For three months until May 1996, there was an attempt to bring order to all the previously produced material; Flood said that from the preliminary stage there were ideas for 30-40 pieces of which only very few had a defined structure, among them Wake Up Dead Man and If You Wear That Velvet Dress from the Zooropa sessions and MoFo and Staring at the Sun from the new sessions.
Larry was forced to return to the studio only three weeks after the operation, despite an expected eight week convalescence, in order to speed up the process of the new album. This was the most difficult period of the recordings because of the “conversion” that the producers and musicians had to undertake to adapt the songs because Larry couldn’t play at 100% capacity. In essence it was like redo the job completely: Larry listened to the loops used in his absence, recreated them on drums, the producers recorded the new loops and the band played its parts on these new samples. Some loops, however, were too complicated to be replicated and it was decided to leave them on the record mentioning the original artists within the tracks credits – you will find the specific references in the tracks analysis.
Larry’s return did not, however, lessen the use of sampling that now were not just limited to the rhythm section: guitar riffs and vocals were sampled and then inserted within pieces played on keyboard. The team were always shrewd enough not to overload songs with samples or drum machine too much. Everything had to support the parts played by the band. In the end, 25% of POP consisted of loops or programmed sounds.
Producer, Nellee Hooper, left the project because of accumulated frustration and wasn’t credited on the record. From then on Flood took over the production reins, alternating with Howie B in the direction they took.
The latter recalls:
“With Flood, the roles were changing every time. There were moments when Flood was the sound engineer, others where I was. There were weeks when Flood worked in London on a completely different project, so I went in the role of the producer. All this added an interesting dynamic, because there were things that Flood would have done and that I would have never done, I think it made it all the more interesting for the band.”³
In the middle of recording, U2 moved to Miami for a photo session with Anton Corbijn. They took advantage of this opportunity to be influenced by the American atmosphere and the society life of Florida. This resulted in ten days of recording at South Beach Studios where they created new songs, such as Miami.
The initial plans to release the album in October 1996 proved to be too optimistic, and it was decided to postpone until March 1997. The ’90s also brought a new phenomenon which U2 had to deal with for the first time with POP: a 30-second audio file of Discothéque became available on the Internet. It was the first digital “leak” the band had ever suffered and it contributed to postponing the release of the launching single. Island records opened an investigation to track down the culprit.
To make a tense situation even worse, Paul McGuinness decided to arrange tour dates while recording was still far from finished. Thus, the opening concert was fixed for Las Vegas on April 25th, 1997. Soon everyone realised that this had been a risky move since the disc had to be released before it was really finished, leaving very little time to band to prepare for the live shows.
The Edge perfectly described that moment:
“We made the album master in New York; Howie B added some effects on ‘Discothéque’ and I recorded additional vocals on the mix of ‘The Playboy Mansion’ directly into the burning room, something unheard. A sign of madness.”
“DEADLINES OMINOUSLYLOOMED. ‘POP’ WAS NEVER REALLY FINISHED. IN PRACTICE, IT IS THE MOST EXPENSIVE SITTING OF SAPNLES RECORDING OF THE HISTORY OF MUSIC. “
| DISCOTHÈQUE |
The record opens with a hybrid rock/dance song, perfect for introducing listeners to the new U2 sound. The rhythmic loops are from the song Fane by Freeform and embellish Larry’s beating drums. The initial swirling guitar was obtained by The Edge playing an acoustic guitar through an amplifier at very high volumes, all edited by Flood through an ARP 2600 synthesizer, while the main scratchy riff was achieved through the fuzz Big Cheese.
The song seems to nod towards the synthetic drugs consumed by young people in the disco – “you know you’re chewing bubblegum / you know what that is but you still want some / you just can not get enough of that lovie dovie stuff “- playing on the idea that love has turned into a lightning blast, just like an ecstasy tablet. The nightclub is a huge mental cage where emotions are swallowed as colored pills, a behavior that causes apathy towards our surroundings and ourselves.
There is no repentance for this – “you get confused but you know it / yeah you hurt for it work for it LOVE / you don’t always show it” – it’s a deliberate status of confusion: it creates a mental loop between the will to feel real feelings and the illusion of feeling them through drugs. The protagonist looks consciously for the “right” girl in the wrong place. Strobe lights, shiny suits, cover girls, crystals that reflect thousands of light beams: we are inside the euphoric hallucinations given by acid; chemical reactions that explode inside the body, increasing the heartbeat, dilating the pupils, making us feel like “the song that we have in the head “. All effects similar to those caused by love.
