Feb 14

U2 – “Discotheque”

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#760, 15th February 1997

Discotheque A year before this, U2 just missed the top with one of their best singles: “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me”, a glam tidbit recorded for a Batman soundtrack that revels in its nocturnal, glitzy movie-theme moves. It might have sounded throwaway but it also sounded like a slinky, knowing good time – proof, you might have thought, that the reinvented New U2 of the 90s had bedded in and were comfortable in their shiny skins. They were working on a new LP. It was to be called Pop. Perhaps the best from them was yet to come?

In the light of this, you might charitably call “Discotheque” ‘unexpected’. You might also call it a confused, lumbering wreck of a track that burrows and bellows in search of a hook beyond its one shabby riff. It’s one of the poorest excuses for a major release we’ll encounter, the moment at which not only the great U2 experiment in post-modern popmaking, but an entire school of thought about rock comes off the rails.

“Discotheque” sounds half-finished because it was half-finished. The whole Pop album was scuppered because, having already spent forever working on scraps for it, the band went ahead and let management book a world tour, to kick off in Spring 1997. Just as the implacable timetables of mobilisation made the First World War inevitable, so too did the logistics of giant mirrorballs and colossal cocktail sticks doom U2’s comeback. The group were still fucking around in the studio, sampling other people, sampling themselves, experimenting with ‘loops’ – they ended up rushing songs to completion just to get a record out.

It was no way for the Biggest Band in the World to operate, but that was part of the problem. Behind its rejection of revivalism, Achtung Baby had hidden a deeper revival, a return to the old Beatles dream – the promise that the “biggest” band in the world could also be at the leading edge of pop culture. Even as someone with no time for U2, I had to admit that the pop-political theatre of ZooTV had come enticingly close to doing that – no wonder the U2 of 1996 bet foolishly big on the PopMart Tour.

This time it wasn’t going to happen, on tour or on record. You can pin the crash on the lack of Eno, perhaps – instead Howie B was brought in as a resident DJ – but Eno had helped cause the crisis in the first place. Eno’s famous methods – Oblique Strategies and so forth – are tools for focusing, which means they’re also an acknowledgement that a loss of focus is likely in the first place. Crucially, Eno honed his methods working with rock bands and artists who were deliberately trying to work with new genres and styles and bring them into their music. This was a main source of progress in the post-punk world – a potted definition of what being innovative meant in rock. It wasn’t so much an ‘imperial phase’ as a imperialist one – reaching out across musics and countries to find new things to incorporate into the body of rock. Dub, reggae, African music, minimalism, disco, rap, noise, techno….

As Eno realised, and U2 discovered, doing this came with a price – a loss of purpose, as musicians more at home with tinkering and learning-by-doing than grand theory wandered in playgrounds of experiment, paralysed by options. The Pop sessions involved endless, fruitless, sampling, for instance, and vast numbers of hired hands brought in to jam and lend ideas. The Eno method, as is clear in its absence, wasn’t meant to spark creativity so much as forcibly limit it just to get stuff done.

Meanwhile, the imperialist idea of rock as a force that can absorb all other musics created some great records, but it rested on a huge inefficiency. At its core there tended to be a band, who not only had to force all these ideas into shapes they might play live, but who also had to find a creative consensus on what was worth doing, and demonstrate the ability to do useful things with all these ideas. Most of which U2 seemed to flunk. “Discotheque” essentially sounds like a jam, and an unpromising one at that. The single it feels most like to me – also breathlessly awaited, also disastrous – is The Stone Roses’ meandering comeback “One Love”, but U2 don’t even have the cock-eyed optimism of 1990 to lean on.

Instead they go for cynicism. For all the haplessness of “Discotheque”’s creation, Bono is a pro, and knows how to talk up – and dress up – a dodgy record. “Discotheque” sounds like feeling sick at 2AM outside a nightclub, hearing the beat’s muffled thump through the wall, and that’s one way of piecing together its scrappy lyrics and excusing its miserable churn. “You know you’re chewing bubblegum… You just can’t get enough / Of that lovey-dovey stuff” sneers whoever Bono’s playing this time: if it’s taking a shot at cheap pop entertainment, the blow fails to land, because this alternative is so obviously a shitty time, neither inspiring or provoking.

U2’s working practise seemed to be to ride an approach till it flamed out. Just as Rattle And Hum had bounced U2 into backing down on pure revivalism, so Pop was cause for a second rethink. There’s a particular kind of 90s rock practise which gets mortally wounded on “Discotheque” – the big budget, everything-fusion album packed with superproducers and hangers-on. Taxi for Howie B, in other words. But while bands will still adopt and adapt to other music – and sometimes, like Radiohead, be loved for it – “Discotheque” also threatens to hold up as threadbare the entire vision of rock as the natural base of musical progress. If “rockism” has ever meant anything, it means what happened on this record – an assumption that other musics exist to provide new directions and stealable ideas to four rock guys in a guitar/bass/vox/drums lineup.

It’s telling that the breakdown of the New U2 happens on the album where they decided to really embrace sampling. Hip-hop not only proved very difficult for rock to assimilate, it was far better at realising rock’s syncretic pretensions – of being a core of popular music which could absorb and adapt to anything else. In fact, it did this quite casually, and more efficiently than the rock band model had since the late 60s. The telescoping of ‘band’ into a single beatmaker let borrowings happen more quickly and with less compromise, and the competition between producers to supply beats to popular or rising-star acts meant the turnover of ideas was fierce. This may not seem relevant to U2, though let me cruelly point out that during the multi-producer elephant gestation of Pop, the RZA had managed to produce the entirety of 4 well-beloved LPs and most of Wu-Tang Forever. But Pop wasn’t some legendary over-budget folly of a record, it was an album planned, produced and marketed to a more-or-less standard corporate rock timetable. The bigger the band, the longer the album/tour cycle lasted – but that cycle was creatively ruinous. It was both a mortally inefficient way to handle a genuine artistic hot streak, and fearsomely effective at exposing the lack of one.

Post-mortems of 1997 in rock provided a neat moral lesson – a contrast between Oasis, doubling down on tradition and overreaching themselves, and Radiohead, looking outwards and forwards in critical triumph. We’ll get a chance to reassess Oasis in a few weeks, but even before then the draggy, floundering “Discotheque” provides some useful complication. Bands could be gigantic, ambitious, entirely convinced of the virtue of progression – and end up making terrible records anyhow. The apparent choice between moving forward and looking back covered up deeper problemns. In the callous language of modern business, rock music was ripe for disruption.



  1. 1
    Kat but logged out innit on 11 Feb 2014 #

    But while bands will still adopt and adapt to other music – and sometimes, like Radiohead, be loved for it

    OMG I wonder if ‘Idioteque’ is in fact a not-so-sly dig?? I’ll laugh until my head falls off etc

  2. 2
    Tom on 11 Feb 2014 #

    Since I don’t like Idioteque I will take it instead as ‘considered homage to the pioneering work of Bono’

  3. 3
    James BC on 11 Feb 2014 #

    I disagree – Hold Me Thrill Me etc isn’t any good either.

  4. 4
    Steve Mannion on 11 Feb 2014 #

    Sorry 4 pedantz but actual lyric iirc is “You know you’re chewing bubblegum, you know what it is but you still want some, you just can’t get enough of that lovey-dovey stuff” – just a play on the perceptions of both pop and E as cheap or fleeting thrills. I don’t think it was really intended as an outright dismissal of either – if anything the opposite. That’s not to say it’s one of Bono’s better beermat scrawls either tho.

    I liked this at the time and given U2’s slide into less adventurous diminishing returns imo ‘Pop’ is still a more interesting record than anything they’ve done since (I know Bono’s slated it a lot himself since but whatever he thinks they regained afterwards I guess I’m just not interested in).

  5. 5
    Tom on 11 Feb 2014 #

    #4 Aargh sorry, I was making a point about the actual lyric tho not my mangled version of it, so I’ve just edited it. It still comes off as pretty sneery.

  6. 6
    Izzy on 11 Feb 2014 #

    I quite like Pop in truth – half of its tracks are pretty good, and I count Discotheque among them. Mofo is the standout though – it’s pretty much alone in retaining a sense of menace, which the others could have had were the more cartoonish aspects of their adopted personalities not by now getting in the way.

    Discotheque itself still holds up – it’s got a pleasing, messy sound, the guitar break is good and fits the not-quite-rock space they’ve got themselves into, and it’s hooky enough to make no.1 on merit. I’ll give it a (7).

  7. 7
    @Elmo_Keep on 11 Feb 2014 #

    Excellent. “@tomewing: U2’s difficult 9th album, and corporate rock in crisis: http://t.co/ejg5fv9BBw”

  8. 8
    thefatgit on 11 Feb 2014 #

    This. When this was released, I laughed. U2 do a parody record. A shot at comedy, resplendent with digital tinsel. But who, exactly were their targets and what were they saying? Then I realised, this wasn’t “comedy”. They were merely trying on stuff to see if it fitted. And then I got angry…

    What I alluded to in the “Beetlebum” thread, and what Tom has crystallised in his post, U2, the Biggest Band In The World! And what do they do with that status? Like King Midas in reverse, they turn “Pop” to shit. Everything they touch, everything they reference, not least our friends, Village People are demeaned and collaborators are tainted by the four smirking lads from Dublin. They should have been and were old enough to know better. This is not pop. This is arrogance. This is hubris. This is verging on the homophobic. This annoys me in ways I can’t begin to describe. That is all that I can say about this.

  9. 9
    Cumbrian on 11 Feb 2014 #

    Some thoughts:

    Pop was so unfinished (or at least not finished to U2’s satisfaction) that they’ve gone back to fix, in various ways, half the tracks from it.

    It would have been brilliant if the interior of the Lemon from Pop Mart tour actually looked like what they’re performing inside in the video.

    Also, that Lemon responsible for U2’s very own Spinal Tap moment. Would have been even better had they been trapped inside that video when it happened.

