Expectations… and U2 – The Early Years

I felt inspired to write about something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Expectations, and their effect on how I perceive a piece of art (usually a movie, cd, or tv show … but even books on the rather rare occasion that I get around to reading one – even more rarely reading one “suggested” to me).

I find that it is very easy for me to get the idea that (for example) a certain movie is going to be really good, but when I actually see it, I find myself disappointed when the movie didn’t reach my high expectations. On the flip side, if I’ve heard that a movie is really one of the lamest movies that I’ll ever see, and for some reason I decide to watch it, I find that I’m often surprised by the entertainment value of that movie. There are many exceptions to that (terrible movies that turn out to be terrible, great turning out great, mediocre/mediocre, yadda yadda) but there certainly seems to be a pattern.

And with that, I realize I’ve basically said all I was hoping to say about expectations (seems like my expectations of what this blog was going to be about were a little off) and come to the conclusion that this is not worth blogging about… at least not this alone.

So, without further ado…

U2 – The Early Years

I, myself, am a big U2 fan. They are most certainly in my top 3 favorite bands of all time, and probably even one of my top 50 favorite bands from Ireland (yes, that last part was a joke – though it’s obviously true). If you look through my cd collection (at the time of writing this… no guarantees 15 years from now, when you’ll obviously be referring back to this article for some reason) you’ll see mostly single album per band collection (with occasional 2, 3, or 4 for the select few) and then you’ll get down to the U’s and find 11 of the 12 U2 studio albums nice and neatly smushed together. That is because I think U2 is awesome. Not everyone shares my opinion, and that’s ok.

So, the thing with me (or what used to be the thing with me) is that I tend to already know what I like, and will just listen to that. This basically meant that I listened to All That You Can’t Leave Behind and How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb a lot. And the fact that I bought 7 of their albums all at the same time didn’t help much… because I then didn’t have that “Oh I got a new cd, I’m going to listen to the whole thing of that ‘one'” vibe going. So, I listened to the whole things of their two most recent releases that had played on the radio a ton (as well as classic, The Joshua Tree), and I already knew most, and liked all, of their songs. The others albums (including Rattle and Hum, Achtung Baby, Zooropa, and Pop) that I’d gotten at the same time each were grazed through (more intently listening to some of the songs I’d heard before and less intently/often listening to the other, already less popular, songs), but over all I’d never paid much attention to them.

Not long after the ‘remastered’ versions of their older work was released I found myself snatching a couple of those up (namely Boy, October, and War) thinking, “yeah, I like U2,” but (honestly and shamefully) not doing any more than copying them to itunes. And so, all that to say, all this time I’ve basically been basing my large appreciation for U2 on about half of their released material (or about 8.5% if you count the near-countless remixes and alternate versions of a number of different songs of theirs).

That changed near the beginning of this month, when I felt mysteriously inspired to listen to some of the older U2 material (again… namely Boy, October, and War), and just let the CD play through. I found myself surprisingly surprised. There were a few classics (Electric Co., Gloria, Sunday Bloody Sunday, 40, etc.), which I knew about and expected, but a majority of these albums I’d never before heard. So, now, here I am having pumped my brain with nothing but pre-1987 U2 … and this is what I have to say (almost as if all that was just an introduction).

I hate U2. I can not bring myself to consider them artists any longer. The Edge sounds exactly the same in every song, and I refuse to consider them any greater than Monty Python‘s ‘Lovely bunch of coconuts’ band.

Just kidding. So, for real now, here’s what I’m getting at…

They have (or, I suppose, ‘had’) a lot more of a punk rock sound than I was expecting. It actually reminded me of seeing them in concert back in 2004 (the Vertigo tour – you know, “all those years ago”), when I came to a similar realization. Up until that concert, U2 had been a band that my Dad really liked, and a band that had 3 songs that I knew due to the radio and occasionally hearing their Elevation: Live from Boston concert DVD muffled through the wall. Actually hearing them in concert blew me away. They had so much more energy and presence than I was expecting, and they sounded a surprising lot more like many of what I thought were more aggressive rock bands that I had been listening to at the time.

I got the same sort of feeling from listening to these 3 early albums. There was a high level of energy and emotion in the music right from the beginning. The musicianship certainly wasn’t where it is today, but you can tell they have a big heart behind there simple playing style. The first two albums, Boy and October, were filled with very similar sounds on every track. Loud, heavily reverbed and delayed, and similarly played guitars, as well as semi-shouted vocals on nearly every track, certainly make many of the songs blend together in your head. It was not until their third album, War, that their recognizable “U2” sound really became more defined. Still, the music is unmistakably U2 and will much more likely be playing through my headphones/car stereo (and possibly even speakers at home) throughout the future.

And now, with little more to say, I will abruptly end what took me so long to start. I hope not too much of your time was wasted.

Until we meet again, have a better than average day.


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