POP essentially opens with a glossy song that hides a very strong warning, “love is not what you are thinking of.” The concept will return more tragically in Please. Now let’s enjoy the disco.
| DO YOU FEEL LOVED |
The second track of the album was meant to be a potential single to promote POP. It is inspired by the song Alien Groove Sensation by Naked Funk, whose main riff Edge made his own.
The track has a sensual rhythm thanks to Bono’s persuasive voice that keeps a confidential atmosphere throughout the record. The text is a dialogue between a man and a woman somewhere between erotic and romantic love, simultaneously describing the sense of loss and complicity that the union can give.
Again, as with any other U2 love song, we are faced with a tormented feeling where physical attraction contrasts with the difficulty of relating to the partner: “with my fingers as you want them / with my nails under your hide / with my teeth at your back / and my tongue to tell you the sweetest lies. The question that stands out in the chorus, “Do You Feel Loved?”, describes exactly this inner division dictated by the confusion.
The description that Bono makes of love with the following words, “Love’s a bully pushing shoving / in the belly of a woman / heavy rhythm taking over / to stick together / a man and a woman”, is exactly halfway between the sexual act and birth; both situations represent a love that allows a man and a woman to “stick together.” Even the expression “And it looks like the sun / But it feels like rain” emphasizes the discomfort of the main character in living this relationship.
On this track there were a lot of expectations, but it turned out to be too intimate to be played in front of 70,000 people. Inevitably it lost its sensual vein and the numerous problems during live performances meant it was dropped from the set list – besides the fact that it wasn’t released as a single.
Do You Feel Loved is in effect a forgotten masterpiece.
| MOFO |
In the beginning this song was to be called Oedipussy or Mothership and it was drafted by Bono and The Edge alone in the South of France as a blues song for guitar.
In spite of the complex arrangement, MoFo has a fragile soul as it deals with the torment of a child who lost his mother at age 14. The search for something to fill the “God shaped hole” symbolises the inner emptiness that Bono has been carrying since 1974 and which still continues to haunt him. The text seems to be in all respects a confession, with sentences which are simple and full of pathos.
The title is short for “motherfucker” or “son of a bitch” but in many musical communities like jazz, the term can be a term of admiration. MoFo, therefore, identifies in the loss of his mother that spark that made a simple motherless, “son of a bitch” someone that the whole world envies: “Mother you left and made me someone / now I’m still a child but no one tells me no.”
| IF GOD WILL SEND HIS ANGELS |
With the fourth song of POP, U2 return to their musical roots. If God Will Send His Angels was born from the same session as MoFo in southern France.
It is the most cynical piece by Bono about his faith in God. The arrangement was intended to be a delicate floating groove, with some very interesting moments thanks to the spaces expertly constructed by Howie B, using sound effects in the background. Edge’s guitar rings once again as in the old times and the rhythm section follows the mood of the entire composition perfectly. No imperfections, everything is dosed so well that If God Will Send His Angels could have become one of the strong points of the album. However, the version recorded on POP is not as good as the one mixed for the single, released on December 8th, 1997.
The text was meant to be the description of what a man sees looking out of the window. The world with all its contradictions is meticulously examined by overturning religious values: Santa Claus is seen as a tramp, Our Lady as a drug dealer and the sister of Jesus as a woman beaten to a pulp.
The criticism becomes bitter with the verse “God has got His phone off the hook babe / would he even pick up if he could?”, turning hope into a deep sense of resignation.
If “God would send his angels,” would we realise it? That would be a good question to put to Wim Wenders.
| STARING AT THE SUN |
Disguised as a sweet song of bitter/sweet love, Staring at the Sun deals with the matter of the IRA. It was 1996, London (and England all) was preparing to host the European football championship. The slogan of the event was “Football’s coming home”, a clear reference to the fact that football was invented in England.
The IRA didn’t miss the opportunity to mount a series of attacks right in the center of London, both as a warning to remain vigilant and to set off the fear that the same thing could happen during the sporting event.
On February 15th of that year an explosive device had been hidden in a phone booth in Shaftesbury Avenue, but was promptly – and fortunately – defused by London police. This happened a week after a successful attack on Canary Wharf on February 9th, when a truck bomb exploded taking the lives of two people and wounding 100 more. London was literally paralysed: the traffic went haywire , large urban areas were closed, and police were everywhere. On June 15th, in Manchester, a car bomb exploded in Cross Street injuring 100 other people. All this happened after 17 months of ceasefire.
