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Old 03-12-2005, 10:36 PM   #1
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The Point About U2

Every day on this forum, and probably other U2 forums too, people argue about how the last two records, ATYCLB and HTDAAB, compare to the rest of the band's back catalog. And every day, words/terms/phrases like 'sellout', 'trying too hard to sound like themselves', and 'too safe' are thrown around like they're going out of style.

However, while pondering this the past few days, I've come to the conclusion that those ever-so-frequent HTDAAB/ATYCLB vs. The Rest arguements are kind of fruitless and unimportant, because when we take part in those arguements, we sort of overlook the big picture.

That big picture lies in the consistancy of U2's music. More specifically, look at the succession of their pure studio records from 1983-1993 - I say 'pure studio' because I'm not including R&H here:

War(1983)
The Unforgettable Fire(1984)
The Joshua Tree(1987)
Achtung Baby(1991)
Zooropa(1993)

Think about the quality of those records, think about the fact that on each of those records, there were soundscapes and atmospheres and such that weren't on the one before it. The point here is that most bands just don't have strings of records THAT long that maintain not only a very high overall musical and lyrical quality, but also a sort of incredible creative output - a meshing of the desire to keep pushing the envelope, the imagination and artistry needed to keep coming back with new musical/lyrical/atmospheric ideas from song to song and record to record, and the tireless energy and passion it must surely take to make all of that come out sounding just the way they want it to - if you will. And the thing is, when you manage to put forth that kind of creative and artistic output over a period of time that long, it isn't planned. What I mean by that is, I think it takes a certain momentum, internal to the band, to keep pushing their own artistic boundries the way they did during that time period.

It really is like a zone, they got into 'the zone' with War and they stayed in 'the zone', and 'the zone' is kind of an uncontrollable thing because you don't decide when you get in it and you don't decide when you leave it, but once you are in it, you want to make the most of it, and I think that's what U2 felt at the time - they got into 'the zone' with War and they just caught fire, and were on fire for at least a decade. And during that time, they had no trouble coming up with ideas, the sheer volume of their output was massive, that's a reason why there were so many b-sides from 83-93. Not only that, but it seemed they could do no wrong in that time period - War, Unforgettable, Joshua, Achtung, and Zooropa were all very successful for them - not just with critics but with fans, and the tours, especially JT/Lovetown and ZooTV were wildly successful as well. The fans loved the idea of this group continually pushing their own boundries and making new sounds. But like I said, you don't decide when the zone starts and ends for you, and I think the zone sort of ran its course in the mid-late 90s. When everything happened with Pop(do NOT make this a pop thread - look in the other thread for my opinion on Pop), I think U2 sort of felt like the zone wasn't there anymore, that it had left them.

That said, the kind of string of records U2 made from 83 to 93 is the kind that, you can count the number of bands who have had that 'zone' on one hand and, imo, have fingers left to spare. Then, when the band releases a record like HTDAAB, which is a perfectly good and enjoyable rock record, some of us, for a time even myself, are quick to complain about how U2 are playing it safe now, but what we overlook, imo, is that the body of work we're comparing it to, especially 83-93, is a string of music that is in the top echelon of rock music ever recorded, period. And maybe, just maybe, that rather than U2 ditching the zone they were in, that the zone simply wore off of THEM instead.
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Old 03-12-2005, 10:54 PM   #2
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Hey namkcuR, great post, and you have presented some valid arguments for the "zone" theory.

I think that as far as certain fan's opinions on certain albums is concerned, that this really depends on where you were in your life when the U2 album you hold dear to you took place. If you were in high school and college in the 80's any one of those albums is near and dear to you. If you were in those two institutions in the 90's AB through Pop are the outstanding U2's albums in your mind.

Now those aren't the only people who love those time period albums, no way, but that period of your life is the period that shapes us the most. So we tend to associate what we grew up with to be what is truly the "greatest" this or that in "our" lifetimes. There is nothing wrong with that, and you will always get that sort of banter on here.

As for the "zone", I agree that U2 went through a period where they had so much energy, artistic creativeness and "blarney" that they could do no wrong. Pop taught them a lesson, "finish what you started," and "be prepared before you tour".

I also think that, though they take risks, they just don't go out into left field like they did in the past. Some of it is "safe", but it is all heartfelt and passionate, so I can forgive the "safeness" of some of the songs on the latest albums.

