(22 january 2007)
recently, it has been nothing but pop, an album i’ve always appreciated for its jarring incompleteness. the band got rushed and didn’t have time to relentlessly perfect and dope it down. as a result, pop is a raw spiritual undoing splashed in enough glitter that it can almost masquerade as a party.
it’s an odd juxtaposition, and it can be hard to take it all in. u2 albums are legendary for their cohesiveness. listening to pop is like reading a book of short stories when you were expecting a novel.
it’s a tangle of chatter and tight spots and fast escapes and sudden shifts. the pop in the title isn’t just pop music. it’s the pop that comes after the exhilaration and freedom of achtung baby and zooropa. it’s the bubble’s burst.
to me, it’s as though the protagonist has found himself at a strip club in the middle of the day, and it suddenly hits home how far he’s wandered. in “mofo” he pleads with his dead mother to show him how to get out of the mess he’s in. and that’s pretty much the high point. you wind up with him on his knees, speaking directly to Jesus, pleading, wake up, dead man– with someone talking in the background all the while, as if to emphasize his insignificance.
this sounds terribly depressing, but i swear it’s not. because of all u2’s albums, i think this is the most honest. it captures them in a weird moment- on a bender in southern france struggling with the pressures of their art, their addictions, their women and their past. it’s not all pretty (“miami” is an ugly, ugly song), but it’s there. it’s their bullshit. it’s real.
this past week i listened to pop day and night, over and over. and for the first time, it wasn’t jarring or incomplete. it was just a glitzy little exhausted naughty mess. unapologetically so. and that’s rather beautiful. what a pity the boys have been apologizing for it ever since.