In Staring at the Sun there is a clear reference to this violence: “intransigence is all around … military is still in town / armor plated suits and ties … daddy just won’t say goodbye / referee won’t blow the whistle God is good but will HE listen?”
The confusion around the city is described: the army in the streets, politicians identified as soldiers in suit and tie – referring especially to the politicians of Sinn Féin, the political wing of the IRA – and the figure of the arbitrator is compared to both factions involved in the Anglo-Irish conflict that do not put an end to hostilities – and to God, the absolute arbitrator, who although good we never have the certainty that he is really there to listen to us.
Staring at the Sun thus encapsulates the will to hurt oneself; watching the sun to become blind and not wanting to see the reality of things. This theme is reminiscent of Love Is Blindness: the sick love for ideology, so ingrained and extremist as not to allow a more objective evaluation of the evil that is reality. They are blinded by their own sun, in fact.
| LAST NIGHT ON EARTH |
Last Night On Earth was recorded at the last moment, just before the master tapes of the album were sent to print. Bono found himself completely voiceless, forced to record his vocals in a hurry in the morning. U2 then tried to mask this problem with heavy use of Edge’s effects. Bono also suffered from frequent voice drops, caused by the dust from a cement factory located close to the recording studio.
The song seems to speak of suicide, and how a hypothetical girl finds herself to “give herself” during her last night on Earth, before leaving her earthly life. But, like many of Bono’s lyrics, it has another interpretation. It seems, in fact, to describe the unrestrained sexual impulse of youth against a life lived as if it were always the last day on Earth. The theme of physicality and materialism compared to spirituality rears its head once more.
The video of the song is entirely inspired by the film, The Last Man on Earth. At the end of this is an appearance by William Burroughs, who died just a few days later.
| GONE |
“All through the 80s that’s what we had to endure, the idea that there was something morally superior than being one of those low profile bands, an indie band. I have written a song that’s a little ‘ to make the horns to the people trying to impose us guilt just because we are successful. The fact is that we have always wanted to be one of the most famous bands in the world. And this song is a celebration of that desire. He says that we like it a lot to find ourselves here in space. A bit like saying: ‘Hello, hello! We are really enjoying. We are here in the ether, and we’re just fine. ‘ “
Judging by these words from Bono, Gone should have been a celebration of the success of this band from Dublin. But after the death of their most tenacious supporter, Bill Graham, the song turned into a profound reflection on the loss of identity as a result of the success, the need to become someone else and how fame can lead to a superficial view of things.
| MIAMI |
Miami is perhaps the most disliked U2 song of all. The reason lies in its trip hop sound, which was considered by many a risky experiment and which was a complete departure from anything they’d ever done before.
The song was the first one on the album to be completed, thanks to Howie B who found himself totally at ease with the obsessive groove of the track. But the true strength of Miami lies in the lyrics: Bono’s verses are a stylistic exercise, a kind of cold and superficial list of what any tourist might find wandering the streets of the American city.
It is the story of the experiences of the four musicians when they moved to America to continue the work on POP and to work with Anton Corbijn. They simply decided to have fun: they went out every night, smoked cigars in upholstered clubs and got to know many doyens of high fashion.
All this greatly emphasises the sense of playfulness of the entire composition. Listening to the song we almost feel like we ourselves are going around, camera in hand, through the streets of Miami, recording and poking our nose into everything that we encounter. A home movie on the obsessive stun of the 90s.
| THE PLAYBOY MANSION |
The Playboy Mansion, the only POP song never to be performed live, was inspired by You Showed Me by The Turtles. It was thought of as a funky trip through the concept of Paradise: in the Christian perspective it embodies the place of salvation, as well as spiritual and inner fulfillment.
U2 have translated this thought in the context of the capitalist society of the late twentieth century, realising that Paradise – a unique and universal place, known as beyond the “Earthly” realm – actually manifests itself in many ways in the daily life.
Wealth, sexual fulfillment, the desired outward appearance, success, the fetishist possession of objects…all this creates a conceptual distortion of that place praised by the Church, besmirching it with idols and “false” deities.
The Playboy Mansion – the famous villa where the Playboy bunnies live, in fact – becomes the “Promised Land” to aspire to. Its gate becomes the gate of Heaven, a mythological entrance beyond which no sin or earthly punishment exists.
The text is a set of advertising slogans, full of references to famous people such as Michael Jackson and OJ Simpson – but it also describes the reversal of roles where banks are defined as cathedrals and casinos have the power of churches.
