January 8th, 2013 1:22pm
This Suit Of Lights
U2’s Pop is a very good record but most people don’t know that because the band totally bungled its marketing by insisting that it was a dance record about frivolous modern excesses when it is, in fact, a fairly grim record about dying faith and self-recrimination that happens to have a lot of electronic textures. It’s of a piece with the band’s ’90s material, not some weird attempt to be the Chemical Brothers or something. On top of that, they stubbornly refused to do themselves a favor and release “Gone,” the most obvious hit on the album, as a single, though they put out six singles from the record. I promise you that in an alternate universe, U2 released “Gone” as the first single from Pop and the record did twice as well.
“Gone” would’ve been the conservative choice for a single in that it’s the only soaring arena rock song on the record. U2 wanted to present themselves as ahead of the curve at this moment in time, but they misunderstood that moment, and went against their own interests both in terms of the market, and in accurately representing the tone of their album. “Discotheque,” the actual first single from Pop, is a good song buried in a mess of confused production choices, and its fairly dark lyrical themes are lost in the cognitive dissonance of picturing the guy who sang “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “Pride (In the Name of Love)” hanging around at a dance club. “Gone” rather directly cuts to the heart of Pop, and is probably one of the most brutally honest things Bono has ever written. This is Bono’s meditation on fame, and it’s way more nuanced than you might expect from a guy who embraces his station as rock royalty more than anyone else of his generation. It’s mainly about feeling guilty – for getting “so much for so little,” for betraying people he loves by abusing his privilege, for losing touch with his true self. There’s no conclusion to these ideas, all of the catharsis comes in the music, which builds to a glorious peak and cuts off. It’s a big neurotic freak out that basically ends when he loses energy.
I like to think of this as the bitter conclusion of an arc of three excellent U2 songs with a similar musical tone and lyrical theme. Bono creates the image of the disaffected rock star in “The Fly,” addresses the cost of living in that persona in “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me,” and burns it all down and walks away from it in “Gone.”
Buy it from Amazon.