    This might be the last time we see Bono before he starts dying his hair. Will he get as ridiculous as Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen? Who knows. Their choice obviously but they should all know they’re not fooling anyone – we know you’re all going grey.

    Agree with Steve @4 that Pop is the last time U2 have done something outside their comfort zone – definitely more interesting than their subsequent records. If this is a 2, I can only wonder what some of their upcoming bunnies are going to get.

    Aside from the philosophical problems with the record that Tom has raised, I personally don’t think it’s searching for hooks at all – there’s the riff, which sounds like it is carved out of radio static (continuation of hard sounds getting to #1 from The Prodigy and Chemical Brothers in 96), there’s the “tick tick tick Boom, Discotheque” at the end, there’s Bono’s spiral down the “let’s go”‘s. All of them called to my mind before I actually listened to it again. It’s actually quite memorable, I think.

    The question of whether it’s actually good is another one entirely. It doesn’t sound like it has much to do with Discos at all – operating on Nile Rodgers’ principle, explained to David Bowie, that if you’re going to call a track “Let’s Dance” make it something you can dance to, this record fails on that score – nor does it sound much like (a narrow, non-Yeah Yeah Yeah* definition of) Pop. The video suggests that they’re just there to make fun of Pop and Disco – which piles back into Tom’s problems with what it represents about Rock. As song, I don’t have much of a problem with it – what it represents, articulated well by Tom, I probably have more problem with. I think I’d mark it more highly but not at the 6 threshold to get in the end of the year poll.

    *Bob Stanley’s book currently a feature of my commute.

  10. 10
    Rory on 11 Feb 2014 #

    I’m starting to detect a pattern here, which seems to be the difference between a fan and a non-fan, in that my scores for U2 songs have been 2-4 points higher than Tom’s (the same holds for Blur as well). I’m not about to give “Discothèque” a gushing fan’s 9 or 10, but I did like it at the time, and on re-listening yesterday still liked it well enough, except that it’s so long – a tighter 3-minute mix would have made a significant difference.

    Pop, though: yeah, that was a dud. My favourite track on it was “Mofo”, which couldn’t match my favourites on Achtung Baby and Zooropa, so the drop in quality seemed stark. I came to their later albums with much less enthusiasm as a result – but more on those all in good time.

    We can’t mention U2’s studio noodling without also talking about their 1995 album-that-wasn’t, Passengers’ Original Soundtracks 1. It yielded one great song in “Miss Sarajevo”, and one or two others worth consideration, but it wasn’t a promising step at the time, a lack of promise subsequently borne out. If they’d combined the best of that album and Pop and, I dunno, waved a magic wand or something, they might have produced a mid-to-late-’90s album worth loving, but it wasn’t to be.

    Nevertheless: I’m a sucker for the Edge’s throatier guitar work, meaning I quite like “Discothèque”, and I’m still a fan, so 6.

  11. 11
    Tom on 11 Feb 2014 #

    #9 and #4 – I think this is a record that suggests some of the problems with “out of their comfort zone” as an uncritically offered compliment, i.e. it can work as a tactic but it’s not something that *inherently* deserves more praise than doing what you do well.

  12. 12
    Cumbrian on 11 Feb 2014 #

    #11: I’d agree. Interesting is not the same as good. That said, and we’ll get to U2’s later career eventually, but I’d rather they were interesting failures than bland successes – they are going to retreat further into the grey world of corporate rock after this. After all, I would argue that what they did well was not what they’ve ended up doing/what they were doing around The Joshua Tree – what I think they did well was the stuff around Achtung Baby and Zooropa, which was a step away from their previous work but much more considered than this. I actually do want them to take calculated risks because they have previous for making it interesting (and in the case of those two albums – to my ears at least – good).

  13. 13
    sükråt tanned rested unlogged and awesome on 11 Feb 2014 #

    Not many post-punk bands could improvise well in the moment — I should try and gin up a theory about the reasons for this — but I’d say few were less well set up for it than U2: so when they’re out of their comfort zone, they’re VERY exposed.

  14. 14
    James on 11 Feb 2014 #

    Don’t think I’ve ever heard the original until now and to be honest I don’t see the justification for such a low mark – 5 seems about right to me. Always had a soft spot for the David Morales remix though.

  15. 15
    Tom on 11 Feb 2014 #

    #12 as I think I argued around the time we covered “Desire”, there’s just as much stretching and exploring going on on The Joshua Tree – an LP which sounds ‘trad’ without actually sounding like anything else. There’s more obvious “now we will incorporate THIS” activity on AB and Zooropa, but I dunno that they’re stronger records (I may now have to make good on my long ago pledge to actually PLAY Achtung Baby soup-to-nuts).

  16. 16
    Bowiesongs (@bowiesongs) on 11 Feb 2014 #

    “Discotheque” sounds like feeling sick at 2AM outside a nightclub, hearing the beat’s muffled thump through the wall” http://t.co/QrHwcX3qRk

  17. 17
    Erithian on 11 Feb 2014 #

    Will come to the actual record later, but just wanted to note in passing that we’ve now had as many entries in 2014 as we had in the whole of 2012. Well done Tom!

  18. 18
    Doctor Casino on 11 Feb 2014 #

    I was, at the time, an emphatic non-fan: drawn to uptempo, hooky and loud alt-rock, their signature tunes all struck me as maudlin melodrama, slow and earnest and borrrrr-ing. I’ve warmed up to their ‘classic’ stuff a bit since then, and discovering Achtung Baby in 2006 was a revelation – but the funny thing is that at the time, and for much of the late 90s, “Discotheque” was the only one of their singles I gave any credit at all! Maybe because it didn’t sound like them, maybe I just liked the wash of echoing Bonos playing off the big, obvious, noisy riff. (An interesting reversal: usually it’s Bono’s big, obvious, blowsy singing playing off a wash of echoing pretty guitar parts!) It got stuck in my head, it kept me interested – not my favorite song of the year, but teenage Casino would have probably given it at least a 5.

    Now, though, the loose ends and the draggy length distract – quite like one or two Oasis numbers with which my gut says we’ll have to shortly contend, and it sounds a bit more like a shambling mess. Ehhhh…4. We’ve had so much worse here.

    All that being said, though, I think this is a fantastic write-up from Tom, moving very comfortably between the material/mechanical/production discussion of bands, expectations, tour schedules, etc., and the philosophical impasse of “genre-hopping” rockism, a line which I happily imbibed at that date. It was a ubiquitous trope, nothing new necessarily (reminds me now of Graceland, Phil Collins and “world music”), but it triangulated well with the specific claims of alt-rock: breaking down the old stuff, a wild new world “underground”: thus there must be new impossible sounds waiting to be heard. The upshot was a particularly lively and diverse playlist by the standards of rock radio, where you would here, side by side, big beat, by-the-numbers roots rock, some trip-hop, the swing revival, pop-punk and ska-oriented variants, Beck wheeze-rapping over the Dust Brothers, R.E.M.’s mid-decade exercises in glam and Patti Smith sprechstimme, the last gasps of sludgey, metal-derived grunge (Soundgarden), and so on.

    From a broader zoom, of course, this is pretty limited diversity. As well, all almost unceasingly white and with notable exceptions, pretty male. But compared to, say, the early years of the 2000s on the same radio stations, it actually was a garden of sonic delights. Perhaps the problem is that what works for a listener and a radio format – yes, I want it all, I listen to hip-hop and grunge! – rarely works for an individual act. But then it sounds like I’m closing down the barriers, asking acts to stay in their proper little boxes please. I think it might be a little too easy to say that hip-hop can do these things, but rock can’t, or that it has so much to do with consensus among personnel… the Wu-Tang Clan, as you well know, has more members than the RZA! But I still believe you’re on to something – will be mulling this post for a while, Tom.

  19. 19
    Chelovek na lune on 11 Feb 2014 #

    “Who wants to laugh, and who wants to sing, and who the hell would be a disco king?” – the Wonder Stuff dealt with the theme of this song rather more adequately (and lightly, and unbombastically, daft as it is to compare them to U2).

    Rule one: if you’re attempting to present one genre of music as being inadequate/incomplete, make something better than a good example of the genre you’re portraying as inadequate.

    The whole Achtung Baby period had some really interesting and largely successful attempts to marry rock with elements of dance technology. This though is nothing but shark-jumping. I quite agree about there being something close to homophobia at at least two points in the video, although not necessarily in the song itself. It’s odd that a record which could indeed almost be a dictionary definition of “rockism” is, in its sound (and even its attitude) as far from cock rock as imaginable. But still, quite unsatisfactory.


  20. 20
    mapman132 on 11 Feb 2014 #

    Ouch! I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. U2 seem to be one of those bands that one either loves or hates, and if you hate them, you really, really hate “Discotheque”. Heck, even people who love U2 hate “Discotheque”. One long, long running argument I have with some of my friends is whether or not U2 has been any good since their Joshua Tree heyday. I myself quite like post-JT U2 with Achtung Baby and the semi-bunnied album arriving in 2000 two of my favorites. Needless to say, Pop represents an absolute nadir for those of the opposing view.

    I liked “Discotheque” at the time although perhaps not as much as I expected to considering it combined one of my favorite bands with electronica sounds. I wasn’t aware of its troubled production but I’m not totally surprised. I’ll still give it 7/10 though.

    Chartwise, it peaked at #10 in the US. For such a huge long-running band, U2’s Hot 100 performance is less than you would expect: 16 Top 40’s, including 6 Top 10’s (this was the last). Their only two #1’s both came from Joshua Tree. Interesting then that half of their UK#1’s (or more than half if you count a technicality) are still to come.

