U2's Pop- by Thomas Donald Clarke
On February 12, 1997, U2 came to the K-Mart on Astor
Place to announce their new album and their world tour. Now
Pop is upon us. Is it a return to the 80s rock sound typified
by The_Joshua_Tree and Rattle_and_Hum? Or is U2 twenty years
ahead of now like they were on the revolutionary Zooropa?
Pop stakes the middle ground musically, sounding like
something from this side of the edge of the 21st Century. The
old U2 can be heard on "Last Night on Earth" and
"Discotheque." But U2 sounds more like British electronic
pioneers Massive Attack on "Miami" and "Please." Most of the
tracks on Pop are synthesizer driven, although Bono's lead
singing distinguishes the new U2 sound from the Massive
Attack collaborations with Tracey Thorn and Madonna (who is
mentioned in "Miami").
U2 has always had unique lyrics that have made certain
songs more memorable for their meaning than for their
instrumentation. Pop's lyrical classics include "The Playboy
Mansion" (with OJ, Michael Jackson, and McDonald's references
in a mocking quest to visit Hugh Hefner's abode), the
longingly seductive "If You Wear That Velvet Dress,"
"Please," and the provocatively titled "Wake Up Dead Man."
A recurring theme throughout Pop is the sense of
religious longing. In "Mofo," Bono sings about "looking to
fill the God shaped hole" and "looking for baby Jesus under
the trash." In "If God Would Send His Angels," one wonders
how much society has stripped religion and faith of their
meanings. And depending how you look at it, "Wake Up Dead
Man" can either be a wake up call to humanity for ignoring
Jesus or a wake up call to Jesus for leaving man alone in a
faithless void. U2 mentions God and Jesus as often as DC Talk
and Jars of Clay (two contemporary Christian rock acts) do in
their albums. But many Christophobes in the media and society
(perhaps the targets of "Mofo" and "If God Would Send His
Angels") mention God only when cursing.
Overall, Pop is halfway between Achtung Baby and
Zooropa. "Mofo," "Miami," "Please," and "Staring At The Sun"
are the tracks most likely to follow "Discotheque" to radio
success. U2 fans who thought The Joshua Tree was the last
great U2 album might be disappointed. But fans of Zooropa
might enjoy U2's slight return to the electric guitar and
March 1997/BC Excelsior