For me, there's something about waking up to a new U2 song that is kind of unfortunately like Christmas morning. I say "unfortunately" because, where I come from, Christmas morning is always a serious coin-flip as to if what's under the tree reeks of whiskey or Wal-Mart lay-away. The former would indicate something last-minute, thrown together and ultimately far more expensive (guilt may be a useless emotion but, in terms of gifts from my family it has proven to be both a powerful force and a wonderful thing), whereas the latter would indicate something planned and sensible-like a blanket, socks, or a bag of cheese-puffs. Not crunchy Cheetos, no-to wake up on Christmas morning to a bag of the slender, thin, snap-crackle-pop-in-your-mouth with neon-orange-cheeze-ee-goodness wrapped ever-so-haphazardly would indicate that one or both of my parents actually had any idea what my preferences for super-fattening fake cheese snack products were. Instead, I'd wake up to either a $20 Target gift card smelling like pot smoke and cheap booze or a bag of thrift-store-brand Cheesy Puffs. You know, the super-rotund air-puffed kind that spread their Crayola "Orange Peel"-colored jizzm over fingers and counter tops and clothing without any taste ever actually being imparted into the mouth of the consumer.
The. Worst. Kind. Of. Cheese. Puffs.
A new U2 song, particularly the first song released from an as-yet-unheard new album, falls exactly into that dichotomy of afore-stated Christmas potential: it's either going to be quick and useful or...or, well, gift-wrapped 99-cent Cheese Puffs.
I'm not the world's biggest U2 fan. I'm not going to write a Matthew Perpetua-esque dissertation on "Joshing The Joshua Tree: Bono's Myriad Voices Throughout The Ages". I don't know art but I know what sort of bombastic grandiosity I like, and I don't know much but I know I love Bono and I tend to let that be all there is to know. That said? Achtung, Baby, with the impeccable Brian Eno production, the lush musical textures and Bono's wry, cutting, sarcastic, sadistic love-lorn lyrics, is one of my favorite albums ever. The rest of U2's output I can take or leave, and I tend to cherrypick through all of it. For instance, the pretty-much-universally-hated POP album has its moments, and for my musical dollar (aka free, downloaded via Soulseek...erm, um, I mean I SUPPORTMUSICIBUYWHATILIKE or something like that)they are more plentiful then the obligatory millennium "Return To Form" record that was All That You Can't Leave Behind. What both of those albums have in common, though, is that their first singles were these giant, massive, explosive, world-affirming (well, ok, "This-Is-Bono's-World" affirming) statements of shapeless, boundless, formless platitudes like Hope and Trust and Faith and Woo-Hoo and Hey-Yeah and Change and Love and All Right All Right and other similar big ideas.
That's why this new U2 single, "Strap Your Momma To Ireland" or whatever it's called, is such an insane disappointment. It's not just that the guitar riff unfortunately conjures thoughts of lost 90's flannel-rockers Collective Soul (and let's be honest there, there is no way to conjure thoughts of Collective Soul that can be deemed "fortunate"), or that Bono's vocal pacing pretty much splits the embarrassing difference between Madonna's rap about shopping at Fresh Market and using non-dairy creamer on "American Life" and, well, and the ENTIRETY of Escape Club's "Wild Wild West". It's the fact that there is not a moment in this song in which Bono reminds us-you, me, the world, HIS world long live the King may his name be praised and worshiped and glorified-reminds us of, ya know, Hope. Faith. Love. Art. Any of those big-ticket items.
It's like that moment in American Psycho when Pat Bateman finds religion via Bono at a U2 concert, and immediately shuts down and rejects everything he's been filled with. U2 is meant to be stupidly uplifting, unjustifiably inspiring, full of platitudes unfettered by longitude or latitude. U2, the musical collective hivemind of the Edge, Bono, and those other two dudes with the glasses who did the song for that Tom Cruise movie, are supposed to function as a mirror to the world's collective souls, not sound LIKE Collective Soul (oh, schnap! Yes! HIGH FIVE, RUSS, HIGH FIVE!). If the first single can be said to operate as a new album's harbinger, the Silver Surfer to the Galactus that is the forthcoming U2 record, which will inevitably be titled Bono Sings! For You or Segways In The Garden Of Allah , then this...this...this new song indicates that any following album certainly will not rattle, and it most assuredly will not hum. This is going to be less a booze-scented gift card to somewhere and more a hastily-wrapped bag of convenience store junkfood.
If only one good thing comes from the release of a new CD from Bono & Co (which sounds like the best Sunday morning political talk-show ever, co-starring Rachel Maddow, yes please), it will be the fact that my friend Jill, the originator and maintainer of the Bono Photoshop blog, will be forced into further creative action. She is truly an artist of the highest caliber.
(from Jill's Bono Photoshop blog)
Frankly, I'm kind of pulling for a photoshop of Bono in a bag of Cheese Puffs. The big, fat, air-filled kind. Gift-wrapped. Under a Christmas Tree. Because frankly that's what this sounds like.