when U2 released POP they claimed going that direction was the PUNK thing to do.......... enough with chasing radio pop friendly tunes that don't connect with the majority of their audience, so let's see if they listen to their inner PUNK voice this time around
Yeah, but it was also later revealed that the ambition behind "Discotheque" was to achieve a "Sledgehammer" level hit song.
Peter Gabriel's "So" was quite innovative sonically but also (successfully) aspired to broader appeal than previous work. Replace "Peter Gabriel's "So"" with "U2's "Achtung Baby"" and I think the previous sentence still works.
If you look at the roots of punk song-wise it was quite influenced by 60's pop. I don't think punk intentionally eschewed appeal.
If anything initial punk removed the fluff and (at its best) revealed the simple core components that make great rock songs. Essentially making the creative form accessible to future aspiring musicians (or close facsimiles thereof).
I don't know of any band ever that did not want their music to be liked. That approach would truly be innovative.
I would be curious to know from you and others: if U2 decide not to aspire to hits...then what should they use as their measuring stick for great or even finished work/songs?
Splitting hairs, but I'd say PG's So is equivalent with U2's TJT. I think both functioned almost identically to each of their careers.
And yes: U2's view of "punk" I think has mostly been in keeping with the simplicity of the songs, much like the early rock and roll era. You're spot on: it's not that U2 have been very interested in being abrasive, it's that they've wanted to keep things direct and simple, like the Ramones and the Clash. It's obvious by Bono's view of prog rock--which I think is a bit of a shame, as I think it closes the door to some interesting things they could do, and have even done in the past. Zooropa is practically prog rock.
As for how their success can be measured, I think it's in the eye of the beholder. I think SOI had some legitimate artistry to it. I also think they could have done more with it. I'd actually LIKE to see them do a full on concept album. Or something beyond the 3-4 minute pop song. Make it interesting, like it used to be.