Thursday, October 2, 2014

Rocktober: Love Is Patient; Love is Kind

I love U2. I don't love U2 like I would love a lover, or a wife, or a long-term girlfriend. I don't love U2 like a best friend or a brother. I don't love U2 like a father or a pastor or a counselor.

I love U2 like that cool older dude in the neighborhood who taught you stuff you would never be taught at home or school, the guy who just saw the world in a light you were too young yet to grasp. Or maybe the neighborhood guy taught the same stuff, but it was just soooo coool when he did it. Like doing bunny hops on a dirt bike or getting a salt shaker to tilting but balanced, amidst a few grains of salt.

As you get older, you start to understand that the older dude wasn't necessarily that much smarter or wiser than you, he was just smarter and wiser BEFORE you were. And what's the big deal about bunny hops anyway? They're entirely impractical!

You begin to see the relationship differently, and you realize that maybe that older dude was sort of using you, your naïveté, your youthful eager need to follow a cool older dude, and feeding off it. You were just a neighborhood minion, a clueless follower.

But dammit you can't help it, you still love that guy. Lots of memories, and Important Life Moments wrapped up in that guy. And he never did anything cruel or violent to you. He never bullied. He just fed off the attention. And, at the end of the day, what decent leader can't be described similarly?

Well, that's U2.

No matter how much my music loving friends and my music snoot friends insult this band -- what they've become, certainly, but even what they've always been, from Day One, from the first notes of "I Will Follow" -- I love them. The heart feels what it feels, and mere reason cannot penetrate such barriers.

U2 is the last rock band to have the audacity to make spiritually uplifting, sincere music catchy and moving enough to consistently pull 20,000-plus people to their feet night after night. Not just one song or a handful, but an entire arsenal of songs bigger than break-ups or hangovers, single ladies or fireworks. That they are my first and best option for music when I'm hungry for Happy Christian Thoughts is just one more mark in their favor.

This love doesn't prevent me from smelling shit when I step on it. And that's what No Line On The Horizon smelled like when it came out in 2009. My reaction to that album was similar to the first time I had to unclog a toilet in our home following the bowel movements of one of my daughters. How the *@^$ could an angel do such foul things in such large quantity?!?

To be sure, No Line wasn't the first time U2 took a dump in the form of a song ("Promenade") or an album ("Zooropa"), but it was the only one that clogged the musical toilet.

Songs of Innocence might not be The Joshua Tree, but in regards to the smell I had to endure while trying to plunge No Line out of my sewer line, this new -- and free! -- release has helped. The album marks their first relocation of hook and sincerity, gravitas and frolic, since 2000's All That You Can't Leave Behind.

Musically, the first half of the album is a modest attempt to please the pop gods, but the second half is an attempt to remember their origins. "Raised by Wolves" is the most early-80s vintage old school U2 song before Bono first became fixated on arena rock. Lyrically, the whole album is reaching back to a youth they've clearly lost. Swimming in more money than most African countries can obtain does that to a band.

Songs of Innocence falls well short of their heyday albums (if you believe U2 had a heyday worth appreciating). It's flawed, and it's a bit too forgettable in places. But I love U2, and I love free things. And love is patient and kind.

In the New Testament, Taylor Swift said "Haters gonna hate hate hate hate hate." Shake it off, U2. Shake it off.


troutking said...

You convinced me. I'll give it a try.

Bob said...

I get the U2 issue here, but should your post address the arguably perverse reaction of people who simply didn't want music they didn't necessarily want showing up on their phone or pad? It just felt intrusive, and might have still felt that way even if the music in question was the best music said band had ever produced. I mean, a lot of people bought Frampton Comes Alive!, but those who didn't buy it didn't want it.

Billy said...

@Bob, I don't totally dismiss those who felt "technologically violated" by the stunt; neither do I completely buy the gripe.

We delete thousands of emails with hundreds of unwanted attachments every week of our lives. We ignore thousands of ads and stupid status updates, millions of Tweets. Hell, we ignore dozens of coworkers and must mentally delete their comments every day.

Would I have been annoyed if some band or artist I despise -- let's just say One Direction or Robin Thicke or Beyonce -- had pulled this stunt? In fact, I would not. I might even have listened through once or twice to see if any of the tripe was worth keeping, even if only for trivia or twisted bemusement. It's a legitimate commodity that was given to me at no cost and could be deleted in about the time it takes to send an emoticon to someone.

But if they (or you) wanna get all bunched up about it, I guess that's their (or your) business. Just cuz I don't quite get it doesn't mean I deny some smidgen of its legitimacy.