Author Topic: The 20th Anniversary of Pop  (Read 229 times)

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Offline sdb_1970

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The 20th Anniversary of Pop
« on: April 15, 2017, 12:55:40 PM »
In 2017, U2 is commemorating the 30th anniversary of its phenomenal commercial breakthrough, The Joshua Tree, with a U.S. tour, promoting the super/deluxe/mondo permutations of the record's second anniversary re-release.  (I haven’t check the official website, but I would not be one bit surprised if the $1,999 package includes an actual tree, delivery charge not included.)  Don’t get me wrong.  I was as enraptured-for-life with The Joshua Tree as any other high school junior at the time, and when all is said and done, very few rock or pop albums can match the one-two-three punch of the first side.  Curiously enough, however, my iTunes stats tell me that over the last decade plus, it’s been U2’s popularly maligned, secularly surfaced Pop, released 20 years ago, that’s received more play on my mobile devices.)

Of course, all love is subjective.  And to appreciate Pop, I suppose you have to appreciate what it represents - one of the biggest band in the world's last bold, if not desperate, stab at positive evolution and contemporary relevance.  Like the similarly-situated, electronically-inflected Adore by The Smashing Pumpkins or Undercover by The Rolling Stones, that last stab was a commercial flop.  So what we tend to remember are the apologies that came quickly after: in less than two years, U2 announced an early exit from their decade of reinvention by releasing their first compilation, The Best of the 1980-1990, which paved the have for the first step toward artistic entrenchment and an adult contemporary audience, All That You Can’t Leave Behind, which was followed by U2’s second compilation (The Best of the 1990-2000), which attempted to rewrite 1997 with flattened “new” mixes of Pop’s representative tracks (with members of the band claiming that they never really got to finish Pop properly to “U2 standards”).  On the one subsequent occasion in the new Millennium when the band dared to be (half-assedly) daring (No Line on the Horizon), both the critics and the marketplace beat them back down into a state of nostalgic submission (Songs of Innocence).  Twenty years after the release of Pop, the most interesting new material that U2 can muster is backing up the second half of a Kendrick Lamar tune.

With the release of Rattle and Hum (1988) hot on the heels of their most artistically and commercially successful record, it seemed like the band would go the route of All That You Can’t Leave Behind.  To their credit, however, Achtung Baby ushered in the band’s second decade with a surprisingly deep lack of self-seriousness, and the title of U2’s undisputed masterpiece, seemingly cemented with The Joshua Tree, would forever be disputed.  Nonetheless, by 1997, after successively more experimental affairs (Zooropa), the Brian Eno collaboration/faux soundtrack, Passengers), Pop seemed poised to fail.  Kurt Cobain was three years gone, while Dave Matthews was on perma-tour.  In the midst of the last gasps of radio, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and The Smashing Pumpkins had given way to the Foo Fighters, Collective Soul, and Hootie and the Blowfish.  The X-geners had tired of the decade of irony; and they were content to just chill.

But if the gentle listener had cared to put down the knee-jerk, bandwagon-piling reviews and put on the headphones, she/he would have found that Pop had quite consciously/critically tapped into that late ‘90s ennui (“Wake Up Dead Man”, “Last Night on Earth”, and the whipping post of the record and lead single, “Discotheque”) - even a certain post-Tarantino pop culture drone of waiting for something to happen (“Miami”).  Even setting aside its historical relevance/irrelevance, Pop includes some of the most personal songs in Bono’s oeuvre (“Mofo”, “Gone”), and for my money, one of the highest peaks in the band's songwriting and performance (“Please”).  And as for my own iTunes play history, Pop opens with a one-two-three punch that positively pumps.

It's not my favorite U2 record, but I love it, and I'm done apologizing.

Offline wraitii

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Re: The 20th Anniversary of Pop
« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2017, 01:45:34 PM »
Pop is a record for 2017. Playboy Mansion just needs "Trump/more than a businessman" in there and it's the perfect album.

It's in my opinion Bono's strongest lyrics overall. An album about being disillusioned with God and Humanity that rings true, not complacent. It's been called daring, but it's really not, it's resigned, it's basically self-harm in lyrical form.

And Gone is the greatest song about Jesus criticising humanity.
« Last Edit: April 15, 2017, 01:48:12 PM by wraitii »

Offline Spacejunk69

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Re: The 20th Anniversary of Pop
« Reply #2 on: April 16, 2017, 12:11:45 AM »
An absolute masterpiece. I don't care what the band says.

I hate the remixes of the songs, the album that was released is perfect. It has also stood the test of very, very well. And Pop Mart was stunning.

U2, unfortunately, will never be that good again.

Offline Rasmus

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Re: The 20th Anniversary of Pop
« Reply #3 on: April 17, 2017, 02:05:41 PM »
Pop was the album that turned me into a U2 fan. I clearly remember hearing Discoteque on the radio - one time was enough for me to go buy the album which just blew me away. The songs, the sounds and even more so the lyrics! I agree with wraitii that its a resigned and disillusioned album questioning not only our modern society but also the singer himself ("happy to go blind", "already gone fell, that way all along" etc). Its a desperate cry for empathy, humanity and spirituality in a world that has lost its way. It's perfect for 2017. I saw it as a masterpiece back then and I still do.