Author Topic: POP: The High Watermark Of U2's Frustration and Their Most Turbulent Period  (Read 14205 times)

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Offline jick

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I have been aware that ever since U2's renaissance in All That You Can't Leave Behind in 2000, they gained so many new fans from the younger generation.

When this new generations of listeners want to learn more about U2, they usually just buy The Best Of 1980-1990, or The Best Of 1990-2000 or U218.  However, none of them show U2's most "turbulent period" because even in The Best Of 1990-2000 - the Pop songs are already finished and not in their original "unfinished" state.

U2 has done a good job of hiding/concealing POP for the newcomers, while for the old fans U2 have virtually disowned the album by remixing every vital track there.

Being a U2 historian, I think it is only fair that the newbies get educated about this U2 album.  Reading this can also help us prepare for the coming of the new album.  So now, I want to do a service to the forum members by putting in excerpts of some out-of-print U2 cover articles from Q magazine.

I hope you learn from this read.  I will not interject my opinions or comments - maybe I will further down the thread.  I will let you readers give your own opinions first.  Here you go:
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Q MAGAZINE, MARCH 1997: POP (article snippets)

Larry Mullen Jr: "I'm just, like, trying to find clarity, y'know.  Some people have now heard the record and they want to talk about it and I just feel . . . (grimaces) I just need a week. Having said that, it's very hard to find a place for this record.  It doesn't have that sort of grounding that maybe some of the other records have.  So that's my problem."

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Q MAGAZINE, NOVEMBER 2000: ALL THAT YOU CAN'T LEAVE BEHIND (article snippets)

After Pop, a record no member of U2 will now describe as "finished", came the deluge.

Larry Mullen Jr: "I remember after the Pop record being so gutted that Staring At The Sun. . . it should have been a f****** huge single but we didn't have time to finish it properly.  And I remember having to do interviews, and being asked what the album was about and [does mean dog eyes] I had no. . . f******. . . idea.  All I knew was that if we'd had one more month we could have pulled that song through."

Popmart was the crucible out of which U2 plucked All That You Can't Leave Behind.

Larry Mullen Jr: "I'm under no illusions about the difficulty of recapturing ground that we've lost."

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Q MAGAZINE, NOVEMBER 2002: BEST OF 1990-2000 (article snippets)


...It's clear that, re-energised by the creative and commercial rebirth of 2000's All That You Can't Leave Behind, progress on the band's latest studio album (which would be How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb) is cracking along apace.

"We're on a roll," Edge nods. "It's getting more like the early U2 records.  Really simple, stripped-down arrangements.  That's what we're hungry for - music with that life-force."

Of course, U2 haven't always had it this easy, as spotlit by an airing of a meaty remix of Staring At The Sun, a song from 1997's troubled Pop album - still the high watermark of U2's frustration.  Suffering from what Bono describes as "death by mid-tempo", it's the one tune that the band could never get to work. Tellingly, it's one of four new "revisionist" remixes (along with Discotheque, Numb and Gone) that appear on Best Of 1990-2000, their second collection of hits and key album tracks due on November.

For U2, the years 1990 to 2000 represent a troubled era in the group's history.  It was a decade of wild experimentalism, intra-band friction, ambitiously realised stage shows and skin-of-their-teeth live performances, of parties-out bass players and rush-released albums.

...

The [Passengers] album also tested the relationship between U2 and producer Brian Eno, and the accusation lingers that with Passengers, U2 went "too Eno".

"At that moment in time, both Brian and the band felt that it would be good to have a break from each other, " says Edge, a little cagily. "But it was more a case of, Let's try to make a different kind of record now."

And so began the most turbulent period in U2's history.  The quartet built a team comprising Flood, Howie B and Massive Attack producer Nellee Hooper.  While the initial exploratory sessions for the Pop album - which kicked off in summer 1995, with loops employed as a replacement for Mullen (who was recovering from a back injury) - proved interesting, it wasn't long before U2 realised they'd dug themselves into a hole.

Edge: "We were in a position where Larry had to take time off and it seemed like, Hey,here we have a bunch of people who..."

Mullen:" ... Know how to use drum machines."

Edge: " ...Who generally use samples, so let's start the project like that.  But when we got to the mixes using the loops, it was like the heart and soul was missing.  I remember turning round to Flood saying, Why is this sounding so flat and lifeless?  What are we missing? And he said, The band! And it was suddenly, lik, Ah... right... OK.  He sussed it before anyone else."