  21. 21
    swanstep on 11 Feb 2014 #

    Yikes, this is quite unpleasant. Long, boring, completely unfunky, the rock bits don’t rock, the mix is incredibly murky, and Bono’s vocal in particular sounds like a guide track rather than the finished item. The mix of D that made it onto U2’s Best of 1990-2000 is better: it’s 40 secs shorter, and much of the murk is gone at least. It still doesn’t work in the sense that it still represents the shocking drop-off in quality from the previous two albums that Rory@#10 mentions, but at least that version of D isn’t gruelling the way the version from Pop is; it feels professional and competent:
    2 or 3 (Best of mix gets at least a 4)

  22. 22
    Tom on 11 Feb 2014 #

    #17 Rock obviously can and had and does and should do this stuff – in fact it’s built on assimilation – I think the point is more that doing this has certain implications in a process sense: either you settle for a slapdash approximation of what you’re playing with, or you NEED an Eno (or a George Martin maybe!) or enormous self-discipline to keep the wheels turning, and enormous self-discipline is not a quality we encourage by telling people how creative they are.

    & with hip-hop – this point got swallowed up in the review probably – you have a model for doing this experimenting more efficiently, because the beatmaking and MCing process is separated and both of these are down to individuals. The RZA is an unfair example because he was such an stupendously prolific producer at this point, though, and had an unusually large and talented group of rappers to work with. And also – because hip-hop acts don’t rely on an enormous global touring schedule as part of the cycle – producers can move on from ideas more quickly (IN THEORY – in practise hip-hop has its own kinds of inertia, which we’ll get to, but there is still a turnover of hot sounds)

  23. 23
    Steve Mannion on 11 Feb 2014 #

    #8 Would like you to say more about that! Lots one can unpack there at least – VP’s position throughout the 90s as a punchline (Wayne’s World), Bono’s own curious relationship with camp, the band’s subsequent chumming up with Boyzone (see their cameo in the video for ‘The Sweetest Thing’)… I don’t dispute that their ‘trying on’ of various things at this point could be tactless or insensitive but might this be inevitable for any “Biggest band in the world” seeming to still want that tag and to move with the times but lost in a miasma of audience expectations and artistic curiosity. They had a rep for self-awareness which persisted throughout (their turn on The Simpsons is one of of the funnier band appearances on that show before these became too commonplace and knowing) which makes the intentional naffness (for it seems as such) questionable though.

    I think ‘Pop’ tries to please everyone in and around their fanbase and falters accordingly. It’s clearly not as experimental as ‘Zooropa’ and the nods to Fluke, Death In Vegas, the Chems etc. aren’t as over-bearing as this lead single suggests (the others in its wake all sounded more like the U2 of old). Tom’s savaging of it reminds me of how UNKLE’s ‘Psyence Fiction’ LP was received by some the following year – overblown, sounding like it cost a fortune and took twice as long to record as it did (then again maybe ‘Psyence Fiction’ is closer to ‘Achtung Baby’ in terms of how well it does hang together due to the stewardship of its ‘star’ producer).

  24. 24
    taDOW on 11 Feb 2014 #

    POP seemed very much u2 reading their 90s press and buying into it. not nearly as fresh or “risk taking” or approaching clever as zooropa, not nearly as sincere or consistent as achtung baby, this was the 90s u2 of everything apart from the 90s records – the vague hipness, the blockbuster touring behemoth, the illfitting irony that by this point (dressing up as the village people, doing a press conference in a kmart) remind me of nothing so much as richard nixon going ‘sock it to me?’ – w/ the ‘legendary first ballot rrhof band weighs in on the sounds of the day’ both working as declaration of intention to be the new rolling stones and showing up just how far they fell short (historically at least, in terms of 1997 efforts pop does beat bridges to babylon but pop is no some girls or even undercover). the album itself has some very strong stuff and some very very weak stuff, i’d put ‘discotheque’ somewhere in the middle (or maybe the bottom of the middle). this was also maybe the most high profile example of mid-late 90s flops from prominent alt.rock acts, a trend that helped foster the return of pop in america, momentarily led the industry (and alt.rock radio to a small extent) to buy into electronica as the ‘next big thing’ (something u2 were surely aware of and trying to get out in front of), and after that generally didn’t pan out (with a few notable exceptions – hello ‘firestarter’, hello ‘breathe’, hello bunnies) opened the door for alt.rock acts that were more proactive at responding to hip-hop. limp bizkit’s first album is released june 1997.
    i like the riff and reward effort so 5 from me.

  25. 25
    Tom on 11 Feb 2014 #

    #22 yes that UNKLE album would have been another example! Sorry Steve I know mid-90s eclectica is your patch. I think FWIW mash-ups are a neater and more pop solution to this whole conundrum – applying the producer/vocalist split logic of hip-hop to, well, anything (though not always with very edifying effects). We will get to that eventually too.

  26. 26
    Rory on 11 Feb 2014 #

    Why the assumption that the song presents disco as inadequate? Or that dressing up as the Village People in a video is homophobia rather than homage? The chorus itself reads to me as a “Drugs are bad, mm-kay?” response to ecstasy, not as saying that 1970s disco was terrible. The video is just the usual bollocks where a director says, “the name of the song is X, let’s dress you up as X/set it in X”, with the band going along with it because who doesn’t like to dress up? It strikes me as U2’s equivalent of the Spice Girls’ “Say You’ll Be There” video.

  27. 27
    georgethe23rd on 11 Feb 2014 #

    As a non-U2 fan (Greatest Hits excepted) I like it. I especially like it that the band don’t like it, if I remember a Bono interview rightly. The riffs are good and chunky, and the YMCA-ish dance routine in the video’s intentionally very funny.

  28. 28
    Tom on 11 Feb 2014 #

    ” I especially like it that the band don’t like it”

    This is a powerful mitigating factor, it’s true.

  29. 29
    Andrew Farrell on 11 Feb 2014 #

    #15 also of course The Biggest Rock Band In The World going “And now our roots*” is going to be less notable / smaller news than “And now, a breakdown”.

    *any excuse

  30. 30
    Rory on 11 Feb 2014 #

    On reflecting on it further: I can see how dressing up as a gay icon or icons such as the Village People or Freddie Mercury could be homophobic depending on who was doing it. But it could alternatively be an act of homage, whether out of a sense of fun or sober admiration or both. You’d have to know the people doing it to be sure. I find leaping to the former assumption problematic if the only reason is that U2 are four straight rockers, because in an ideal world their sexuality shouldn’t matter, but I recognise that we don’t live in an ideal world and that there is a problem there. I think it’s a different kind of problem, though, from dressing up as intentional mockery; it’s more an issue of cultural appropriation, and also (I think inadvertently, because I’m being charitable) inviting other, less-enlightened viewers to mock. Dressing up is a potentially fraught business, isn’t it: dress up for a party as Saddam or Bin Laden in the 2000s, and people would have assumed you were an Iraq War supporter, but dress up as a Nazi when you’re royal and people assume you’re a Nazi. Dress up as the Village People and… you’re gay? You’re homophobic? You like the Village People? You don’t like the Village People? You don’t like disco?

    I’m assuming “they like the Village People” and, for that matter, disco. Perhaps I’m more charitable towards them because I once read a great biography of the band (possibly not the one you’re thinking of) and came away thinking they were all decent and likeable people. I certainly don’t remember any homophobic subtext. But maybe I’ve missed a telling media moment somewhere along the way.

  31. 31
    Ed on 11 Feb 2014 #

    #13 TBH, pre-punk bands weren’t very good at improvising in the moment, either, were they? I mean, I love Jimi Hendrix, but Hendrix making considered decisions in the studio >>>>> Hendrix making spontaneous decisions on stage.

    #22 Comparison also unfair because the RZA was at a very different stage of his career. He too would succumb to bloat and lack of focus and inspiration soon enough.

  32. 32
    Chelovek na lune on 11 Feb 2014 #

    #30 It wasn’t the dressing up so much that caught my eye, and made me wonder, so much as it was in one part of the video (sorry, can’t link now, but I think it was about half-way through) where there was a rather mocking (or a least dismissive) camp dance move (with exaggerated hand movements). I very much doubt any malice was intended (there is much to accuse U2 and Bono of, but not that) , but it did strike me as being potentially open to that interpretation/reading, intentionally or otherwise.

  33. 33
    Ciaran (the other one) on 11 Feb 2014 #

    The return of what Basil Fawlty might have called “The Bleedin’ Obvious”.

    There is a ghost of Zoo TV somewhere in the Pop era U2, and I had a certain respect for their attempts to shake off the thudding predictability of the old rock U2 during that 1991-1995 period. To be fair, some of their experiments worked really well; most notably the Passengers project. But by the time they were doing press conferences for the Pop Mart tour, and saying things like “pop is kitsch” (which, depending on your point of view, is either a banal truism delivered 30 years too late or maddeningly wrong-minded), I had enough. My reaction to Pop-era U2 could be summed up with the phrase “You can shove right off, pal.”

    (I don’t suppose it really needs much illustration, but the sheer gall of these artistically spent idiots – who were working at the same time as TLC and the Spice Girls and Blur and Pulp and many others – calling pop “kitsch”! It still annoys me! The Village People costumes in the video, their declarations of irony at press conferences, the utter wrongness of it all is quite breath-taking.)

    I do recall a lot of talk at the time from Bono and The “Edge” about how they were really into Underworld, The Prodigy and Orbital now, and for a millisecond I thought maybe the Pop sessions would yield something genuinely interesting. But U2 really struggle with anything outside the Bleedin’ Obvious so ‘Discotheque’ is a hamfisted mess.

    I was prepared to give it a 4 out of 10, just because of the presence of that trace of what made them quite good for a brief time, and because there is a tiny bit of light and shade in the transition from the horrible riff to the non-chorus/bridge. I’ll compromise by awarding ‘Discotheque’ a 3.

    U2 do seem keen to reawaken the (sort of) underdog spirit which set the context for Achtung Baby. At various points from here on in they repeat the mantra that they’re on the verge of irrelevance and need to pull something special out of the bag to become the biggest Band In The World (or whatever silly imagined prize it is they have their eyes on). They attempted to manage expectations for their 2000, 2004 and 2009 releases, and now I see they’re doing it again.

