Justin Smallbridge: iTunes infected with Irish marketing virus or This crummy album got into my iTunes. Oh, U2?


Are you grooving to your mandatory U2 record? In case you missed it (hard to miss, given how much it was hyped), U2’s 13th record, “Songs Of Innocence” (title stolen from long-dead English poet William Blake) is now in your iTunes collection. How is that possible, you ask. You didn’t buy it. Or want it. Regardless, you own 11 variations on advertising jingles to soundtrack the selling of Apple’s iPhone 6 and impending iWatch as well as possibly to let you know Apple can do whatever the hell it wants its devices, which we naively think we “own.” It probably says that in the long Terms and Conditions text everybody clicks “Agree” on without reading. Apple paid $100 million for this the marketing campaign. Nobody’s saying how much of that U2 is getting.

U2 shilling for Apple is weird, because U2 is a lot more like Microsoft: it’s big and everywhere and it does what it does. There may be more efficient, surprising, beautiful, compelling products. But U2 isn’t in business to be any of those things. U2 is in business to be U2. And calling a two-prong marketing blitz “Songs Of Innocence” is just the kind of galling thing U2 does.

“The Little Vagabond.” The Bourbon Tabernacle Choir.

Actual William Blake poem set to music.

U2’s new manager Guy Oseary (their old manager retired) told Billboard that his charges worked on this LP for five years. They must work very slowly. You already know it sounds like every other U2 record. Every song could benefit from a couple more chords than it’s got. Every song goes: verse, big dumb chorus (intended as anthemic but just overbearing), second verse, big dumb chorus (louder and more overbearing), no bridge, and finally the loudest, most unpleasantly insistent iteration of the big dumb chorus. Every number has an identical arrangement: Bono (whose name sounds like a cross between Yoko Ono and Bozo without the conceptual art or clowning) in front, either yelping at the top of his nine-note range, mumbling at the bottom of it or mush-mouthedly slurring somewhere in the middle. Larry Mullen’s rudimentary four-on-the-floor drumming stomps along at one tempo per number. Adam Clayton’s bass plunks along in lockstep with the guitar. David “The Edge” Evans plays two or occasionally three chords for three to five minutes. Fade. Next. Lather, rinse, repeat. They do that eleven times on this record. Listening to them do it starts to feel like a chore about seven songs in.

Edior’s Note: Seems that U2’s handlers, or lawyers, or publishing drones didn’t get the memo about U2’s deal with Apple, so the copyright holders (whoever they may be) pulled the audio from the Apple ad featuring U2…a band the tech monolith paid 100 million dollars to for the album this song is from. If I were Bono (who thankfully, I am not) I would fire whoever made the decision to make the and look even lamer than they already do. That said, this is actually an improvement.

U2 wants you to line up for an iPhone 6.

“Magpie.” Blur. Lyrics by William Blake: “A Poison Tree.”

It’s like a stockbroker said about securities qualification exams. If 60 percent is a pass, study just enough to score 60 percent. Study to ace the exam, and you’re a chump to be derided and scorned; one hundred percent is for suckers. U2 works on a similar strategy. Why be great if being U2 is more lucrative and a lot less work?

  1. The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone).” Apparently The Ramones made quite an impression on young Bono. That’s what the lyrics seem to suggest, anyway. It’s hard to tell, because the lyrics don’t have much to do with Joey or any other Ramone. They’re revisionist history aimed at making Bono seem like he was some kind of misunderstood adolescent genius. He sings that he was busy “chasing down the days of fear,” among other things. Like most U2 lyrics, that line is for yelping or growling rather than eliciting a response other than “the hell’s that supposed to mean?” What are days of fear, and why would they need to be chased down? Wouldn’t it seem better to run away from them, if they’re days of fear? Weirdest thing about this number is that it’s supposed to be about Joey Ramone, but sounds like something left off Adam & The Ants’ “Kings Of The Wild Frontier” because it was too generic. But I guess “The Miracle (Of Adam Ant and/or Stuart Goddard)” doesn’t have the same cachet.

“Kings Of The Wild Frontier.” Adam and the Ants.