As for the "zone" they never really left it, they just hover close by it....
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Old 03-12-2005, 11:12 PM   #3
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I agree 100% with everything you said and think it's completely 100% obvious.

Apparently to those like you and me, it is obvious and not everybody. Who knows?

You might have well said "The Sky Is Blue".

It's not that you don't make a good point, to me, it's beyond that, this is the reality that some people won't accept. U2 were in a zone, of sorts for a decade (83-93) and other than that they are trying to just do their best. But they cant match that, and they know they cant, and I do, and you do. It's obvious.

Its just fuckign obvious.
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Old 03-12-2005, 11:33 PM   #4
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and then I read what i typed and sound like a bit of a jackass, but I basically mean what I said.

I mean I am being honest, although I might also be in the act of jack-assishness.
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Old 03-13-2005, 12:05 AM   #5
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I'm with the three of you...that time period is amazing when you step back. War to Zooropa just shows that nothing was impossible to this band. You couldn't get much more different within 10 years than they did and still manage not to alienate many fans and listeners. What I appreciate the most from their work as a band is that they cared enough to develop music that they felt would matter to other people, and that they found successful ways to do it.

Referring to what Reggie said about them learning to finish what they start, U2 was always concerned that they communicate to their audience, even when it seemed they didn't. They took years at a time in between some albums to figure out those sounds, but as was the 83- 93 period, they recognized what was working in their music and fully capitalized on their talents. I like that in a band, when they can accept that people have certain tastes and like to appeal to them, yet challenge those tastes just enough to bring something new to the table. Rambling on here...
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Old 03-13-2005, 12:22 AM   #6
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I agree. By the way, 1985 - 95 really has got to be my favorite period ever in pop culture. So many amazing bands like U2, REM, Pearl Jam, Metallica, Guns n Roses and so on. Lots of great movies too.
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Old 03-13-2005, 12:25 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally posted by U2DMfan
and then I read what i typed and sound like a bit of a jackass
U2DMfan, you're not a "bit" of a jackass...no, you're "all" jackass....

More Beer!!!

I'm still in the "zone" even if U2 isn't!!
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Old 03-13-2005, 01:10 AM   #8
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Great post Ruckman

but do you think that since 2000(ATYCLB) U2 may have entered that 'zone' again, if not with fans that at least in terms of critical acclaim, sales, and live shows........ i think so.....

i also think the timing of the first 'Best of' could not have been better, it was a huge sucess and a sure footed step in the right direction, and for me U2 are continuing on that path.......
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Old 03-13-2005, 01:23 AM   #9
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I guess I'm just some dumbarse blind apologist and sheep whose opinion sucks, because I think U2 are still in some sort of zone and bettering themselves. Pop was Bono in his lyrical 'zone' like never before (especially the genius that is Wake Up Dead Man), and I am always impressed and amazed when I think about the fact that what I consider to be the two best U2 records (UF and HTDAAB) were made twenty years apart. I don't think U2 are sounding 'safe' at all.

But I suppose a lot of you think I don't have a fucking clue.
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Old 03-13-2005, 02:40 AM   #10
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Why are we comparing it to the rest?
Because you older fans are used to get new, fresh sound, and then this new album didn't furfill your expectations. They were saying about the best album ever and then you compare it to Achtung and it's not the best.
Those four albums(not zooropa) are really TOP OF TOPS IN ROCK and new album can hardly beat them.
I'm a new fan and i like new album, but i feel like that's not it.
So, i agree 100%
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Old 03-13-2005, 07:35 AM   #11
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Just my opinion:
I like the last 2 albums esp. HTDAAB a lot. But that special something, that spark they had is gone. That is what I see in your 'zone' talk. From War to Zooropa (actually War to Pop but I admit they made mistakes with Pop & it's promotion), they could do no wrong. They were in their lyrical, musical, thematic.. (everything) peak! Starting from ATYCLB, the overall quality of the lyrics has gone down. The music sounds recycled too in parts which never happened IMO up until Pop.
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Old 03-13-2005, 02:24 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by Reggie Thee Dog
I also think that, though they take risks, they just don't go out into left field like they did in the past. Some of it is "safe", but it is all heartfelt and passionate, so I can forgive the "safeness" of some of the songs on the latest albums.
I think their perceived safeness is more out of left field than anything they have done in a while. Who, in 1986, would think Bono would be writing songs about his Dad, his family, his faith, and all the other things in a way that make these last two albums different, but wonderful nonetheless.