  34. 34
    sükråt tanned rested unlogged and awesome on 11 Feb 2014 #

    #31: fair enough, but I think some were genuinely better than others, and it was a mode you could reasonably be expected to address. The “blues jam” is perhaps not the high-point of pop cultural glory, but it does at least gesture at an ethos of on-stage spontaneity (albeit an often rather leaden-footed one, under considerable highly conventional constraints). Especially if you move off towards the more fusion-y realms of prog — which in its roots at least (Cream, King Crimson) had an educated ear for free jazz.

  35. 35
    Tom on 11 Feb 2014 #

    Have they now entered that most dreaded of rock phases, the Perpetual Return To Form?

  36. 36
    Will on 11 Feb 2014 #

    Actually this is one of my favourite U2 singles. For me it manages to capture that disorientating, ‘not-quite-sure-if-I-like being here’ feeling of being in a club on the wrong night.

    The less said about the video the better though and the Village People homage just made me squirm at the time.

  37. 37
    @JackFeerick on 11 Feb 2014 #

    A lot here I disagree with, a lot that I’d interpret otherwise, but some damn fine writing: http://t.co/ZCOzDodJld

  38. 38
    Tim on 11 Feb 2014 #

    I’m struck by the non-traditional middle-finger pointing technique that cowboy Larry Mullen Jr is deploying in the photo at the top of the page. I am not finding any particular meaning in it but, having noticed, I am finding it quite distracting.

  39. 39
    Ciaran (the other one) on 11 Feb 2014 #

    #35: If there is a whiff of 80s onwards Rolling Stones about U2 these days, it’s their own fault. Perhaps they’re just honest enough to admit when their efforts fall below their own expectations or standards. But I do wonder how often we have to hear Bono say, like a disappointing English team at the World Cup: “This time we’ll get it right”, or words to that effect.

  40. 40
    23 Daves on 11 Feb 2014 #

    I probably haven’t listened to this song properly since it was first released in ’97, and I really wasn’t expecting to find the experience so frustrating. I wasn’t previously aware that this (and indeed most of “Pop”) was cobbled together from largely unfinished parts, but God it’s no surprise, and above all else the wasted potential sounds huge. There are brief little glimpses of elements in this track which sound as if they’re about to truly soar and go somewhere different, and in the hands of anyone else trying to create a genuine dance anthem they would – but in the blink of an eye the band always fall back into the fly-infested swamp of that buzzing central riff again. Those little diversions seem to indicate that the band didn’t really have enough working knowledge of what they were trying to emulate, really, but if they’d sat down for long enough with the right producer or mixer and relinquished control they might have come up with something a lot better than this.

    This is an ugly and shapeless record which teases you into thinking it’s going to deliver more than it actually does.

    As for comparisons to “One Love” – that’s a tad unfair. It was a disappointing release for The Stone Roses fanbase, but it’s still a hell of a lot more coherent than this. Some parts of this (though not all) could be more fairly compared to late-period EMF or Jesus Jones on a disappointing day. If they’d handled their remixes themselves.

  41. 41
    sükråt tanned rested unlogged and awesome on 11 Feb 2014 #

    “Jesus Jones on a disappointing day”

    Have to marvel a little at the effect this phrase has on the reader…

  42. 42
    anto on 11 Feb 2014 #

    As much as I would like to fight U2’s corner I can’t deny that ‘Discotheque’ is indeed a stringy non-song where the gross over-produced sound just draws attention to what’s not there and it’s certainly where I got off the bus with theband.
    It was unfortunate timing that it’s release occurred very close to ‘Earthling’ by David Bowie. The two together made superstars attempting ‘cutting edge’ dance sounds seem very mid-life crisis all of a sudden.
    Just as ‘Go West’ would have been a good place for the Pet Shop Boys to go their sperate ways, part of me thinks the mid-nineties were the point where U2 should have started winding things up. The Edge could have gone into film soundtracks, Clayton/Mullen become producers and Bono could have quit music altogether to pursue charity/altruistic work, privately.
    What’s really galling is that U2 were much more interesting re-mapping their own territory as on the excellent ‘Zooropa’ and with ‘Hold Me, Thrill Me….’ -which really should have been a number one – they showed they could come up with a camp pop delight if they put their minds to it. Even if disbanding had become unthinkable at this point, I would have preferred it if they had kept up the innovation (as oppossed to appropriation) and toned down the irony. I’ve never had that big a problem with U2 being straight-faced, as with Radiohead it’s their basic nature when all is said and done. Pop Mart was a queasy and expensive way of dragging out a point. All that ‘we’re really into kitsch we are’ business – very off-putting.

  43. 43
    Steve Mannion on 11 Feb 2014 #

    Can’t help wondering if at any point during the making of the video the question of what to do re the conspicuous-by-absence fifth Village Person came up. Maybe their aforementioned self-awareness kicked in here or perhaps Bono had excitedly grabbed the feathered head-dress initially before TheEdge rolled his eyes and Adam solemnly wagged a finger.

    edit: actually I wouldn’t be surprised if the VP dress-up has as much to do with them as the Spice Girls (can imagine Bono’s take on their assigned-personas being that it reminded him of the VP in either good or bad or both ways).

  44. 44
    @HalifaxTech on 11 Feb 2014 #

    Thoughts, @MrBasquill? MT @RyanMcNutt: Tom Ewing piece on the failure of U2′s “Discotechque” http://t.co/omUNkUJMxe

  45. 45
    Rory on 11 Feb 2014 #

    Anto @42: a good point about toning down the irony, and yet apart from the video for this single and the tour accoutrements there’s precious little irony on Pop: the lyrics are all pretty earnest. “Wake Up Dead Man”, for example. This album could have been U2 at their straight-faced-est if they’d packaged and produced it differently; most of the songs would have worked that way. But Zooropa – which seems to me their only “ironic” album, lyrically at least – cast too long a shadow at this point.

    I always wished they hadn’t pulled their punches with the “Mofo” lyrics. “Mother sucking rock and roll”, indeed.

  46. 46
    Tom on 11 Feb 2014 #

    #43 haha yeah of all the ‘statesmen of rock’ Bono is one where you get the impression he always has the urge to ‘respond to’ some pop-cultural trend completely outside his wheelhouse.

    #44 indeed, funk dat.

  47. 47
    lonepilgrim on 11 Feb 2014 #

    this sounds like a relentless pounding dirge to me – and not in a good way. Queen are not a band I particularly like but they managed to produce rockabilly and disco pastiches which suggest that the band found the genres amusing but enjoyable. This sounds ham-fisted and sour. I don’t think U2 can do ambiguity with any degree of subtlety and their sincere moments just become wearing.

  48. 48
    Cumbrian on 11 Feb 2014 #

    #32: Isn’t that hand gesture (plus what Bono is wearing when he makes it) a piss take out of Saturday Night Fever, rather than anything else? Though the fact that it can be misinterpreted suggests that it might not be particularly effective…

  49. 49
    fivelongdays on 11 Feb 2014 #

    Oh Tom, why must you be so ambiguous? Tell us what you really think…

    In truth, I don’t really like U2 that much – although probably not for the same reasons as Tom – and if anything, this review has marked this up a little for me – the idea of being outside a club excuses the murky work.

    It rather sounds like U2 were trying to say ‘Hey kids! We like electronica too’ and not QUITE getting it right.

    A quick addendum – all my favourite U2 songs (‘Mysterious Ways’, ‘Stuck In A Moment’, erm, that’s it) didn’t get to the top. Hmm…

    I think I’ll give it 5. I’m in a good mood.

  50. 50
    anto on 11 Feb 2014 #

    #45- Oddly enough I’ve never heard the ‘Pop’ album and thinking about it now I only recall one review which suggested it was a comedown from ‘Zoo TV’ – certainly the grey sleeve hinted that the albums title was actually ahem..ironic.
    There were some very scathing reviews for Pop Mart itself and any radio/TV broadcasts of their shows around this time felt vaguely exhausting, as though they were trying to be too many different things at once.

  51. 51
    @sIaylorswift on 11 Feb 2014 #

    “@thediscomonkey: @taylorswift13 take a few notes from dis, k? http://t.co/Ikbxa0Bhyu” 👀

  52. 52
    laerm on 11 Feb 2014 #

    I don’t think I’ve commented before, but the ideas behind this monstrosity are so interesting that I feel compelled to finally jump in with some disjointed thoughts.

    Yes, monstrosity, as in Frankenstein. I hesitate to call myself a U2 fan: War through Zooropa are all pretty listenable to me, and I like the bombast of about half this album, but what they’ve done (musically, personally) after Pop has been…I wanna say reprehensible, but I don’t think they betrayed me, so perhaps not, but maybe; we’ll see.

    It’s both brave and not-brave for U2 to decide to do what they thought was going to be their version of a techno album at this point. Howie B, the Chems, Underworld, yes, they all thought they were going to jumble them up with their schtick and find a new world. The last time rock seriously ran up against dance music and sequencers and such was the early ’80s: the successful bands were the ones whose rhythm sections were onboard with losing work to machines. Hard to find a better example than New Order (Hooky perhaps less so, but my point stands). U2’s rhythm section just had a successful (by various definitions) full-electronic take on the Mission: Impossible theme, so it seems safe to assume that they were more than fine with being button pushers. So, if New Order could do it, I’d’ve bet that U2 could more than handle it with the production team. Flood had Depeche, Howie B had Howie B, and Steve Osborne did all those Curve records (which, when you get down to it, “Discotheque” is just ripping the formula from and cheesing it up).

    So it sorta sucked. At the time, my listening habits were nearly exclusively electronic (but I liked Zooropa and Achtung a bunch) so I was looking forward to this. U2 got seduced by bleepy stuff! Yeah! It took me about three years to realize what a mess it is. Then it took me another few years to realize it’s – at times – a really fun mess. As a few commenters mention, “Mofo” is the only track on the album that truly lives up to the promise of the idea.

    So, yeah, maybe they did betray me. Maybe they dug in to the idea and realized they could enjoy it ironically, at a distance. I got whiffs of mockery in the D video too, but at the time I threw it off as part and parcel of a crap tune. I don’t think it’s pure uncut homophobia now, but I think it lives on the same street.

