a review ten years in the making

this post might be considered off-topic from politics, religion, or sex, and yet in a roundabout way it’s not, because the cd i’m writing about has elements of all three woven throughout. this morning on the way to work i listened to u2’s ‘pop’. this cd, despite its less than warm reception by the music buying public (especially most u2 fans), never ceases to amaze me.

i remember when ‘discotheque’ was first released as a single a little over ten years ago. the first time i heard it on the radio, the deejay was all excited about the new u2 single, and he starts the song, and i’m like, ‘what the fuck is this???’ i thought u2 had sold out, or maybe had lost their minds. then a few weeks later, i got the new cd for my birthday, and suddenly the song made sense in the context of the rest of the cd. then i fell in love with the song, the cd, the whole concept behind it. for the next several weeks, this was what happened when i got home from work: i danced around the house to tracks 1-3 (‘discotheque’, ‘do you feel loved’, ‘mofo’) so i could get that out of my system before my ex-fiancé/roommate got home (yes, we had broken up but had decided to continue on as roommates; that was fun), and then at some point i’d retire to my room to listen to various other portions of the cd.

i have other things to be obsessed about now, so i listen to it hardly at all anymore, but when i do, it still blows me away. i think only myself and one other friend appreciate this cd for the brilliance it truly displays. let’s take ‘mofo’ . it’s a song about bono’s mother, who died when he was a child. i love the many meanings the word mofo could have in this instance: the possible oedipal reference as well as it being a motherfucker to lose your mother at an early age (or as an adult, for that matter). but more than this, the song is about the hole in his soul because of his mother’s death and his attempt at filling that hole with music. and you thought it was just a bunch of europop trash.

the last track on the cd is ‘wake up dead man’ . here are the opening lyrics: ‘jesus, jesus help me; i’m alone in this world, and a fucked up world it is too. so tell me, tell me the story, the one about eternity and the way it’s all gonna be…’ talk about powerful lyrics. yet these are the lyrics that caused focus on the family leader james dobson, apparently the decider of what is and is not christian, to pronounce back in 1997 that u2 was no longer a christian band. nothing could be further from the truth, especially if you have paid any attention at all to their last two cds, ‘all that you can’t leave behind’ and ‘how to dismantle an atomic bomb’. the song ‘yahweh’ blows that pronouncement out of the water. anyway, on one level, ‘dead man’ is about the feeling of disillusionment that anyone who has truly walked with god has at no doubt felt at certain times in that walk. and the way i see it, god can handle us yelling at him/her; god can handle us saying that the world as seen through our own eyes is fucked up. it’s then that god can show us the bigger picture, because jesus did in fact wake up (although the way i see jesus ‘waking up’ is probably a different view from most christians), and because he did, there is hope and ultimately everything is working together for our good.

okay, so maybe this isn’t so off-topic. bottom line: despite the lack of popular and critical acclaim, listen to this cd if you get a chance. behind all the glitz and glamour and cheesiness on the surface of the music, there are multiple messages here that are just as applicable today as ever. it’s still one of my desert island cds (although the notion of desert island cds is now officially silly, as i’d just take my mp3 player with *everything* on it and hope to god for a place to be able to recharge the battery). and if nothing else, ‘if you wear that velvet dress’ is an excellent song to get your groove on to.


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