As a whole, I think it will be quite amazing to look back at the U2 canon in 20 years. There will be a lot of great bands that will pale in comparision.

Time is the great equalizer. Even though Larry will still look 17.
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Old 03-13-2005, 04:02 PM   #13
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No your are not alone or in the minority

Quote:
Originally posted by Axver
I guess I'm just some dumbarse blind apologist and sheep whose opinion sucks, because I think U2 are still in some sort of zone and bettering themselves. Pop was Bono in his lyrical 'zone' like never before (especially the genius that is Wake Up Dead Man), and I am always impressed and amazed when I think about the fact that what I consider to be the two best U2 records (UF and HTDAAB) were made twenty years apart. I don't think U2 are sounding 'safe' at all.

But I suppose a lot of you think I don't have a fucking clue.
You have a clue. 7M fans have a clue. Their peers have a clue, i.e., 10 grammies this decade versus 7 prior. Folks who don't feel the spark anymore are entitled to just that, and folks who do are enjoying this 3rd or 4th "zone" for U2, as described by the RnR HOF induction. To each his own, but HTDAAB is a great album IMO.
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Old 03-13-2005, 04:12 PM   #14
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Re: No your are not alone or in the minority

Quote:
Originally posted by beLIEve


You have a clue. 7M fans have a clue. Their peers have a clue, i.e., 10 grammies this decade versus 7 prior. Folks who don't feel the spark anymore are entitled to just that, and folks who do are enjoying this 3rd or 4th "zone" for U2, as described by the RnR HOF induction. To each his own, but HTDAAB is a great album IMO.
3rd or 4th? That would imply that they've been in the zone for their entire career, which negates the point/idea of being in 'the zone' all together.
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Old 03-13-2005, 04:21 PM   #15
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I guess I should have said "phases". Many folks, including me, put Boy, War, October as phase 1. UF started phase 2, with grand anthems like Pride, Bad, Steets, WOWY, etc. RH wrapped that up. AB-Zoo-PoP phase 3. 2 Best Of's make it seem more like 2 phases, I guess. Now we've got ATYCLB-HTDAAB-? as phase 3 or 4. They are under contract for one more "Best Of".

Personally, I liked all these phases, and they were/are different, so they have not been in the same zone forever...make sense?
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Old 03-13-2005, 04:32 PM   #16
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I think if you put their minds back in 20 year old bodies/ lifestyles they could make the greatest album ever written. However, now they are moving away from their band and beginning to live their lives. They're not abandoning U2, but I think they have come to realize that there are much more important things to worry about, and have drifted away from U2 just enough to extinguish the spark of the 80s, and the creative drive that has always been there. You knew it would happen eventually, but I think some people are in denial as to how soon this slide will, or has already come.

They will never be as good as they were, unless they give up their lives for their band like they did when they were young and could afford to.
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Old 03-13-2005, 05:46 PM   #17
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I think we need to take a step back. I dont think we'll truly know where HTDAAB stands until the next album.
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Old 03-14-2005, 11:28 AM   #18
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Some great posts on here by some thoughtful and intelligent people...not just the ranter/raver apologists. U2 WAS in a zone during the aforementioned time period, and I fit the bill of someone who was a teenager in the eighties and a young adult in the early nineties. So that awesome time period coincided perfectly with that "special" time in my life.

What amazes me is that this marks their 25th year of recording. I saw The Rolling Stones in 1989 on their "Steel Wheels" tour, which was exactly 25 years after they started recording. Their 'current' stuff was a joke--everybody just wanted to hear "Satisfaction" and "Gimme Shelter" etc.., from their "zone" period. NOBODY was there to hear "Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place"

The fact some people think THIS is a special time for U2 is a testament to them, and in many ways a testament to the fans. I think that there are some people who insist that these last 10 years have been as good as the first fifteen are sort of holding on to the past. Which is different from the feelings of people who weren't there for the first fifteen might have. They may feel that way because they have nothing to compare it to.

But at least U2 is still making music relevant enough that we're even having this discussion. Trust me, nobody looks back on their copy of "Vodoo Lounge" with a tear in their eye.
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