Flood: "All of the records that I've worked with them on, it doesn't matter how much experimentation's been involved, the core has always been the four of them playing together in a room.  That was one of the things that threw the album off on a tangent that it never managed to get back from.

"It was the band at their most fractured," he continues.  "You've got Larry who's struggling with his health, then Adam and Nellee weren't seeing eye to eye, then Edge wanting to rediscover the guitar and finding it difficult, then Bono's tendency to come in and vibe things up."

Factor in the added pressure of scheduling a tour that would top Zoo TV, and the atmosphere built to dangerously stormy levels.  Then U2 committed a cardinal sin.

Mullen: "We did that thing we always tell younger bands not to do.  Which is book a tour before the record's finished."

"How about never put out the record 'til you've finished the record," Paul McGuiness notes, wryly.

This was the crux of the problem: U2 had run out of time and were now forced into releasing an incomplete album.

"By the end, it was just becoming a blind panic," Flood remembers.  "I felt I'd let the band and myself down.  Unfortunately when you're making a record with U2, it's a very high-profile place to make a mistake."

"It was like, Oh my God, this record isn't very good," Mullen confesses.  "But that was because of the time constraints. If we'd had an extra month, we'd have been able to do a lot more with some of the songs."

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Cheers,

J





Offline U2#1-War

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hahaha looks you finally did some research!

Offline JuniorEmblem

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just goes to show how true the old adage about musicians being the worst people to judge their own music is.

Pop routinely beats out atyclb in fan polls.


Offline U2#1-War

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ATYCLB is miles better than POP

Offline JuniorEmblem

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ATYCLB is miles better than POP

No it's not
Yes it is
No it's not

ad nauseum


Offline JuniorEmblem

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Pop is preferred over atyclb by hard core u2 fans (we do have taste,   ;D )


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Offline jick

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just goes to show how true the old adage about musicians being the worst people to judge their own music is.

Pop routinely beats out atyclb in fan polls.



Worldwide sales and awards garnered are better gauges to me than "fan polls."

Offline braxhunt

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Just a note that in those links pop won the poll for least favorite album. Personally pop is my favorite though.

Offline jick

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Pop is preferred over atyclb by hard core u2 fans (we do have taste,   ;D )


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Unfortunately, U2 makes music for the millions who buy their album and not the mere thousands who are in online forums.  The number of units any given U2 album sells in its first day greatly outnumbers the number of total forum members in all online U2 forums combined.  We are all statistically insignificant to U2 in the bigger scheme of things.

Cheers,

J

Offline Nagrom99

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terrible thread.....this will go on forever.  No one can say which one is better, and pretend they're right.  This is up to the individual.  I like both albums...but If I was on a desert island and given a choice.....Actually, I don't know, I was going to say POP, but I love Kite so much....who knows....who cares...people are going to like what they're going to like.

Offline JuniorEmblem

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Re: POP: The High Watermark Of U2's Frustration and Their Most Turbulent Period
« Reply #10 on: February 03, 2009, 09:14:18 AM »


You're reading the polls wrong, it's a bit confusing, but basically Pop is the poll takers' 4th favorite album.

Sure, other records have sold more, but those 'fans' then move on to other things and don't stay with the band. If they did then all JT and AB buyers would still be with the band, but sales/attendances ebb and flow and they don't.

I guess it depends if you measure the artistic success of their records by sales, in which case Miley Cyrus then becomes a serious musical force, or if you gauge on how much staying power it has with their real fans.




Offline jick

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Re: POP: The High Watermark Of U2's Frustration and Their Most Turbulent Period
« Reply #11 on: February 03, 2009, 09:52:55 AM »
This thread won't go on forever.

This is not for the fans here to argue for the nth time if POP is good or bad.

My purpose for starting this thread is to educate the new fans (the ATYCLB and after ones) on how the band really feels about POP.

So this thread is more about U2's opinion than it is about our personal opinions.

Cheers,

J

Offline Nagrom99

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Re: POP: The High Watermark Of U2's Frustration and Their Most Turbulent Period
« Reply #12 on: February 03, 2009, 09:53:30 AM »
copy that.

Offline JuniorEmblem

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Re: POP: The High Watermark Of U2's Frustration and Their Most Turbulent Period
« Reply #13 on: February 03, 2009, 10:03:45 AM »
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My purpose for starting this thread is to educate the new fans (the ATYCLB and after ones) on how the band really feels about POP.