    Or maybe this is hindsight and my wanting to find a single obvious point to completely write off Bono. Irrelevant, probably.

    Then, I gave it a 7, I bet. Now? 3 at best.

  53. 53
    Auntie Beryl on 11 Feb 2014 #

    U2 used to be experts at selecting the gauntlet-down attention grabbing comeback single. Avoiding bunnies, they released Pride, With Or Without You, Desire, The Fly, and I guess Numb (was it a proper single?)

    I’d argue that all of those, whilst not being universally great, at least made a statement, set a marker for the parent album, and allowed a discourse about where the band had ended up after recording.

    This fails on that level and doesn’t really reflect the contents of Pop, either. The strongest tracks to my ears on that album were If God Would Send His Angels and Wake Up Dead Man, both of which could have appeared on Rattle And Hum without too many people crying foul. The 90s U2 were audibly running out of steam.

    Discotheque’s a double disappointment. Didn’t sell the album contents, weak as a standalone track. Twelve years would pass before they’d make the same mistake again.

  54. 54
    ciaran on 11 Feb 2014 #

    U2’s return was a big event in 1997 for people of my age as apart from the ‘Achtung Baby’ period we had not really experienced them in their full glory save for Hold Me… in 1995. Even with that song the animated video kept the band at arms length.

    Expectations were very high and with Britpop starting to present a threat to u2 we would have expected a huge response. Unlike The Stone Roses or the Smiths who didnt quite have the staying power, Blur/Oasis weren’t really going to disappear quietly so U2 had competition to fight off for our affections now.

    Discotheque was a bit of everything good and bad about U2. Each artist playing their part, the lively groove, the arrogance, the dreadful video which may have helped inspire Alan Partridge lap dances, the bands 90’s habit of making songs longer than they should be and the band willing to turn their hand to whatever the hell they liked. The choice of song looked somewhat at odds with the prevailing big beat sound.

    The video to me is a bit strange because the village people were not all glitterballs, satin shirts and dance halls IIRC. Maybe the likes of Chic were but the VP were more out in the open air and dance routine based than anything else so what U2 were trying to do here is a but misguided.

    I liked Discotheque when I first heard it and didnt lack for promotion but with the ‘Pop’ not far away it was soon ignored. Now that one of the others mentioned U2’s simpsons appearance this is like the episode where Principal Skinner is revealed to be an imposter from the same year.The Judge announces no one will ever mention this ever again towards the end. This also could apply to U2 around this time and with ‘The sweetest thing’ and 80s u2 nostalgia around the corner it was back to basics soon after.

    This I’d imagine didn’t win U2 any new fans but I couldn’t agree with Tom’s score.Certainly not the worst thing about Popular 97. A 5 or 6.

  55. 55
    @theseantcollins on 11 Feb 2014 #

    I have much higher tolerance for Pop-era U2 (and rock) but @tomewing’s piece on Discotheque is fascinating http://t.co/6pqNUEy5MU

  56. 56
    @bobbker on 11 Feb 2014 #

    Man, @tomewing really crushed this essay on U2 and “rockism” (among other things) out of the park. http://t.co/Xf4uUTgnXa

  57. 57
    lmm on 11 Feb 2014 #

    #20 are you referring to the LMC track or something else?

  58. 58
    mapman132 on 11 Feb 2014 #

    #56 Referring to the LMC track.

  59. 59
    Matt DC on 11 Feb 2014 #

    In 1997 there were bands left right and centre chucking a string section on everything and pulling U2-esque Big Rock moves and yet at the time it felt like there was no band more anachronistic than actual U2.

    Take Bono off this and it sounds it your standard rocky Big Beat remix, early Death in Vegas or something, but it’s a terrible, awkward look for them. No wonder everyone laughed at them at the time.

    The third track on Pop was, hilariously, called Mofo. I just remembered that.

  60. 60
    AMZ1981 on 11 Feb 2014 #

    My popular account is linked in with my WordPress account which in turn is linked in with an account I set up originally to post on a Yorkshire Chess forum – which is why I’ve ended up with a picture that shows me busy at my other great passion besides music.

    I mention this because the week this was at number one I was returning from a junior chess match with another young player who I remember singing this on the coach (the riff and the title bit). Twelve years later he and I would see U2 at Wembley together.

    I’m a fan so I’m biased. I also liked Pop a lot at the time; although I revisited it recently and it didn’t sound as good as I remember. A glance at U2’s previous and future number ones suggests that they had a deliberate habit of choosing strange first singles – from Rattle & Hum onwards at any rate. That album was no classic but offered better than the inconsequential Desire, The Fly is great but there were more obvious singles from Achtung Baby and two albums from here they’d announce the album and top the chart with a piece of filler. Some of Pop does past muster and the next two singles; Staring At The Sun (3) and Last Night On Earth (10) are better than Discotheque. And speaking as a fan any of these songs are better than the vile piece of Tony Blair approved dad rock that became their next number one.

  61. 61
    iconoclast on 11 Feb 2014 #

    (Written before reading any comments; please note!)

    Every long-lived band inevitably faces a career dip at some point and releases a dud album as a result. With Queen it was _Hot Space_, an ill-advised excursion into funk; with R.E.M. it was both _Up_, which flailed about in the aftermath of Bill Berry’s departure, and the dreary _Around The Sun_, which seemingly went out of its way not to offend anybody. U2’s equivalent is the not-very-excitingly-titled _Pop_, which marked the point at which the reinvention responsible for _Achtung Baby_, arguably their best album, and the playful _Zooropa_, ran out of creative steam.

    Tom has already covered the reasons why, but it’s clear that, as is so often the case with this type of music, so much time was spent on the noises that the band seems to forgotten about the actual song. Thus “Discothèque” consists of heavily-treated vocals and a single guitar riff distributed seemingly at random on top of an overelaborate percussive backing, with only Adam Clayton emerging with any credit. It’s energetic and noisy, but ultimately hollow and too long. The best that can be said about is that – unlike the case with the first song I reviewed here – U2 have enough natural songcrafting instincts that the results are at least listenable. FIVE.

  62. 62
    laerm on 11 Feb 2014 #

    # 60: I loathed “Staring at the Sun” until I heard the acoustic version they played on tour. Good idea. Amusing-to-great idea: acoustic versions of all Pop tunes.

    Really, the album is more worthy of discussion than this tune, but it does work as a microcosm of sorts. (And, just because nobody has said so yet: “Please” is f’in’ killer.)

  63. 63
    thefatgit on 11 Feb 2014 #

    Steve Mannion @22, being in spectacularly grumpy mood this morning, I leapt in with a bad tempered and poorly argued piece of thankfully brief spleen-venting. I re-read my post and stand by most of it. This thread has taken off with some fascinating observations, and I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought “Pop” was, being as charitable as I can, the moment they jumped the shark.

    I stopped short of crossing the Rubicon by avoiding “this is homophobia” in my own post @8. “Verging” is carrying an awful lot of weight, and I should have edited that sentence out, and replaced it with a far more palatable “this is misguided” or something. I don’t honestly believe U2 are homophobic, and I’m positive the video’s director asked them to camp it up. I’m ok with straights camping it up, so long as certain rules remain unbroken.

    Yes, they did do VP a disservice, because VP were being used to signify something missing from the music. The same accusation could be levelled at the Spice Girls, but they were finding their feet and didn’t have a 9th album to sell. VP have so often been the go-to meme for signifying disco culture, when I saw the video, I regarded it as a lazy move. If Bono and pals wanted to dance inside a mirror ball, then that would have been enough. The whole thing with the stiff dance routines and the frankly unnecessary hip-thrusts was frankly embarrassing to watch.

    To be fair, I should be judging only the song and not dragging the album into it. There have been defenders of certain tracks off the album and that’s fair enough, but I can’t find anything on there worth defending. But back to the song. It’s not the melding of rock and dance music I’m railing against. U2 had as much right to dip into dance music as anyone, but first you need to have at least some love for it. I found no love here. It was a corporate move, and that’s how I treated it. One of my favourite bands was Blondie, who turned rock/disco into high art with “Heart Of Glass” and Tomfave “Atomic”. You could tell there was love at the heart of what Blondie did. The concept of U2 doing pop? What was “Into The Heart” but an amped up “Song For Guy”? What was “I Will Follow” but Joy Division observed through a Pop lens? So how galling was it when Bono said “Pop is kitsch”? Maybe a more accurate statement would have been “U2 is kitsch”. Given that, then we could have revelled in the irony, rather than baulked at it. Pop Mart could have been viewed differently as well. After all they were self-aware enough to pull that off and probably brought some of their wavering fans along with them. Despite all this, I still consider myself a U2 fan, but “Pop” and this single had me wondering if I’d been sold a lemon.

  64. 64
    Steve Mannion on 11 Feb 2014 #

    Probably my big gripe with the album was how much of it DOESN’T sound like Howie B and Steve Osborne were really involved and the two put their name to more worthwhile tracks in ’97 like ‘Angels Go Bald: Too’ and Osborne (with Oakenfold) on a remix of a forthcoming #1 which I still love. Or rather I don’t really see the point of their involvement in this album (where much of it focuses on keeping certain boring aspects of the band’s ‘brand’ afloat alongside the statements it’s best known for making (successfully or otherwsie), even at the expense of Edge’s sound – which you could also argue is evoked more effectively on the ‘Professional Widow’ remix) – go hard or go home lads.

    More a foreseeable disappointment than an unmitigated disaster although it is really hard to imagine a stadium rock band ever having been able to make an album that incorporates production trends of the time deemed as ‘foreign’ to them (even tho as we know U2 had forged closer connections to dance music years before most other rock bands via the likes of Morales and Oakenfold – who was still milking that Lemon remix riff even at this point – see ‘Moon’ by Virus, ‘Skin On Skin’ by Grace and ‘Bullet In The Gun’ under his own name a couple of years later) without it being widely derided as an unctuous blob of boredoom. Kid A doesn’t count because it has pretty much f all to do with dance and/or IDmusic except for one track sort of.

