As will appear in tomorrow's issue of the New School Free Press
Last week, Daniel Lanois, producer-extraordinaire, told a Canadian radio station that U2 is working on a new album that'll be out for the fall, with production credit going to him and Brian Eno.
Is it wrong that I'm more excited about Lanois and Eno together than about the actual album they're producing?
Well, no, because U2 is, simply put, the most overrated band of all-time.
There are certain artists and bands that get way too much credit, critically or commercially (I'm looking at you, Elton John). But to be overrated, both of those criteria must be met, meaning critics need to rave about them and they've also got to sell millions of albums.
U2's songs revolve around Bono's howling and his emphasizing every word he sings, Adam Clayton's boring bass lines, Larry Mullen, Jr.'s non-descript drumming, and The Edge's chiming guitar work that sounds good in a arena, but has very little substance or emotion.
In 2004, Rolling Stone called them the 22nd greatest band of all-time (ahead of bands like the Band), and they've sold over 170 million albums worldwide, resulting in higher sales than Bob Dylan by well over 50 million.
But that doesn't mean they don't suck.
Where does this near-universal success come from? I'll admit that I like War but that's because it’s easy to digest. Tracks like "Elevation" and "One" don't require much thought, and sound catchy on the radio. Those songs, and many others in their catalogue, are horribly derivative and haven't introduced any new ideas to rock.
Universal messages of love, peace, and freedom help U2's overrated cause. There are very few instances where something Bono writes makes you stop and think because most of his lyrics are like this: "I threw the dice when they pierced his side/But I've seen love conquer the great divide." Bono is, of course, referring to Jesus, a common theme in his lyrics.
U2 also lucked out and formed at exactly the right time. Their first album, Boy, was released in 1980, a time when good rock 'n' roll was becoming increasingly hard to find on the radio. But just because they filled a void doesn't mean they should be listened to nearly three decades later.
A band also should be measured by whom they’ve inspired, and the bands they’ve inspired include the Killers and Coldplay, who are essentially U2, Part Deux. And terrible.
The next time you hear someone call U2 the "most important and influential band of the post-punk era," as MSNBC.com did, punch them in the face. Or just say to them, as Stan Marsh tells Bono on South Park, "At some point, can't you just kinda…fuck off?"