It is the dark side of capitalism. With Daddy’s Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car, MacPhisto sang of the Soviet Union, which looked innocent to capitalist eyes in the West but with The Playboy Mansion, U2 sing of the American spoilt by his greed.
| IF YOU WEAR THAT VELVET DRESS |
The coloured lights dim, the deafening speakers are transformed into delicate sensual rhythms: with If You Wear That Velvet Dress, U2 are inspired by the “Bristol Sound” of Massive Attack, taking handfuls of the synth’s dreamy atmosphere and of the trip hop arrangements’ jazz / soul weaves.
In a barely perceptible whisper, Bono whispers lyrics that ooze with eroticism and subdued passion. Time itself seems suspended between these impalpable atmospheres made even more delicate by Edge’s guitar, resulting in a solo of rare beauty. We are looking at the spiritual twin of Your Blue Room in the subjects they deal with – both songs, in fact, describe sex as a form of privileged communication between a man and a woman. “Tonight the moon has drawn its curtains / it’s a private show no one else is going to know / I’m wanting.“
Incredibly, this song is a forgotten gem. “It had to be a classic lounge music, but ended up being the background noise in the waiting room of an airport,” said Bono. This sentence is the proof that, sometimes, even the artists are not able to appreciate their own work.
| PLEASE |
Please was the one song that really bears Larry’s influence. He hated some of the sequences on Zooropa and especially in Original Soundtrack; for him a U2 album had to contain songs that sounded like U2 and began to demand that the tracks were geared towards that.
The song was written as a political message against the breakdown of peace negotiations in Northern Ireland and to report the attack to the London Docklands. However, the band were never happy with the album version of the song, considering it to be caged in a sound limbo that doesn’t lead anywhere.
At one point, Edge weaves an arpeggio which is reminiscent of Bronski Beat’s Smalltown Boy and Larry reprises Sunday Bloody Sunday on the track, its famous drum rolls in the introduction highlighting the main theme that binds the two songs. “It’s a great song,” says the drummer himself, “but I feel it’s incomplete, like all the rest of the album. A few more weeks would have really made a difference for these songs.“
For its release as a single on September 22nd, 1997, the song was mixed again using the arrangement that the band had tried during the PopMart Tour. This succeeded, at least in part, in satisfying Bono & Co.
“I’m not sure we’ve ever done justice to that song,” Bono said.
| WAKE UP DEAD MAN |
The album closes with the dark Wake Up Dead Man, a song that dates back to the Zooropa sessions. A requiem that has the distinction of containing within it the first example of U2 sampling another song: the Bulgarian folk song Besrodna Nevesta, a sample of which plays in the background.
If we look at POP superficially, we can see in it a sense of structural dissonance, as if the songs were ordered totally at random: it goes from the lights and euphoria of the disco to depressed love of the betrayed lover, from the memory of the deceased mother to the loss of religious values, from political ideology to suicide, from reflections on death to the excesses of Miami, from material fulfilment to sensual eroticism, from political denunciation to the desperate requiem of the closing song.
But there is a theme, and we must look for it in the word “pop”. The title of the album still hinders the whole work, conveying the wrong message to those who listen to it thinking that the name POP means it’s a frivolous, superficial album, not worthy serious appreciation. At that time, U2 wanted to dispel this “musical racism” – if you can call it that – towards a term that in the context of art has a very important significance.
First and foremost, Pop means POPular. We ourselves feed popular culture through our style, our attitude toward the arts, through the fashion that we follow, through the religion we profess. Anything that affects people is POP culture. Rock itself is POP. U2 are POP. The Pope is a POP phenomenon. That’s why the album POP is the most cynical and objective sociological analysis ever made by U2.
Through twelve tracks, we gradually sink into the turmoil produced by the twentieth century’s alienated society, unable to look reality in the eye, preferring to take refuge in the consumerism and materialism. If Discothèque welcomes us as a festive invitation to the worldliness of life, Wake Up Dead Man is the end of the party, when the influence of alcohol and drugs are gone and we are in a terrible headache on the roadside, in the greyness of that world from which everyone wants to seek refuge. “Jesus, Jesus help me / I’m alone in this world / and a fucked up world it is too”. However, no answer comes.
Is it the last noteworthy album of band from Dublin?
From the musical point of view the answer is no. U2 have produced great music in the following years too, while breaking away from the experimentation of the ’90s. But if the question is intended from the point of view of “courage”, then the answer can only be yes. The U2 of POP are still away ahead of current U2.