  65. 65
    Steve Mannion on 11 Feb 2014 #

    #63 all good points well made TFG ta

  66. 66
    Bruce Levenstein (@compactrobot) on 11 Feb 2014 #

    obviously @tomewing spent more time writing about “Discotheque” than U2 did composing it. http://t.co/akLHoQU85Z

  67. 67
    Rory on 11 Feb 2014 #

    Looking through my U2 MP3s by year of release I remember a 1997 track I had forgotten, which deserves mention on this of all threads, on this of all websites: Pop Muzik [Pop Mart Mix].

    At 8:52 it’s too long, but it’s good, if not M good. If they had included this on the album the project might have made more sense. If they’d mixed the album like this the project might have made more sense…

  68. 68
    Garry on 11 Feb 2014 #

    What I remember positively from this era is from 18-odd months later when the Singles collection was released. That is the album all the college kids bought. No one I knew had Pop. The radio station had Pop – I remember seeing it sitting forlornly in the filing cabinet (under U). It hadn’t made a big splash but that might not have meant anything – the station was quite unfocussed in 1997. You were likely to hear Belinda Carlisle followed by Radiohead – if there was any play listing it was ignored.

    My dislike of Pop really began with the Singles collection – the first real concentration of U2 I had heard. I knew the singles – and I loved them – especially those from the previous two albums – but like all singles I heard them in an initial burst on release and then sporadically over time. The Singles collection – great song-writing mixed with nostalgia – was a winner but it made the disorganisation of Pop clear.

    While the loss of Eno was palpable his return didn’t help matters. I always laugh when I hear “Stuck in a moment and you can’t get out of it”, Eno plinking along on the keys. Never was a song more correctly titled.

  69. 69
    laerm on 12 Feb 2014 #

    # 67: Also a good tune, Rory (better than the original!). This and Mofo were the ones that show what could have been.

    # 68: Heh, good call on “Stuck in a Moment.”

  70. 70
    mapman132 on 12 Feb 2014 #

    Addendum to my chart stats at #20: I thought this had a fairly quick burnout on the Hot 100 but it was even quicker than I remembered. According to Wikipedia, it in fact debuted at #10 but dropped out of the Top 40 just four weeks later – nothing unusual in the UK, but a very short run for a Top 10 hit in the US, especially in 1997.

  71. 71
    Kinitawowi on 12 Feb 2014 #

    It’s around this sort of time that the populist narrative of U2 starts arguing about the difference between “effortless” and “lazy”. While laziness doesn’t truly set in until a couple of albums’ time (bunny alert: 1-2-3-14) , HMTMKMKM is the canonical effortless track; only denied the number one spot by Robson & Jerome’s Unchained Melody tripe.

    I’ve always been fond of U2, even while it’s been fashionable to hate them (several of my mates translate their hatred of Bono into hatred of the band as a whole), and I quite like most of Pop; troubled gestations don’t always have to result in crappy albums. But Tom’s nailed the problem; the lack of Eno cost the album its focus, and the result is severe bloat – average track lengths exceed five minutes for (excluding the clearly experimental Zooropa) the first and last time.

    Long songs aren’t necessarily a bad thing, of course, but a few of Pop’s songs could clearly stand to be trimmed down, tighter; and Discothèque is sadly one of them. 5:18 is too much build to get nowhere (this is possibly the most uninspired chorus on the album) and too much fall to go anywhere afterwards.

    The U2 fan in me wants to say that Tom’s 2 is harsh – even most bad U2 is better than anything the aforementioned R&J came up with – so I think I’m stretching to a 4; U2 will reach higher heights and plumb deeper lows in Popular’s future, but for the moment I’m still in the “trying to defend them in front of those increasingly dubious mates” phase.

  72. 72
    @davidfickling on 12 Feb 2014 #

    Ah Freakytrigger–U2’s Discotheque as “the moment an entire school of thought about rock came off the rails”: http://t.co/8SR73xWPnH

  73. 73
    AMZ1981 on 12 Feb 2014 #

    Having given Pop a play last night I’m more convinced that this is a fine record on its own merits, better than the one that followed but not as good as the next two. It’s worth noting that, leaving aside what could loosely be termed the new wave (Blur, Oasis, Radiohead and another band I can’t mention for bunnying) the two biggest bands of the time were U2 and R.E.M. It’s interesting that U2 seem to be catching up with R.E.M in having a late period that seems to bitterly divide their fans.

  74. 74
    James BC on 12 Feb 2014 #

    I’m surprised so many people’s diagnosis of this record seems to be “needs more Eno”. I can’t be the only one who meets the news that such and such a band is Working With Brian Eno with a sense of creeping dread.

    Perhaps I’m too young to appreciate his best work. Has he popped up on Popular at all outside his work with U2?

  75. 75
    Tom on 12 Feb 2014 #

    #74 He’ll show up again directly in 2008. The highs of Eno’s production career are very high indeed, in my opinion: I guess this rep gives people license to ignore the less memorable parts (Icehouse!)

    My hypothesis isn’t so much than Eno would have made “Discotheque” better, but that he had a proven record for bringing high-concept cross-genre projects in to land in reasonably coherent shape. But if the actual high-concept is flawed that’s not necessarily going to improve things.

  76. 76
    Kinitawowi on 12 Feb 2014 #

    #74; it’s like Tom said though, he’s usually somebody who gets called in when the chips are already down – roughly the equivalent of all those late-90s football teams in the relegation zone sacking their manager and bringing in Ron Atkinson.

    I don’t think Eno’s had a hand in anything else Popular-wise – YET (the spectre of the bunny is however among us). Still think the best thing he did was James’ Wah Wah album, though.

    -Edit- Ahh, Tom got there first. Crossover posting and all that.

  77. 77
    Cumbrian on 12 Feb 2014 #

    Further to Tom’s point: I am not sure it’s a coincidence that Eno didn’t work on Rattle and Hum and Pop of U2’s albums from The Unforgettable Fire through to the end of the century – and that those are the two albums where U2 seem most lost/least focused? Seems to suggest that he’s a good fit for them at the very least.

    It doesn’t leave much aside from their work with Eno so it’s not exactly a difficult thing to say this – but I think all their best work has been produced by him; TUF is the best of “early U2” in my view – and I’m already on the record for AB and Zooropa.

    Edit – #76: Is he someone who gets called in when the chips are down? I don’t think that describes where he came in on either Talking Heads or U2’s careers, as both were building up to something at that time. The fact that he came in again for U2 after Pop and for his 2008 bunny after their initial run of albums seems to be the foundation for this perception of Eno. His other credits are for James, Sinead O Connor and a whole host of “world music” artists – Baaba Maal, Seun Kuti, etc – but I am not convinced that he should necessarily be looked on as a fixer.

  78. 78
    Andrew Farrell on 12 Feb 2014 #

    #74 / #75 I’ve warmed to Brain Eno after hearing him being interviewed by Alan Moore, but I agree that 40 years of making good music tasteful can’t be forgiven quickly.

    Icehouse would be quite the highlight! Except that he was on the album before the hits?

  79. 79
    Tom on 12 Feb 2014 #

    The other thing with Eno is that I don’t know THAT much about his latter-day working methods – bits of his working process with Bowie are famous, and bits of his working process with U2, but I don’t actually know very much about how Remain In Light (say) was made beyond it pissing Tina Frantz and Chris Weymouth off a lot. I’ve no IDEA how he worked with James or Icehouse. He seems as much consultant as producer so I doubt there’s a standardised way he approaches things, it must involve working with the grain of the performers’ own practises, eg the theatrical/role-playing elements of his Bowie work (making Carlos Alomar or whoever pretend he is a freedom fighter in a dystopian future… the details are in Geeta Dayal’s excellent Eno book).

  80. 80
    Cumbrian on 12 Feb 2014 #

    Consultant and collaborator seems to be the gist of Eno’s work with Bowie – Bowie and Visconti get the production credits on the Berlin Trilogy for instance – though that could be some sort of power grab/defence of their ground by those two. You’d think Eno would have twiddled something on the mixing desk at some point on all of those records.

    Best Eno/U2 story – he was going to “accidentally” erase Where The Streets Have No Name because they’d spent too long working on it and he didn’t think it was going anywhere – an idea he continues to defend in interviews. He strikes me as potentially bloody minded and difficult to work with, if you’re not willing to go by his rules.

  81. 81
    thefatgit on 12 Feb 2014 #

    Paul Morley interview with Brian Eno:


  82. 82
    James BC on 12 Feb 2014 #


    I got through one and a half paragraphs.

  83. 83
    Mark M on 12 Feb 2014 #

    Re81: I think I remember at the time loving what he said about Zappa, and I still do.

  84. 84
    Speedwell54 on 12 Feb 2014 #

    Gosh Tom – what a long review. I skipped to your score, then thought I better read it properly, as it seemed very harsh. Having listened to it again a few times I think you’re only a little harsh. I didn’t remember it being that long and dull, and have just checked and NOW 36 doesn’t edit down, although I bet the Radio 1did.

    No matter. I have an odd relationship with U2. My slightly older sister was into them first with Boy and October and I got into Blood Red Sky and was ok with Unforgettable Fire, but had gone off them completely by the time Joshua Tree surfaced. Apart from Zooropa which I loved, nothing since has hit the mark. Btw is their new stuff blacklisted on the radio?

    My scores do not often change on listening again when Popular prompts me, but this one has suffered. 4. Rory and Laerm also hint at this downward revision -wonder if it means anything.

