• The story of four brothers … over a very long period of time …








    My one complaint with U2 … for a very long time … was the lack of what they’ve done here in this film. Something close and personal. Something intimate and revealing – outside of a song. Something that explains, from them, what the hell we’ve all been engaged in, headlong, for so damn long.

    There are a group of people on this planet that whenever they hear the word U2, they cringe. It’s hard to get around or dismiss these people and for someone like me who is a serious fan, it’s hard to understand why and difficult to grasp how all that happened. If you watch this documentary … and pay close attention … all becomes clear.

    The film opens with a narration from Bono, interspersed with snippets from Edge, Larry and Adam as well as moments from everyone else close to the center of this universe. Brian Eno, Paul McGuinness, Anton Corbijn. It picks up – exactly – where the last real documentary footage they remastered and released left off. Most that read this likely bought the remastered releases which included The Unforgettable Fire and had their experience of making that album at Slane Castle in the eighties.

    The first revelation: They struggled with putting on big shows, being consistent and worrying that they didn’t have enough material to keep it going.

    Wow. I have a lot of the concert recordings of them through the eighties and I never once thought that at all. Your fears are truly your own, no matter who you are. That’s probably revelation number two, but that was mine, for me, maybe not a universal one.

    The conversation steers towards Rattle & Hum and it’s sad to hear all the reflections on it. Honestly. These four lads from Dublin invested everything they had financially to make a small film about them being on the road and their journey through America. The concerts after the Joshua Tree release, for them, “were like a roller coaster,” Edge says. This is the point where the world met up with them and instead of listening to the music and just hearing the album, which still stands up and is timeless, people became distracted by the commentary in the press, which somehow and unfortunately became louder. They were scoriated in the press for Rattle & Hum and after putting so much into it, it killed them or rather, almost killed them.

    The world, Roger Ebert, Rolling Stone, everyone – saw the effort and them as Megalomaniacs and it would be something that was heavy, painful and difficult to shake. What’s more painful is finding this out after watching that musical road movie so many times, so many nights, so many Sunday afternoons and loving it every time – even if it just played quietly in the background. I had heard that, but I never shared the opinion. I just saw it as a modern day version of Kerouac's On The Road.

    There is an odd parallel here with what happened at this point with U2 and what happened with Weezer during their Pinkerton release [same time frame]. They both went over the edge with something too personal, something too raw, something too good for mass consumption and the critics just walked all over it and threw it back in their faces as if none of it mattered.


    For the haters, nothing happened here in this period that had changed. Let’s be honest. One might say that during the first 5 albums U2 slowly embraced more and more of the American spirit and made it theirs. When you ask some people they always say the same thing and it’s a variation of this:

    “I like old U2 before they sold out and changed. When they were a Rock band they kicked ass, something happened after Joshua Tree. Their early albums were all that mattered.”

    These sentences are like the jigsaw pieces that fall out of people’s mouths and unfortunately from a set of people old enough who still control radio station playlists which is why we’re always subjected to the same 5 U2 songs on FM every time they get play. It’s an ongoing shame. I was in New York in April of 2011 and I was stunned at the amount of U2 I heard on the radio and the variety of the songs that played over the airwaves. I heard ‘Love is Blindness’ on some station driving out to Jersey and ‘Please’ the next day. For me, it was incredible. I mentioned this dilemma to my friend but he just ignored me because I often go off on tangents about history, U2, or the history of U2 -- in no discernible order.

    This film is magic from the beginning to the end and will give you a viewpoint of U2 no matter what you feel about these guys. There’s absolutely no politics in this, no soapboxing, nothing of that magnitude. It’s an internal struggle and “each man for himself” as Bono says, which is underlined as a betrayal to the concept of a band. They were on the verge of breaking up and getting over the loud ringing critical tone of hate that came at them from the failure of Rattle & Hum continuously. All of that began the birth of The Fly, MacPhisto, the pushing back to save themselves.


    Stopping here. It’s odd to write the words: “The failure of Rattle & Hum,” Jesus that’s absurd. “The failure of Pinkerton.” An album that Rolling Stone later wrote was one of the great top ten concept albums ever. I’m curious now what they say about Rattle & Hum. The irony and the next revelation, which isn’t the first time one might here it, is:

    “You can’t listen to the critics.”

    But possibly, there’s some serious untruth in that. In dealing with the pain of what had happened, they came up with ‘One’ which then changed everything. The album came from that moment and everything after followed.

    Haters love to mention the album Pop, but that's only because they haven't listened to it from beginning to end. They should called the damn thing 'Hymnal' because that's honestly what that thing is. It's like Bach's collections of Chorales. Everything points back to God in one manner or another and that's not a crime or a bad thing. Some people could use a little more faith, even if it's just in themselves.

    In modern mass-consumed music, everyone gets eaten alive, people implode, check out, blow it, say no more. Rarely do people survive it in this manner shown here. Often bands ditch members and continue, note Foreigner’s problems and Lou Gramm. Note Creedence Clearwater Revival who are still fighting with lawyers to this day. Something has to be said about the intense desire to show up to work and keep going, keep making music and pushing forward. Nothing is ever perfect, but nothing would’ve been a bitterer pill to swallow for sure. If you can’t find something good, you’re probably just not looking.  

    “You have to reject one expression of the band, first, before you get to the next expression – and in between, you have nothing. You have to risk it all.” -- Bono





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