U2 get a lot of stick, probably partly because of Bono’s media profile and charitable efforts. Is it easier to be philanthropic when you’re stupendously rich? I don’t know, actually.
I came to U2 pretty late in the day, as a teenager, somewhere between Zooropa and Pop; my friends included a disproportionate number of pretty intense U2 fans. I devoured the back catalogue, eventually came to love Pop, and got pretty hooked.
I’ve backslidden a little since then. The shine started to fade during my first listen to How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, and the Vertigo show we caught in Glasgow did next to nothing for me. (This was disappointing. The two other times I’ve seen them live were memorable for all the right reasons. Elevation in Manchester is one of my favourite gigs.) I think I’ve listened to No Line On The Horizon three or four times at most.
The band were at the height of their powers when they were (so the story goes) at their least cohesive as a group, in the time of Achtung Baby and Zooropa. This was when the songwriting was still sharp but the sound had hardened up a bit. Those two albums serve up some of my favourite tunes, including my probable Best Song Ever (I won’t name it — it’s too predictable).
On Zooropa, there’s the mundane yet surreal imagery of “Stay (Faraway, So Close)”, swaddled in blunt guitars and understated vocal harmonies. This song holds memories of driving home late at night, periodically tapping the back button on the car’s CD player to listen to it just one more time. I still find it difficult to listen to it just once, thanks to the shivers it gives me.