  85. 85

    […] awful lot to say about this post: U2′s working practise seemed to be to ride an approach till it flamed out. Just as Rattle And […]

  86. 86
    Rory on 12 Feb 2014 #

    #85 If you’d asked me a year ago out of the blue I might have called this an 8, just going on my 1997 memories of it. In recent weeks I was thinking I’d end up at 7. Then I actually listened to it again, and it was 6. It isn’t because re-listening to old U2 songs makes me fall out of love with them – I still heard exactly what I first admired in Achtung Baby when Popular reached “The Fly”, and re-listening increased my appreciation for The Unforgettable Fire in later years – but Pop does seem to have suffered in hindsight. Not nearly as quickly as another ’97 album we could mention, though. And I still like “Mofo”, so when someone does a blog about all the singles that reached number 35 in Australia I’m all set.

    I don’t even mind their newer stuff. I even like “Invisible”. I’ll probably buy their next album within weeks of its release. There is no end.

  87. 87
    Ed on 13 Feb 2014 #

    Going back to Tom’s excellent original post, I had been planning to try to say something similar about an easily guessable bunny that we will be coming to in about a dozen entries’ time. Discotheque also fits the argument very well, though, and reinforces the point: 1997 was The Year That Rock Music Died.

    It was certainly the year that rock music died for me, anyway. Rock had seemed in rude good health as recently as 1991, the year of Achtung Baby, Nevermind, Loveless, Screamadelica and, er, Bandwagonesque. In the years since 1997, though, I can think of two rock albums that I have really enjoyed, one from 2000, one from 2006, and maybe a handful of individual tracks. And I don’t think that was purely a personal reaction, either, judging by the FT post on chart data that I linked to on the Beetlebum thread. Until the 21st century, rock was a significant minority presence in the Top Ten, but by 2011 it had become entirely marginal.

    There is nothing new about a genre running its course, and no shame in it, either. As the palaeontologists like to say, human beings will have the right to sneer at the dinosaurs once we’ve made it through 30 million years. Jazz had its heyday between – what? – the 1920s and the 1960s (betraying jazz ignorance here), and Classical music peaked in about 1780-1820.

    It is interesting to think about why rock died, though. Technology was probably important, both in production – the shift from physical to digital instruments – and in consumption – the decline of the vinyl or CD album and the rise of the MP3 track. The brutal effect on musicians’ creative health of the album-tour-album cycle mentioned by Tom above also crops up in many stories of the decline of individual bands. The last flickerings of excitement in rock – some of which we will eventually be meeting here – seem to have come from bands making their first albums who have not yet got stuck in that rut.

    It makes me wonder which genre will be the next to die. Hip-hop, some say, and it doesn’t seem impossible. Roughly speaking, rock’s 50s = hip-hop’s 80s: the birth of a new style, and its commercial breakthrough. Rock’s 60s = hip-hop’s 90s: the imperial phase, and the emergence of the acknowledged all-time greats. Then from the late 90s hip-hop has been like rock in the 70s: experimentation, both in the direction of greater complexity, and “back to the roots” moves, and massive commercial success for some, with the inevitable consequences in terms of artistic hubris and distancing from the audience. Which means that grime = punk, I suppose. But on that timetable, the clock is ticking.

  88. 88
    flahr on 13 Feb 2014 #


    Not that, you know, I believe the BPI or anything.

  89. 89
    punctum on 13 Feb 2014 #

    #87: I’m afraid that this post is almost entirely ill-informed. Pay me a decent amount of money, somebody, and I’ll write a detailed treatise explaining why it’s wrong.

  90. 90
    Tom on 13 Feb 2014 #

    #87 The fan/promotional ecosystem now is different too – thanks to the Internet (and for a bunch of economic and technological reasons too) it seems strongly geared to solo artists, which generally favours hip-hop, pop, R&B, and (in the US) country. More on this in a couple of Popular years, when we start getting to solo acts that came up in the Internet era and remain current stars.

  91. 91
    Steve Mannion on 13 Feb 2014 #

    People thought rap had died at this point too (“it’s the money…”).

  92. 92
    Rory on 13 Feb 2014 #

    Hmm, a rock fan like me might pull a Mark Twain here: reports of its death in 1997 are an exaggeration. Or even in 2014, seeing I was about to link the same story as Flahr. I could produce a long list here of post-1997 bands whose very existence demonstrates its health, but will save time by reducing it to one.

    On the other hand, I wouldn’t deny that the balance has shifted and we’re in an era where its chart dominance has waned (although, again, there are those latest UK album sales figures). But it feels like we’ve been here before: I don’t think of the 1980s as a particularly “rock” period in singles chart terms.

    In other words, two shark-jumping albums doth not an historical chart disruption make.

    (I listened again to Pop in full last night. It was a bit of a struggle. The album falls so flat after “Mofo”; the songs are all so subdued, quiet, verging on lifeless. There are one or two where they crank up the Edge and Bono gives it his bombastic best, like “Gone”, but even those fail to capture their previous peaks in that style. And although I quite like the Edge’s guitar flourishes in isolation, on too many tracks they feel like a bad fit for what the songs are trying to do. And I don’t much like what the songs are trying to do. If I want to listen to a quiet, subdued album I’ll reach for dozens of alternatives before I reach for U2.)

  93. 93
    thefatgit on 13 Feb 2014 #

    #87 Things I learned from reading Popular: as much as we’re geared to believe everything has a lifespan, even the universe has a lifespan, when it comes to music and things like “rock” or “pop” or any genre you care to mention, their origins are built largely on what has preceded them, and then they ascend in collective consciousness until they descend, then it’s a series of peaks and troughs and processes of evolution and schism and revival and reshaping and reinterpreting, rubbing up against the next thing that comes along etc. but one thing it doesn’t do is “die”.

  94. 94
    leveret on 13 Feb 2014 #

    #92, I thought that link was bound to be to Queens of the Stone Age…slightly disappointed!

    To me, most of Muse’s records suffer from the same problems as many of U2’s – bloat and pomposity, and an impenetrable glossy sheen.

    Discotheque – I probably hadn’t really listened to this properly since 1997 and was amazed how much of a dog’s dinner it is. All of its elements seem to compete for your attention rather than cohere into something pleasing, although some of them might have potentially been quite effective in another setting. It’s not as bad as (2) though. I gave it a (4).

  95. 95
    punctum on 13 Feb 2014 #

    #93: Indeed. Have you heard the new Planningtorock album All Love’s Legal? It’s quite the thing.

  96. 96
    Tom on 13 Feb 2014 #

    I’m not saying in the review that rock is dead (I’m with thefatgit that the “death” of genres is somewhat exaggerated – I wrote a column about this for Pitchfork http://pitchfork.com/features/poptimist/7945-poptimist-37/ – which is interesting but a bit out of date). What I am saying is that a particular idea of what rock is good for – a driving force in popular music which evolves by drawing ideas from other genres – is coming unraveled at this point. There are a couple of entries to come where I should probably dig into these ideas in more depth, but it’s notable that the next big flare of critical regard for rock as a thing involves bands like the White Stripes and Strokes whose M.O. is very much about focusing on stuff rock bands do well rather than trying to incorporate stuff they don’t.

  97. 97
    Tom on 13 Feb 2014 #

    Muse are a very interesting case, thanks for reminding me of them. (I’ve never remotely found a way into their music tho.)

  98. 98
    Rory on 13 Feb 2014 #

    Leveret @94: QOTSA are one of the gaps in my 2000s appreciation of rock, although I’ve heard some intriguing snippets (via pub quiz music rounds, of all things) that make me think I should investigate further. But Muse hooked me very early on, for reasons that weren’t as obvious in 2000 as they later became. My excitement for them peaked when I saw them live in 2006, only because there was nowhere higher for it to go. Since then their albums have been more hit and miss for me, but when they hit they still hit hard. The bombast is exactly the point: they’re the apotheosis of a certain strain of rock that starts with glam, runs through Queen, Led Zep, and aspects of U2 (though not my favourite aspects of them), and ends up with them. There’s another strain of rock that they don’t represent at all, for which I would have named other bands, but the bombastic strain has a particular relevance for Popular, I think, because it’s exactly that: popular.

    Basically, Muse were the best choice I could have imagined to soundtrack a certain over-priced, over-ambitious, over-the-top, over-achieving, oh-my-God public event, and they did. None more Olympian.

  99. 99
    Cumbrian on 13 Feb 2014 #

    Rory – if you’re going to go for QOTSA, I’d be wary of some of their albums; I love them but have to accept that they can be patchy. I actually think …Like Clockwork from last year might be their best. Not many extended jams, nice and punchy. Lots would tell you that Songs For The Deaf is their best (or Rated R) and both have their highpoints but I’ve found myself returning to LC repeatedly, which I can’t say for their self titled album, nor Lullabies To Paralyze or the other one whose title I can’t even remember I listen to it so little (though that one does have Make It Wit Chu on it, which is a high watermark).

    Muse not one of my favourite bands – but get some love from me for bending the knee to The Shadows’ peerless Man of Mystery.

  100. 100
    James BC on 13 Feb 2014 #

    #88 I wouldn’t read too much into album sales figures as they are very low these days – in fact a genre’s relegation to only being appreciated by album-buyers, a small and ageing minority (that includes me), might indicate that it is dying as a genuinely popular form.

    Also, sales are so low that a small number of big sellers can skew things enormously. So “rock has overtaken pop” might translate as “there wasn’t an Adele album this year”.

  101. 101
    Tom on 13 Feb 2014 #

    As I said on Twitter last night, “It’s like some kind of horrific cosmological constant: rock music shrinks at the exact rate required for U2 to remain the biggest thing in it.”

  102. 102
    swanstep on 13 Feb 2014 #

    I think, with Rory, that there’s been a ton of good rock since 1997, but last year felt especially notable, what with breakthroughs for Savages and Haim, Deafheaven’s shoegaze-metal opus Sunbather (my fave album of the year along with), Yeezus being pretty much rock, healthy returns from MBV, Bowie, and Wire, promising young-uns like Big Deal, and so on (e.g., albums by Arcade Fire, Arctic Monkeys, and Vampire Weekend that didn’t grab me but that lots of people dug).

  103. 103
    Billy Hicks on 13 Feb 2014 #

    Muse are perhaps the best group of the next century that hurts me the most to think we’ll never be able to discuss them on Popular.