  1. Every Breaking Wave.” “Baby Please Don’t Go,” only slower, with fewer chords and lyrics cribbed from random motivational “Successories” posters. Bono contends that every dog on the street knows U2 are in love with defeat. Whatever that means.

“Baby Please Don’t Go.” Muddy Waters

  1. California (There Is No End To Love).” Ever wondered what The Red Hot Chili Peppers would sound like if they were Coldplay? Me neither. (Boring and half asleep, in case you were wondering.)

“Hollywood (Africa).” The Red Hot Chili Peppers with George Clinton.

  1. Song For Someone.” It takes commitment and a special kind of talent to sing lyrics this banal and flat-out stupid without laughing. “And there is a light, don’t let it go out,” yelps Bozo with a straight face. The “someone” this song is for is Motel 6, or possibly Motel 6 spokesperson Tom Bodett.

Motel 6 will leave the light on for you. And for Bono.

  1. Iris (Hold Me Close).” Generic U2 composition number four. Cheap greeting-card line lyrical pile-up number…oh, who cares, really? Here’s a fun idea: try distinguishing this from any of the other two or three dozen U2 numbers it sounds exactly like.
  1. Volcano.” Chorus: “Vol. (Whoa.) Kay. No. You don’t wanna, you don’t wanna know. Something in you wants to blow.” You’re right Bonobo, I don’t wanna know. But now we’re more than halfway through, and having rounded the clubhouse turn, as it were, we might as well push on through this increasingly unpleasant ordeal. Something that blows, did you say? Might I suggest “Volcano” on U2’s compulsory extrusion, “Songs Of Innocence”?

Actual volcano, blowing

Chef Boyardee versus the volcano.

  1. Raised By Wolves.” Bono (some kind of pill that does the opposite of what Viagra’s supposed to?) is apparently unhappy that there is comparatively little sectarian violence in Northern Ireland these days. He would like you to return with him to a car bombing in 1974. (It’s not clear how the wolves are involved or who they raised, or what they have to do with 40-year-old car bombs.)

Why not make your own Irish car bomb?

  1. Cedarwood Road.” Young Bono (is that some kind of Bo Diddley repellant?) was pals with a kid when he was also a kid. There’s a lot of pained howling about it here for reasons that remain obscure, mostly because old Bono can’t write his way out of a lunch bag.

“Cyprus Avenue.” Van Morrison. Another song about a different street in Belfast.

  1. Sleep Like A Baby Tonight.” Slow dirge with an unfortunate eruption of castrato falsetto yipping and squealing just before the final chorus. Nobo’s liner notes contend it’s about sexually-abused altar boys. Absolutely nothing in the actual song supports that contention.
  2. This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now.” Just as The Ramones were a big deal to wee Master Bono, likewise The Clash. In all his idolatry and hero-worship, Bono (Holy Bono) seems not to realize his compositional and performance abilities suffer in comparison to the work of people he’s moaning or yelping his worship for. You wouldn’t know this had anything at all to do with The Clash without Bozono’s helpful “For Joe Strummer” on the lyric sheet, and if he hadn’t rambled incoherently in the liner notes about how  “The Clash were really great, weren’t they?” Yes they were, Bonozo, and they deserve better than this — which, much like your Ramones hagiography earlier, is really about how great it was that you liked The Clash, not how great they were.

11. “Safe European Home.” The Clash. Instead of listening to Bono bellow platitudes that may or may not have anything to do with The Clash and/or Joe Strummer, why not enjoy the actual Clash? (Oh, and Bono, that part that kind of sounds like a different song — the 12 bars from from 1:18 to 1:34 — is called a “bridge.”)11/. The Troubles. Meandering drone about nothing in particular that crawls to its conclusion, which comes about two minutes later than it needs to

There you go — 47 minutes or so you can now use for something worthwhile, like listening to anything but this tedious death-march through a collection of bad advertising jingles masquerading as Enormodome arena-rock anthems.

You’re welcome.

iPhone or iTunes clogged with wad of generic marketing sludge? Here’s how to remove it.



Justin’s column appears here every 4th Monday or so….

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonJustin Smallbridge is, among other things, a writer, producer, broadcaster, voiceover artist and record collector.

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