Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Goodbye, Goodbye, That Place Called Vertigo 

Like the rest of the free world, I bought the U2 CD yesterday. People were damn near stepping on each other to get at the thing in the Virgin Megastore in Times Square. I bought the standard-issue, no-frills version which they had for $14.99, which is the absolute most I will pay for a non-import CD. For another five bucks, there was a bonus DVD version, but the content didn't sound too thrilling to me. And of course there was also the obligatory super-mambo-deluxe packaging with a book (why just listen to the new U2 album when you can read it?) and, I don't know what else it comes with. A pair of Bono's sunglasses, maybe.

At the risk of sounding like a hater, which I am not, I have to say I was woefully unimpressed with the record after spinning it once. The last track, "Yahweh," sounded like Joshua Tree-era stuff, and it stuck out as a highlight. "Vertigo"—aka their re-write of "Ray Of Light" (not that that's a bad thing)—is already done. How sad is it that the band that is the worldwide standard-bearer for cool rock & roll has overexposed their new album's lead single to the point that everyone—and I think I speak for everyone on the planet here, if I may be so bold—was sick of the thing before the album it appears on had even been commercially released? For real, I played the song at my gig last Saturday, and about a minute into it I thought: "Wow, this feels really lame. I wish I hadn't played this."

Look, I'm not giving up on them, or on this album after one measly spin. They're still a great band by any measure. But this is roughly the same feeling I had when I bought the R.E.M. album the day it came out last month. Both bands have been recording artists for about 24 years. While they're probably never going to do anything completely terrible, they are never going to equal their greatest achievements, either. Perhaps the letdown is inevitable. At this stage of their career, the Stones were making Steel Wheels. Hey, "Almost Hear You Sigh" is a pretty good song, but on balance I'll take what these whippersnappers from Athens and Dublin are doing instead.

I also picked up the new Gwen Stefani, which on first listening was pretty good. The purchase of the day, though, was Words & Music, the two-disc Mellencamp comp that came out about a month ago. I know that praising this isn't exactly going to score me points with hipsters in Williamsburg, and I myself am guilty of certain aesthetic prejudices that will probably prevent me from ever playing the 'camp during a club set (I might have busted "Jack & Diane" once—once!—in, like, '99), but this is one of the best hits compilations I have ever heard in my life. And I've heard a few. I plan to do a full review of it sometime soon.

Have a great feast.

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