Worst Albums Of All Time: U2 – ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind’

U2 - All That You Can't Leave BehindFirst things first: Bono is a complete bell-end. Of all of the musicians in the world, he is the most outspoken, pretentious and out of touch of all of them. Bono’s personality can be summed up as the product of over 30 years or so of being surrounded by yes-men, with no-one to say to him “No, Bono. The music industry doesn’t work that way any more” or “Take off those glasses you twat. You look like a geriatric fly.”

So to get you in the mood for the rest of the review, here’s a collection of pretentious Bono quotes – that I spent upwards of 5 minutes scouring the internet for – to make you hate the great man even more:

“Books! I dunno if I ever told you this, but books are the greatest gift one person can give another.”

“Laughter is eternity if joy is real.”

“I wish to begin again on a daily basis. To be born again every day is something that I try to do. And I’m deadly serious about that.”

“If I don’t understand it, it must be art.”

“You’ll never go broke selling shit music to morons.”

* One of the above may not be an actual Bono quote.

But I think the thing I hate the most about U2 is their music. It’s always just been such completely innocuous bullshit. Even in the old Joshua Tree days, which came out when I was a kid, I thought they were completely garbage. “Who is that bare chested nonce prancing about on that rooftop?” I remember innocently asking my parents (actual words may differ from real events). I’ve also been told that their first few albums were pretty good, but honestly, why would I bother when the exact same four people are capable of creating turds of the calabre of All That You Can’t Leave Behind.

For those of you that don’t remember the album, or like me confused it with any of their near identical last three or four albums, this is the one with “Beautiful Day”, and “Elevation” on it. Those two songs alone are prime examples of U2’s genre of choice: Music for people that don’t really like music. (Other bands or artists in this genre include Coldplay, Ben Harper, Maroon 5, Aerosmith, The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jack Johnson).

Let’s start with “Beautiful Day”: the name alone conveys the sort of low emotional investment we’re dealing with here. The chorus of said song is the type of sentiment you’d find written on a novelty roll of “Daily Advice” toilet paper: “It’s a beautiful day/ Sky falls, you feel like /It’s a beautiful day/ Don’t let it get away”. Shitting on it and flushing it away is too good for it. I always found the lines “Touch me/ Take me to that other place/ Teach me/ I know I’m not a hopeless case” incredibly clunky as well.

But the best lyrics of all are saved for the song “Wild Honey”: “In the days/ When we were swinging from the trees/ I was a monkey/ Stealing honey from the swarm of bees”. I’m not sure what this actually means to be honest. But I do like the fact that he referred to himself as a monkey, and I imagine the swarm of bees refers to the the fans that flock to his gigs, paying large amounts of honey to be preached at about poverty by a millionaire tax exile.

The other hugely popular track off the album is “Elevation”. It has the sort of over-produced saccharine quality that screams “instant radio hit”. And I guess that summarises U2’s music as a whole quite nicely for me. It’s just such nothing music: nothing about it is remotely interesting, thought provoking or even particularly well written. Elevation has some great lyrics too: “A star/ Lit up like a cigar/ Strung out like a guitar/ Maybe you can educate my mind”. Maybe you can shut the fuck up.

The promo for the album’s title track is also basically the music video equivalent of self-fellatio:

It makes you wonder just who U2’s music actually appeals to these days. Sure, we all did a lot of stupid things in the 1980s – I used to think Dire Straits were the most amazing band in the world, for example – so if you liked them back then, you had shit taste in music, but it can at least be forgiven. But if you still listen to them and think they are “the world’s greatest band” as many of their fans claim, I can only assume that it’s because you don’t listen to a lot of other good music. It’s that thing again that a lot of people from my generation tend to do: they listen to new music up to a point, and then at a certain age they seem to decide “OK that’s it, I’m not going to listen to any new music any more”. And they spend the rest of their lives only listening to music that came out when they were younger. It’s the same phenomenon that accounts for the ridiculous amount of remakes of old movies: their music appeals to the same sort of people that think that yet another Incredible Hulk or Spiderman remake is a “great idea”, just because it was around when they were younger. Music for people that don’t like music any more, in other words.

While we’re on this subject, what’s the deal with people that say “But I don’t want my music to be thought provoking. I just want something I can put on at the end of the day and have on in the background.” Think about this for a second. Not only is it hugely insulting to the artform of music as a whole, let’s try and picture this same thought process in some different scenarios. Imagine you went to a bookshop and said “I’d like a book with very few words, just pictures of flowers and kittens so that I don’t have to concentrate too hard on reading after a long day at work.” Or a movie: “Could you just pop some pastel colours up on the screen with some ocean sounds for three hours or so – I don’t want to have to think too much during the film.” You see how stupid that sentiment is? You see how mad you make me, U2 fans?

If you’ve decided that all the great music is in the past, then fine. Music is not for you. But don’t say that it’s music’s fault, don’t say that there is no good music anymore. And if U2 are still your favourite band in 2011, then I’m not even sure why you listen to music at all. How are you even reading this? Did someone print it out for you? I hope it is on nice calming paper, with little relaxing pictures of sea shells on it.

See where U2’s “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” ranks in our Worst Albums Of All Time Chart.


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4 Responses to Worst Albums Of All Time: U2 – ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind’

  1. Pingback: The Coldplay Effect: or, When Good Bands Go Bland | andrewcferguson

  2. Loved it. You’ll see I namechecked this piece in my latest blog. Cheers!

  3. Biily Bob Grohl says:

    Crapsolutely, used to love these clowns up until 1984 and would watch clips of them covering Dylan all the time. Figured correctly they covered him because their music sucked… Bobby then introduced to the history of American roots music… Further agree with your assessment of Dylan Xmas.. absolute shite.

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