And my purpose for continuing it will be to show how the FANS, the fans who love U2 so much that they join U2 forums such as this, feel about it.

So, @u2 member, so far your peer group has Pop as it's favorite album over atyclb by an 8:1 margin, so go buy it and take some quality time and really listen to it.

As Jick's favorite musical-source-magazine says about it:

"What we can say immediately is that Pop sounds absolutely magnificent"

"With Pop, they've defied the odds and made some of the greatest music of their lives"

And they gave it the same rating they did atyclb, 4 stars.

Here's some other things U2 said about it:

Q Magazine, March 1997


Pop, Pop, Pop Music

U2's New Album, Track by Track

DISCOTHEQUE The first single, complete with "boom"-enriched outro and accompanying video featuring soon-to-be-legendary appearance of U2 as the Village People. Bono: "When we were recording that, we had the whole studio in mirrorballs and disco lights."

DO YOU FEEL LOVED Heavy groove-based rocker in the tradition of "Even Better Than The Real Thing." Very likely single. Wry personal reference suspected in the opening lines:"Take these hands they're good for nothing/You know these hands never worked a day."

MOFO Sonic assault as U2 are possessed by the twin spirits of Underworld and The Prodigy, with Bono at his most cathartic. Breakneck double-tracked drumming quite likely the highlight of Larry Mullen's recorded career.

IF GOD WILL SEND HIS ANGELS Slow-winding ballad constructed around a title that existed during Zooropa sessions. Bono: "It's this guy beating up his girlfriend about her searching for answers and just telling her to look around. It's like science fiction gospel. Edge is calling it country hip-hop."

STARING AT THE SUN Infectious, sky-scraping pop song with echoes of Ray Davies and Bowie's Soul Love. Notable alone for middle eight couplet, "referee won't blow the whistle/God is good but will he listen?" Dead-cert summer number one.

LAST NIGHT ON EARTH U2 play Oasis at their own game. Steaming rocker with powerful Beatle-y chorus. The last track to be finished, with vocals recorded at 7am on the day of the album cut. Bono: "It felt like the last night on earth, alright."

GONE Soaring uplifter oddly reminiscent of The Verve, replete with darkly spiritual lyric. Likely to be emotional highpoint of candlelight vigil if U2's plane ever goes down. Edge: "There's many layers to that song and there's another level to it which I haven't figured yet."

MIAMI The strangest track of all. Electro experimental before Mullen kicks in with weighty John Bonham-styled groove. Lyrical snapshots of a band trip to Florida in spring '96. Edge: "It's sort of creative tourism."

THE PLAYBOY MANSION Touching tale of lottery playing average Joe fantasising about gaining entry to Hugh Hefner's private Disneyland, set to '60's flavoured trip-hop. Return to knowingly delivered truisms in verses, including the maybe libellous, "If coke is a mystery/Michael Jackson.....History."

IF YOU WEAR THAT VELVET DRESS Muted and frankly, horny ballad with echoes of Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game." Something for the weekend. Edge: "That was a song that basically came out of improvisation with Nellee Hooper."

PLEASE Shuffly meandering and moody bid-pacer. Edge: "One of the most intricate pieces of music we've ever written."

WAKE UP DEAD MAN Spaghetti-western atmosphere bristling with distant radio voices. A distorted Bono voices his frustration to Jesus "I'm alone in this world/And a f*cked up world it is too."

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Re: POP: The High Watermark Of U2's Frustration and Their Most Turbulent Period
« Reply #14 on: February 03, 2009, 10:23:14 AM »
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This thread won't go on forever.

This is not for the fans here to argue for the nth time if POP is good or bad.

My purpose for starting this thread is to educate the new fans (the ATYCLB and after ones) on how the band really feels about POP.

So this thread is more about U2's opinion than it is about our personal opinions.

Cheers,

J


Does it really matter what the band thinks of the album? So what if its their least favorite, or they think it is their worst. We as fans are, like everyone else in the world, entitlied to our own opinions! I love Pop, it is my favorite U2 album by an absolute MILE - I love all their albums, they are all fantastic pieces of work and I listen to all of them all the time, but if someone asks me which one is my favorite, Ill bloody well tell them, and I dont care who agrees or disagrees with me whether it's the band themselves or U2 fans who prefer other albums! I will never try to convert anyone to my thoughs or taste, and no-one else should either.