Straining to keep up with the zeitgeist
Dennis O'Dell 2009-02-13
The Edge described Pop, rather disingenuously, as being, ''about as far away from U2 as it is possible to be". This was strange considering that their last album, in collaboration with Brian Eno, had been the very un-U2 Passengers album. This was the point where, despite their epic status as world superstars, U2 were finally proven to have feet of clay.
It's the sound of a band not reinventing themselves (as they did on Achtung Baby), but straining to keep up with the zeitgeist. In 1997 Britpop was on the wane, and dance music was now mainstream. The band employ Howie B, Steve Osborne and Flood to pep up some quite straightforward songs with loops, samples and bubbling synths. But despite the fairy dust they still have a somewhat dour heart.
Opening single Discotheque may have had a jolly camp glitterball romp of a video, but the irony seemed forced. By Last Night On Earth and Gone the party mood's soured and the other blast of fresh air: Mofo, has been forgotten. Closer, Wake Up Dead Man, may be the grimmest thing they ever committed to tape.
The number of singles released from Pop (six out of 12) just drove home the point that maybe U2 had strayed too far. Barely any of this material was used in subsequent gigs, and on their next studio outing they returned to what, after all, they knew best: pure stadium rock.