Monday, November 29, 2004

the girl with crimson nails has jesus 'round her neck

At the risk of losing whatever remaining cool points I may have left, I'm going on record as thinking that U2's new album is pretty damned good. "Vertigo" is one of the best rock singles of 2004 -- great riff and melody, quick and easy chorus. What I love about the record is that there are no real clunkers like on Pop and All That You Can't Leave Behind. "Crumbs From Your Table" is perhaps a weak point, but it's the only one. It's a solid record with some songs that soar -- "Vertigo", "City of Blinding Lights", "All Because of You" -- to name a few. Lyrically it's overall more introspective and personal than most U2 records -- less grand statements and more "of the moment but my moment" songs. With "Miracle Drug" and "Sometimes You Can't Make it On Your Own", Bono uses the "One" device of addressing the listener mainly in 2nd person, which makes it seem (from the listener's perspective) less like being talked at and more like being talked to.

Their recent appearance on Saturday Night Live was impressive. Bono, for all his affected rock-star persona is impossible not to watch. I don't mind so much the over-the-top rock-guy stuff. He plays the part and it doesn't come off as too forced. He wears it pretty well, much more so than do the cookie-cutter angry-young-neo-punk bands. Musically U2 are playing as powerfully as I've ever seen or heard. "I Will Follow" sounded as good as any live recording I've heard. I like how Bono changed the wording a bit to mark the passage of time ("a boy tries hard to be a man, his lover" {used to be mother} "takes him by the hand").

Watching them reminded me of watching great athletes like Pele, Gretzky, Jordan, Montana, Carlton, and Schmidt when they were just past the mid-point of their prime years -- they had enough experience to make being great look easy, but they were still playing with enough of an edge as if they had something to prove.

Or it could be that my 20 years of fandom are blinding me to a once great band going through the motions. Is this how boomers felt when the Rolling Stones were releasing records at age 40? Will U2 hopefully hang it up when they get old enough that they have adult kids or grandkids?

No, that's not it. This is a very good record, and they are pretty much the one of the only bands that matter.

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