    Depeche Mode for the previous, both groups coincidentally sharing an all-time chart peak at #4.

  104. 104
    punctum on 13 Feb 2014 #

    Perhaps you’d like to discuss both acts when we get to them over at Then Play Long. We could do with some decent comments.

  105. 105
    Billy Hicks on 13 Feb 2014 #

    Had forgotten Depeche ever had a #1 album! And connects them further as both groups had their first #1 in a year ending with the numeral 3. And the ones prior to that perhaps being their best album (Violator, Origin of Symmetry) but just falling short.

    Looking forward to it when TPL enters the 90s, plenty of Erasure releases to look forward to before then too.

  106. 106
    baztech. on 13 Feb 2014 #

    Hello, haven’t commented on here for a while… But I will try to put some input from now on, but I am really acting as a sponge soaking in you lot’s wisdom!
    I may be wrong, but think I am around the same age as you Billy Hicks. I was 9 in 1997, and so can start to relate to some of these…
    Before now I only have flickering images of dancing to Saturday Night or No Limit (a perennial favourite of my youth according to my mum, along with Jason Donovan hits… – I despair).
    Just listened to Discotheque for the first time (understandably I have no memory of this one) and all I can say is it sounds confused and confusing in equal rates!

  107. 107
    @crumbler on 13 Feb 2014 #

    ““Discotheque” sounds like feeling sick at 2AM outside a nightclub.” http://t.co/OWTLiRTH9U cc @MeganMFinnerty

  108. 108
    fivelongdays on 14 Feb 2014 #

    Whoa, hold on there guys. Rock is not dead. Never has been, never will be.

    I know I’ve expressed my bewilderment at the continued use of the worthless term ‘rockism’ in the past, but I think there’s some serious trolling going on here.

    Firstly, Rock is a pretty big word. It encompasses everything from Snow Patrol to Slayer. And – at the heavier end, at least – wide commercial appeal matters less than some kind of cultic following.

    Secondly, if we are being specific, isn’t the so-called death of rock REALLY the death of Indie? But are you too scared to admit that?

    Thirdly, commercial death (though I’d argue that ain’t neccesarily the case) does not equate to creative/artistic death.

    Fourthly, if we’re talking about so-called rockism then what about the comments on the *thinks* Breathe thread which said (and I’m paraphrasing here) ‘This is not proper dance music! Why ate there guitars? We need plinkly piano and some woman warbling about how she’s going to set you free, how there’s love on the dancefloor and how she’ll take you higher?’?

    Apologies for any typos – am writing this on my mobile. Normally I’d wait until I’m on an actual computer, but thought I needed to say something.

  109. 109
    Andrew Farrell on 14 Feb 2014 #

    Weren’t those comments by you?

  110. 110
    Cumbrian on 14 Feb 2014 #

    Re: Rock dying or not/cyclical nature of genres coming and going (with them possibly being augmented). Is there anything in this theory I have been tinkering with?

    Is it something to do with the musical interests of the parents of the acts that are making music? Dangerous to extrapolate from one’s own experiences but nevertheless, here goes – when I was a kid, my parents played music in the house and in the car. Stuff that they liked principally. To an extent, looking back on it now, it has shaped my interests (Dad – Stones not Beatles -> my looking for something with a bit of a harder edge when I am listening now; Mum loved Queen -> I also like stuff with a bit of a grab bag philosophy and a flair for the dramatic; both more into guitar/rock music more than anything else, and that is the route that I took into music as a result – whilst I love lots of stuff my parents would think a racket, I’m on firmest ground as to why I like certain things when operating within the rock area). The consequence being that, if I were able to carry a tune or actually had musical talent, I’d probably be most interested in trying my hand at rock of some stripe.

    I don’t think I am alone in this – some artists appear to be operating in a similar way. Paul McCartney leaning on music hall and older sounds in some of his work may well reflect what his parents listened to in his formative years. The Gallagher Brothers parents supposedly only really had Beatles albums lying around, along with a stack of Greatest Hits of various bands. There’s a number of other examples knocking around.

    My point then – the artists currently making music are the children from the parents in the generation following my parents; a generation that didn’t just listen to rock but were listening to new pop, rave and house, 80s hip-hop, etc. If these parents were listening to these records at home more than rock records, might it be the case that current trends are being informed by these formative experiences, which means rock takes a bit of a back seat. Assuming this is right, and people my age (early-mid 30s) who are now having kids and might still be listening to Britpop, or at least have a number of these records sitting around in their homes, do similar things, we might see a rock/Britpop revival in about 20 years time.

    Is there anything in this or am I talking bollocks as usual? It’s obviously not the only influence but it strikes me that it might be somewhat of a factor.

    Oh look, my De La Soul downloads have finished. Onto the next thing.

  111. 111
    Ed on 15 Feb 2014 #

    @89 Sadly Punctum I don’t have the budget, but would love to hear your thoughts :).

    @92 and @98: Muse are a good counter-example to my argument. They are recognisably working in the rock tradition, but also doing something quite distinctive. (As you say, that tradition includes both Queen and U2, which is obvious now, although they appeared antithetical back in 1981.) And, as you also point out, Muse are massively popular.

    I have never been a huge fan, but I saw them at Glastonbury in 2010 and they were terrific. Confirming that point about rock tradition, Matt Bellamy messed around with AC/DC riffs between songs, and they brought on The Edge to do Where The Streets Have No Name.

    @108 Tom’s Pitchfork column linked to @96 is very good about genres “dying”. Of course the language is hyperbolic. It’s not literally true: people are still making rock music. But the idea is appealing because it captures a sense that, however you judge it – excitement, cultural significance, artistic innovation, being “a driving force in popular music”, as Tom put it here – rock is no longer where it’s at.

    Those are all slippery concepts, of course. But I would defy anyone to look at rock in 1997 or 2007 and tell me it was still as vital then on any of those counts as it was in 1967 or 1977.

    I guess the analogy is with calling Latin a “dead language”. Latin is still taught all over the world, and used in some places (although not many of them outside the Vatican, I admit). The great works of Latin poetry and prose are eternal landmarks of human achievement, and they would enrich your life if you read them But it is hardly unfair to say the language is dead.

  112. 112
    Baztech on 15 Feb 2014 #

    @108 @111

    I suppose the whole rock and indie labels needs to be discussed. It appears that indie followed a similar delayed trajectory from when it begun (although when would you say it did begin..? With “Where’s Captain Kirk?”…) as rock. And now are both waning in terms of popularity. There’s still some corking bands IMO, (Horrors still going strong, Metronomy, Django Django, etc).

    Could it be both are in relative hibernation and could reappear in the charts soon, perhaps transformed? Or will we have to cope with “Pop singer + rapper” combos for infinity?

  113. 113
    Andrew Farrell on 16 Feb 2014 #

    I think it’s okay for genres to die, to everything there is a season, but sometimes there is a child born with granddad’s face, and people act funny around it.

  114. 114
    Rory on 11 Sep 2014 #

    Burning question of the day: “who is U2 and why is their album on my phone?

  115. 116
    mrdiscopop on 12 Oct 2014 #

    I’ve no idea what studio set-up U2 were using during the Pop sessions, but this sounds like a classic ProTools song: Six or seven half-finished and unrelated fragments stitched together to resemble a song. You can even hear the joins every time the drum track stutters to a halt and a new element is introduced from the static. As a result, it has no unifying theme and no sense of progression. Maybe they were trying to make a point about “pop” here (and U2 had a habit of switching song elements around – One began life as the bridge for Mysterious Ways) but it fails on almost every level.

    Funnily enough, the Morales mix mentioned at #14 (which I hadn’t heard before) fares much better, because it ditches everything except the double-tracked vocal and tries to make sense of the song on its melody alone.

    One point for the original and four for Morales, then.

  116. 117
    Mostro on 29 Apr 2015 #

    I honestly couldn’t remember anything about Discotheque apart from a barely-melodic fragment of “You just can’t get enough, of that lovey dovey stuff”.

    I’d expected checking it out on YouTube might trigger off some repressed memories of the rest as usually happens… nope.

    Listening through it, I was thinking (a) I don’t remember any of this, (b) There’s nothing here *to* remember and (c) That’s probably why it never stuck in my head in even the most cursory way back in 1997.

    Ten minutes later, I can truthfully say I’d already forgotten how it went.

  117. 118
    Lovejelly on 26 Oct 2018 #

    Fave album of theirs ( never got angry Irish, but singalong anyways ). Always assumed discotheque was a ‘coming out’ track for a band member/associate and will only ever have fab memories associated regardless

  118. 119

    I honestly quite like this, I love the main riff! I might, though, not be able to get enough of this lovey-dovey stuff because I was 11 when this got to number 1 and I saw U2 as (and anyway was almost exactly the right age to see as) cool middle-aged men who just popped up every now and then with a good tune and a bit of a laugh – kind of like your favourite uncle who you think goes on amazing excursions and holidays with your cousins, but to quote Peter Corey’s excellent Coping With.. [Parents] series, “don’t be fooled. At home they’re exactly the same as your dad.”

  119. 120
    Coagulopath on 24 Sep 2020 #

    “Eno had helped cause the crisis in the first place.”

    Bowie reached the same conclusion at the end of the 70s. Eno’s techniques – which had worked on Low and “Heroes” – suddenly became disruptive, kneecapping the band as they tried to get Lodger done.

    Imagine you’re a caterpillar. Play wrong chords only. Have the band switch instruments. I think it was Carlos Alomar that finally blurted out “can we play some music already?”

    These quasi-random techniques have a purpose: to jolt the mind out of its familiar tracks, maybe discovering something better than you could have managed on your own. But sometimes they jolt you nowhere, or into a ditch.

    There’s no royal road to creativity. Artistic life-lines become strangulating cords when you use them to excess, and we live in a world where deadlines exist.

  120. 121
    Gareth Parker on 2 May 2021 #

    I kind of like this, but I think it lacks punch and even the radio edit outstays its welcome a tad. I would go with a generous 6/10.

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